The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum stands out as a notable collaboration between the Jewish community and the federal government: It is a national museum, mandated by Congress and located on the National Mall, with a triple mission of commemorating the death of European Jews, preventing future genocides, and serving as a top Holocaust research institute.
Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, this experiment has been clearly deemed a success, to a great extent thanks to its director, Sara Bloomfield.
An unlikely candidate to head the museum, Bloomfield took the helm in 1999 after rising through the ranks as an administrator. She found an institution mired in high profile controversies and struggling to find its footing. Fourteen years later, Bloomfield led the museum through its anniversary celebrations as one of Washington’s most visited national sites.
Bloomfield has succeeded in bridging conflicts between museum stakeholders — survivors, scholars, donors and government officials — and has expanded the institution’s scope, allowing it to both reach larger audiences and improve its research abilities.
Bloomfield, 63, grew up in Cleveland to a Jewish family with no immediate connection to the Holocaust. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Northwestern University and a master’s in education from John Carroll University, and joined the Holocaust Museum project in its early planning phase to focus on its educational programs. Early critics questioned whether a person who was neither a Holocaust scholar nor a survivor could lead the institution, but Bloomfield, all seem to now agree, proved that what the museum needed most was the guiding hand of a talented administrator.