Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Obituary: Philanthropist Richard Jonas Scheuer

Obituary: Philanthropist Richard Jonas Scheuer

by Samuel D. Gruber

(ISJM) Richard J. Scheuer, Chairman Emeritus of the Jewish Museum in New York and of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) died November 7, 2008 at the age of 91 years. The funeral took place at Larchmont Temple on November 10, 2008. Scheuer was among them most respected and beloved Jewish philanthropists of the past half century, especially because he passionately believed in the organizations and causes he supported, and because he was so knowledgeable about their missions. As a mainstay of the Jewish Museum of New York, Scheuer combined the soul of the philanthropist, the management judgment and care of a CEO and the knowledge of a scholar.

I hardly knew Dick Scheuer, but remember being very thrilled when, as an unknown graduate student just beginning to learn about Jewish monuments he treated me like I was someone important.

On behalf of the International Survey of Jewish Monuments, I extend sympathy to the entire extended Scheuer family.

On his important contributions to Jewish culture, I quote from the long remembrance from Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion:

"Scheuer’s love for Jewish art and architecture, and support for Jewish cultural institutions was based on the belief that “In a world of flux, Jewish museums help young and old build a sense of history, a sense of self, and a sense of direction.” As Chairman of the Jewish Museum in New York (1971-1979), he was instrumental, with its director Joy Ungerleider, in reorienting the museum toward a focus on Jewish art and history. Under their stewardship, the museum assembled an outstanding staff of curators and educators who contributed widely to scholarship in Jewish cultural and social history. Subsequently, as its President and under the leadership of Joan Rosenbaum, he helped invigorate that institution’s physical expansion and public outreach. He was a supporter of HUC-JIR’s Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, initiated the Art Committee for HUC-JIR’s New York campus, and served on the HUC-JIR Museum Advisory Committee until his death, supporting exhibitions of contemporary artists expressing Jewish themes. In 1979 he helped launch the Council of American Jewish Museums (CAJM), linking Jewish museums throughout North America.

Scheuer’s interest in biblical archaeology was sparked by his experience as a member of an expedition to Israel led by Dr. Nelson Glueck, President of HUC-JIR from 1947 to 1971 and a renowned archaeologist. Scheuer was active in archaeology for four decades, supporting the work of HUC-JIR’s Nelson Glueck School of Biblical Archaeology and serving on the boards of the American Schools of Oriental Research and the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. He funded HUC-JIR’s important digs at Tel Gezer and Tel Dan, among others, and archaeological publications on these and other excavations. “Dick Scheuer’s dedication to the publication of archaeological excavations is a legacy that will continue to have a major impact on archaeological research in Israel far into the future,” said Sy Gitin, Dorot Director and Professor of Archaeology, Albright Institute of Archaeological Research. “Inspired by his good friend Nelson Glueck, he believed that if it wasn’t published, it was as if it was never excavated. Scheuer’s long-term support of the publication of the Tell Gezer excavations is but one example.”

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