Dr. Rafael Medoff, founding director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, has a bone to pick with Yad Vashem over its portrayal of American involvement during the Holocaust.
Speaking at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs on Tuesday, Medoff outlined his criticisms of three major museums' portrayals of America's response to the Holocaust.
Medoff condemned the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (USHMM), Yad Vashem and the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum, in his lecture for, "flaws or omissions of how the Roosevelt administration focused on the Holocaust."
Yad Vashem drew the harshest criticism in the lecture, which was the 11th in the Herbert Berman Memorial Series. Medoff's specific charge was against the failure of the museum to provide information on Jewish activist Hillel Kook in its section on America and the Holocaust.
Hillel Kook, also known as Peter Bergson, was a revisionist Zionist activist and member of the Irgun. During World War II, Bergson and members of the "Bergson group," were instrumental in raising awareness of the Roosevelt administration about the fate of European Jewry.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Dr. David Silberklang, historian of the Holocaust and the Editor-in-Chief of Yad Vashem Publications, gave his opinion on what he sees as Medoff's "smear campaign" against Yad Vashem.
Silberklang referred to a July 2008 Haaretz article in which he wrote, "Context is important to museum exhibitions as well. The USHMM, which devotes much space to American responses to the Holocaust, provides a ready context for the Bergson Group.
"Yad Vashem's museum focuses on the Jews in the Holocaust and on who did such things and how. Responses of American Jewry and of Jews in the free world are not addressed. Inserting discussion of Kook out of context would be tantamount to a political statement, exaggerating his role out of all proportion."
According to Silberklang, in a meeting last summer between Yad Vashem officials and members of the Wyman Institute, Medoff and crew reportedly showed up with a camera crew to film the private meeting and were denied the right to film.
"You're not allowed to film at Yad Vashem for anything if you don't have permission," Dr. David Silberklang said. "Members of the Wyman Institute argued about this and then they publicized that Yad Vashem wouldn't let them record the meeting."
The Wyman Institute then launched a petition against Yad Vashem's exclusion of Bergson, signed by 100 Israelis academics and politicians. Based on the signatories of the petitions Medoff, in his lecture, argued, "there is a significant body that would like to see this changed."
Silberklang said of Medoff's tactics, "Medoff has engaged in a public campaign to smear Yad Vashem. They are screaming and yelling to try and get Yad Vashem to put up an exhibit about Peter Bergson, that's not how you do it. If you want something done, you make a serious proposal."
Medoff during his lecture denied that his tactics equaled a "smear campaign" and said, "The Wyman Institute has a high regard for Yad Vashem."