Jewish, Catholic, Muslim Houses of Worship Offer Free Tours on Buildings, Religious Services

HOUSTON, TX (Aug. 10, 2009) – Each month this fall, Holocaust Museum Houston will sponsor an exclusive and intimate guided tour through buildings used for religious worship by three of the world’s major religions: Judaism, Catholicism and Islam.

Congregation Beth Yeshurun, the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart and the Islamic Da’wah Center are opening their doors to members of the Museum and the public in the tour series “Building Faith: Church, Mosque, Synagogue; Visiting Houses of Worship.” Each tour will give a brief description of the religion before moving onto the focus of the series: how the building is used for religious services for each community and the intricacies of how worship is conducted.

The tour series is in conjunction with the Museum’s current exhibits on display that highlight the possible compassion between the three monotheistic religions, "A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People" and “Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust." Following the tours, the Museum will invite members to come and tour these two changing exhibits on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2009, beginning at 5 p.m. A panel discussion will follow at 7 p.m. in the Albert and Ethel Herzstein Theater featuring a religious leader from each religion discussed during the tours.

"A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and the Jewish People" is an interactive experience that allows visitors to follow in John Paul II’s footsteps from his childhood to his role as head of the world’s largest church. The exhibit includes photographs, video footage, documents and artifacts recording the extraordinary contributions of the pope to relations between the Catholic and Jewish faiths. It includes about 70 artifacts on loan from 10 museums and private collections that help illustrate the pope's association with the Jewish community from the time of his childhood and how these life-long associations shaped his papacy, the church and Jewish-Catholic relations.

Included among the artifacts on view will be a white Zuccheto, or skull cap, bearing the pope's initials and worn during his visit to Israel in 2000. Also included will be the walking staff used to help him approach the Western Wall.

Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews during the Holocaust" depicts the heroic stories of Albanian Muslims who saved Jews – those of Albanian origin and refugees alike – from extermination despite great danger to themselves. By the war’s end, almost all Jews living within Albanian borders during the German occupation had been saved.

Besa means literally "to keep the promise." One who acts according to Besa is someone who keeps his word, someone to whom one can trust one’s life and the lives of one’s family. So when the Germans occupied Albania in 1943, the local population refused to comply with the Nazis’ orders to turn over lists of Jews residing in Albania. Albanians took fleeing Jews into their homes, lived with them as family and protected them at great peril.

The exhibition stems from a five-year project by Colorado-based photographer Norman Gershman, who specializes in portraiture, and documents the story of 65 Albanian families.

The first tour will be on Sept. 9, 2009 from 10 a.m. to noon at Congregation Beth Yeshurun, 4525 Beechnut, Houston, TX 77096.

On Oct. 19, 2009 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., the tour will be held at Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, 1111 St. Joseph Pkwy., Houston, TX 77002.

The final religious building tour will be on Nov. 13 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Islamic Da’wah Center, 202 Main, Houston, TX 77002.

Registration is required for each tour, and space is limited. To register, visit  www.hmh.org/register.asp. Members who wish to attend should plan on arriving 15 minutes before the scheduled tour time. Transportation is not provided, and all tours begin at the building site. For more information, call 713-942-8000, ext. 104 or e-mail membership@hmh.org.

Holocaust Museum Houston is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims and honoring the survivors' legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, the Museum teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice and apathy. Holocaust Museum Houston is free and open to the public and is located in Houston’s Museum District at 5401 Caroline St., Houston, TX 77004.

For more information about the Museum, call 713-942-8000 or visit www.hmh.org.

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Holocaust Museum Houston is an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

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Museum Hours:

Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday, noon to 5 p.m.

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$8 for active-duty military and AARP members
Free for children, students and college-level students with valid ID
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