Prominent members of the international community of Holocaust scholars and educators have voiced their concerns over recent criticisms directed at Dani Dayan, the chairman of Yad Vashem, in a letter revealed exclusively by The Jerusalem Post on Saturday.
Yad Vashem, revered as the leading institution for Holocaust remembrance and research, has become a focal point for scrutiny from some Israeli officials, mainly Education Minister Yoav Kisch.
The esteemed group, featuring names such as Prof. Yehuda Bauer, Dr. Jan Grabowski, Professor Christopher Browning, Dr. Samuel Kassow, and Prof. Israel Bartal, has publicly shared their concerns through an open letter during this weekend.
In it, they emphatically state, “We call on the Education Minister and the government of Israel to make sure that Chairman Dani Dayan and Yad Vashem be allowed to continue their mission unhindered.”
They further highlight their concerns, adding, “As the members of the international community of Holocaust scholars and educators, we watch with great concern the recent attacks by the Israeli Education Minister on Dani Dayan…” The scholars went on to praise Dayan for his dedication and commitment, noting he “has served his institution with great distinction, allowing Yad Vashem to maintain and to reinforce its independent and non-partisan character.”
Scholars emphasize need to protect memory of the Holocaust
Emphasizing the urgent need to protect the memory of the Holocaust, the letter stated, “Today, when the memory of the Holocaust finds itself under increased pressure...the independence of Yad Vashem is more crucial than ever.” They unequivocally declare, “Each attempt to seek political control over Yad Vashem is a clear threat to the memory of six million victims of the Shoah…” and emphasize the institution's “tremendous, and well-deserved prestige, worldwide.”
Associates of the Yad Vashem chairman disclosed to the Post last week that Kisch initiated a directive, in a poorly orchestrated attempt, to unseat Dayan with the aim of installing a former Likud MK in his stead.
Reports have arisen, claiming Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his government, including Education Minister Yoav Kisch, are determined to remove Dani Dayan from his position as chairman of Yad Vashem, sparking significant controversy.
This move appears to be politically motivated, with insider sources revealing Netanyahu’s dissatisfaction with Dayan's approach to certain politicians and his perceived independent stance.
The situation escalated when Sara Netanyahu reportedly expressed her displeasure with Dayan's invitation to pop singer Keren Peles for the Yad Vashem Memorial Day ceremony. This led to rumors of Dayan’s imminent removal, fueled by allegations of “management deficiencies.” Further complicating matters, Keren Barak and Yehoram Gaon have been named as potential replacements for Dayan.
Kisch has raised issues with Dayan’s management, specifically questioning the legitimacy of certain board members. In response, Dayan dismissed most of the allegations as either “unfounded” or “false.” Gideon Sa’ar, associated with the National Unity MK, defended Dayan, praising his professional and impartial leadership.
Born in Argentina, Dayan is renowned as an entrepreneur, diplomat, and politician. He previously held the position of Israel's Consul-General in New York, earning respect for his diplomatic approach across diverse Jewish communities. Dayan's appointment as chairman of Yad Vashem in August 2021 further cemented his legacy in defending and promoting the memories of the Holocaust.