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CEO Announcement

The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is proud to announce the appointment of national nonprofit leader Bernard Cherkasov as the Museum’s Chief Executive Officer.

Cherkasov joins the Museum during an incredible moment in its history. In 2022, the Museum saw record-high attendance and gained international attention for its groundbreaking virtual reality exhibition, leadership combating antisemitism, and speaking out for justice.

“It is always incredible to find a leader who can meet the moment,” said Jordan Lamm, Chair of the Museum’s Board. “Bernard has had a profound impact on the fabric of the local, state, and national community. He committed himself with compassion and tenacity to the advancement of human and civil rights and worked tirelessly for equity and justice. Bernard’s personal connection to our work and his years of leadership make him a perfect fit for the Museum’s mission and legacy.”

When he was 13 years old, Cherkasov and his family fled antisemitism and ethnic violence in his native Azerbaijan and came to the United States as refugees. His worldview was shaped by the courage and conviction of those who took risks to help his family and refugees like them.

“We are excited to welcome Bernard as our new CEO,” said Mitchell Feiger, Chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “He believes that education and community engagement are key to inspiring young people and the public at large to take a stand against antisemitism, racism, and all other forms of hate-fueled violence, genocide, and atrocity today.”

Cherkasov served as National COO of Cradles to Crayons, an organization providing essentials to children living in poverty and crisis situations. Responsible for multiple markets with hubs in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, he oversaw fundraising strategies and public engagement programs to more than double the annual number of children served. By the end of his tenure, Cradles to Crayons was on track to assist more than 750,000 children every year.

“For over a decade I have had the honor to call Bernard my colleague and friend,” added Kelley Szany, the Museum’s SVP of Education & Exhibitions. “As one of the top non-profit leaders in the country, he will no doubt have an immediate impact on our mission, work, and community – from leadership, donors, partners, volunteers, staff, and more.”

Prior to his tenure at Cradles to Crayons, Cherkasov served as Chief Executive Officer of Equality Illinois, the Midwest’s largest civil rights organization advocating for LGBT equality. Cherkasov has been honored as a Great Immigrant by The Carnegie Foundation and was recognized by NBC as one of the Pride 30, LGBTQ global leaders.

A lawyer by training, Cherkasov practiced corporate law before joining the nonprofit sector. He also served as international law clerk for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. Bernard earned his J.D. from the University of Michigan and a Master’s in Theological Studies from Harvard. He is the proud dad of a teenage daughter.

Cherkasov will begin his tenure at the Museum starting February 8th and is available for interviews regarding the transition (contact with all media requests). The Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center retained Kittleman & Associates to lead the search. Kittleman is a retained executive search firm, founded in 1963, specializing in CEO recruitment for not-for-profit organizations throughout the U.S.

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