New Exhibition Examines the Overlooked Roles of Jewish Servicemen and Women in American War

HOUSTON, TX (June 27, 2011) – A new exhibition opening this July at Holocaust Museum Houston examines and celebrates the role of Jewish servicemen and women who labored on and off the battlefield during American wars and whose stories have long been overlooked due in part to the prevalence of a once widely held, though fallacious belief that Jews did not serve in the military.Ours to Fight For

The contributions of Jewish soldiers in the U.S. military during World War II are the subject of the award-winning “Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the Second World War,” an exhibition curated by the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in New York City.

The exhibition opens on July 15, 2011 and runs through Dec. 31, 2011 in Holocaust Museum Houston’s Mincberg Gallery in the Morgan Family Center, 5401 Caroline St., in Houston’s Museum District. The public is invited to a free preview reception from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, July 14, 2011. Admission is free, but advanced registration is required for this reception. Visit http://www.hmh.org/RegisterEvent.aspx to RSVP online separately for the exhibit. For more information, call 713-942-8000 or e-mail exhibits@hmh.org.

“Ours to Fight For” is based on video testimony gathered from more than 400 oral histories with Jewish servicemen and women. Their moving words, animated through historic film footage, videotaped interviews and hundreds of photographs and objects, make it clear that the war had special meaning for American Jews. The exhibition also shows how Americans who didn’t serve in the military made valuable contributions to the war effort from their homes and workplaces in the United States.
The voices of the soldiers and sailors, airmen and marines, WACs and WAVEs appear in seven videos, two audio programs and dozens of written “labels” that narrate the exhibition and animate the artifacts, documents, military paraphernalia and images.

Among the more than 200 artifacts is a Jewish prayerbook of Staff Sgt. Jacob Eines, who was hit by shrapnel but not fatally wounded because of the prayerbook in his breast pocket; the accordion Hermann Goering gave to the Jewish GI who interrogated him after his surrender; and a Torah scroll used by Chaplain Rabbi David Max Eichhorn at the first Jewish service conducted at Dachau after the camp was liberated (together with the film taken at that service).

Interactive stations at the end of the exhibit allow visitors to explore the experiences of other groups who served in the military during World War II, including African-Americans, Native Americans, Latinos and Russian Jews.
Among the exhibition highlights are the sections:

  •  Making a Soldier: Visitors follow the paths real soldiers traveled to discover the process of soldiers’ recruitment, induction into the military and military training.
  • Fighting the War: This section provides first-person accounts of military personnel who fought on land, sea and air, or who worked behind the scenes on military bases. Visitors can view audiovisual presentations together with photographs and artifacts that explain the experiences and complex feelings of those who served in active duty.
  • Encountering the Holocaust: This section allows visitors to understand the shock and horror of the discovery of the concentration camps through the eyes and words of Jewish and non-Jewish American soldiers who were present at liberation.

Major funding for this exhibition has been generously provided by Jack and Susan Rudin and Family in memory of Lewis Rudin; by Irving Schneider in memory of his friend, Lewis Rudin; and by Irving and June Paler in memory of June's father, Duncan Robertson, who fought for justice in both World Wars.

Presentation of “Ours to Fight For” at Holocaust Museum Houston has been made possible by Baker Botts, LLP; Frost; H-E-B; Marathon Oil Corporation; and the Morgan Family Foundation. Additional local underwriters include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, in memory of Lt. Colonel David Dewhurst; The Jerry and Walter Finger Families; Punkin and Walter Hecht and Family, in memory of Captain Harry Katz; A.I. and Manet Schepps Foundation in memory of A.I. Schepps; Michelle and Gregg Philipson, in memory of Bernard H. Philipson, Joseph I. Warech and Gerard M. Degenstein; Eileen Cersonsky in memory of Leonard “Swede” Cersonsky; and The Machol Family in memory of Fred Machol.

 “We Fought, Too — Jewish Soldiers in America’s Wars,” a companion exhibition that opens July 15, 2011 at Congregation Emanu El, highlights the role Jewish soldiers played in the Civil War, World War I, the Vietnam War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and tells some of the stories of the thousands of Jews who have died in combat or been wounded for their country.

Curated by Ellen Trachtenberg, the exhibit opens July 15, 2011 and runs through Dec. 31, 2011 at Congregation Emanu El, 1500 Sunset Blvd., Houston, TX 77005. Viewing hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The public is invited to a free preview reception at Congregation Emanu El from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday, July 14, 2011, immediately following the opening reception at HMH for “Ours to Fight For.” Admission is free, but advance registration is requested.

The exhibit, which has been generously underwritten by Ellen and Dan Trachtenberg, showcases more than 90 artifacts from major American wars and aims to counter the incorrect belief that Jews did not serve in the American military.

The exhibitions are presented with special thanks to United Airlines, official airline of Holocaust Museum Houston.

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’s Morgan Family Center 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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