Three locals named to Holocaust museum council

President Barack Obama has appointed seven new members to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, including three from the Bay Area.

Philanthropist-businesswoman Susan Lowenberg, longtime AIPAC stalwart Amy Friedkin and Facebook executive Elliot Schrage are the three Bay Area residents selected to join the council that governs the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. The council has more than 50 members, including nine members of Congress.

Susan Lowenberg

Lowenberg is the daughter of William Lowenberg, who served as the council’s vice chairman for seven years after being appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1986. He also played an integral role in helping build the museum, which opened in 1993. A Holocaust survivor, William Lowenberg died April 2, 2011.

His daughter said she is honored by the appointment.

“It’s a very humbling honor to follow my father in his footsteps in this way,” Lowenberg said. “I take it very seriously.”

Lowenberg is the president of Lowenberg Corporation, an industrial real estate firm in San Francisco that was started by her father. She serves on a number of boards, including the American Jewish World Service and the JCC of San Francisco, and said her philanthropic work will provide a good platform for what she hopes to accomplish on the council.

“Poverty and social justice are the issues that are important to me, and they’re important to the museum,” she said, stressing the role the museum can play in bringing attention not only to genocide of the past, but also to genocide in the world now.

She said she also wants to make sure the museum continues to make an impact  after the last Holocaust survivor dies.

Amy Friedkin

“How do we make [the museum] as relevant [when there are no more survivors]?” Lowenberg asked. “How do we invoke that same feeling?”

Friedkin, the S.F-based president of Israel 21c, an online  nonprofit news service that focuses on creative and positive content about Israel, said she plans to be as active as possible on the council.

“It means a lot to me to be a part of this board,” Friedkin said.

Friedkin was the first woman to lead AIPAC when she served as the pro-Israel lobby’s president from 2002 to 2004, and she served as AIPAC’s national board chair from 2004 to 2006. She is still active in AIPAC, meeting regularly with national leaders, and is also a former president of the Jewish Federation of the East Bay.

Schrage is the vice president of communications and public policy at Menlo Park–based Facebook, and is the former vice president of global communications and public affairs at Google in Mountain View. He also has ties to social justice programs and formerly served on the board of the International League for Human Rights.

Elliot Schrage

Rabbi Doug Kahn, the executive director of the S.F.-based Jewish Community Relations Council, was excited to see three people from the Bay Area named to the council. “It’s an extraordinary recognition of the tremendous leadership that comes out of the Bay Area Jewish community and its national impact” he said. “They’re outstanding and passionate leaders who will serve with great distinction.”

Judith Yudof, the former president of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and the wife of U.C. President Mark Yudof, has been a council member since 2006. She lives in Lafayette.

Some of the other members of the council include Menachem Z. Rosensaft, a prominent advocate for the children of Holocaust survivors; former New York Mayor Ed Koch; Miriam Adelson, the wife of billionaire Sheldon Adelson; Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel; Sen. Barbara Boxer  also was a member for a time.

According to JTA, the seven nominees are all donors to Democrats and were appointed to five-year terms. The nominees are expected to get routine approval to join the council after completing necessary paperwork.