Dallas Holocaust Museum invites Pastor Jeffress to visit

Higgins.Mary Pat

Mary Pat Higgins

I asked Mary Pat Higgins, President and CEO of the Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, to respond to Pastor Jeffress of First Baptist Church who made comments last week comparing the LGBT community to Nazis on Fox News.The museum is just a few blocks from First Baptist Church.

Here’s what she wrote:

The Dallas Holocaust Museum/Center for Education and Tolerance is dedicated to preserving the memory of the Holocaust. This is the touchstone from which we teach the moral and ethical response to prejudice, hatred, and indifference. Study of the Holocaust assists individuals in developing an understanding of the roots and ramifications of prejudice, racism, and stereotyping in our society. We are in no way free of the dangerous desire that lay at the root of the Holocaust to divide humanity into groups and categories. Thus, as part of our mission, we encourage open and genuine dialog in our society to foster tolerance and understanding. We also caution strongly against drawing comparisons between current conditions in America and those in Nazi Germany. Besides being absurd and inaccurate, such rhetoric cheapens the sacrifices of those who died or suffered during the Holocaust.

We invite Pastor Jeffress to visit the Museum for a private tour to explore and learn more about the Holocaust.

— Mary Pat Higgins, president/CEO
Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance

—  David Taffet

LGBT groups, Holocaust museum partner to bring gay history to Dallas

Alice Murray

Dallas Holocaust Museum opens exhibit on Nazi persecution of gays

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer

About 100,000 gay men were arrested in Nazi Germany, targeted by Adolph Hitler’s barbaric regime as an obstacle to building an Aryan population. An exhibit that opened June 3 at Dallas Holocaust Museum helps bring some of that hidden LGBT history to life.

Despite the massive amount of literature about the Holocaust, little was known about the gay victims of the Nazis until the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum opened in 1993 and began doing research.

At that time, Paragraph 175, the statute dating from the Weimar Republic that was used to arrest gays, was still on the books in Germany. It remained law, with the brutal amendments that Hitler added, until 1994.

The exhibit created by the USHMM, called Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 and opening at the Dallas Holocaust Museum in time for Gay Pride Month, came to Dallas through a partnership formed between the museum and members of the LGBT community.

The partnership began a year ago when Westboro Baptist Church protested at the Holocaust center. While museum staff and board members were apprehensive about the demonstration, hundreds of members of the LGBT community confronted the Phelps clan in the street.

Museum President and CEO Alice Murray said that Westboro’s visit taught her how extreme hatred can leave such a devastating impact on the world. But the visit also forged a friendship between the museum and the LGBT community.

“Not only is our relationship strong, but we’ve evolved into a partnership teaching tolerance as the response to bigotry and indifference,” Murray said.

Louise Young, an exhibit sponsor, became a Dallas museum volunteer last year when she arranged a program about the Holocaust at East Central University in her hometown, Ada, Okla.

“About four years ago, I established a fund for an endowed diversity lecture series in my name at the university,” Young said. “Each year the university allows me to set the topic for the annual lecture.”

This time, she wanted to bring a Holocaust survivor to the school.

The Museum’s education director Kathy Chapman “quickly put me in touch with a remarkable Dallas resident, Max Glauben, who survived horrible conditions in Nazi slave labor concentration camps, and then a death march from Dachau at the end of World War II,” Young said.

Glauben spoke at the school to standing-room-only audience, filling a 1,000-seat auditorium. After a standing ovation, the president of the school made Glauben an honorary alumnus.
Young has been working with the museum ever since.

“Maria McMullen, director of development, called me in April to ask for my help in both raising funds for and suggesting community partners in the Dallas GLBT community for their upcoming exhibit,” she said. “I jumped at the chance to contribute.”

Earlier this year, the museum opened new, temporary exhibit space. Members of the LGBT community suggested bringing the traveling exhibit on the treatment of gays during the Holocaust to the museum.

Museum staff contacted the U.S. Holocaust Museum about availability. The only opening for several years was this summer, so they booked it and began a fundraising blitz to raise the money to transport it and program around it through the summer.

Among the sponsors are Dallas’ LGBT synagogue Congregation Beth El Binah, Young and her partner Vivienne Armstrong, and Jay Oppenheimer and Dolf Haas. Resource Center Dallas, the North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce and the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas are community partners. Dallas Voice is the media sponsor.

Other sponsors include Texas Instruments, Waldman Brothers and Raytheon.

Museum Marketing and Communication director Nanette Fodell said that programming around the exhibit is still being planned. Director of Exhibitions and Curator Edward J. Phillips from the UUSHMM speaks on June 16 at a reception for sponsors and museum members.

Fodell said that she would like to put together a program on bullying that includes members of Youth First Texas. Glauben, who was arrested and put in a concentration camp at age 10, said that the Holocaust began with bullying.

The film Paragraph 175 will be shown later in the summer.

To schedule a private reception or a group tour of the exhibit, contact Chapman at the museum.

Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 Record Street at West End Station. Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed July 4. $8. 214-741-7500.

—  John Wright

A day of tolerance begins at the Holocaust Museum and ends at the Resource Center

Fred Phelps

The Dallas Holocaust Museum has asked Dallas Holocaust survivors to stay home for the day on Friday, July 9. But the museum will open its doors free beginning at 1 p.m.

The Fred Phelps clan of Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., is scheduled to picket the museum at 2:15 p.m. WBC’s picket schedule also includes a number of other stops around Dallas this weekend targeting the Jewish community.

Laura Martin, the Dallas Police Department’s liaison to the LGBT community, asked people not to engage the Phelps clan. They make their money suing anyone and everyone — including the police, she said.

Holocaust Museum President Alice Murray agreed.

“We do not want to legitimatize the hatred of a small number of people who comprise this group by inadvertently providing fodder for media coverage,” she said.

The museum will be open with docents promoting its mission of tolerance and be selling its “upstander” T-shirts.

Rafael McDonnell of Resource Center Dallas said donations have been pouring in for “Hell Freezes Over,” the counterprotest fundraiser to replace the Center’s ice maker. He expects the new Westboro Baptist Church Memorial Ice Maker to be fully funded by Friday evening.

The Phelps gang is expected to gather near the Center at 6:15 p.m. The parking lots will be blocked off so McDonnell recommends street parking.

McDonnell said someone will have a stop watch and a horn. After one minute, he said, the horn will blow and people will throw money into a Pride flag. Each minute Phelps protests, more money will be raised.

“Bring lots of singles,” he said.

Bottled water and Fig Newtons will be served. “Figs” refers to a biblical quote Phelps used to denounce Dallas’ Jewish community.

The target of the evening Phelps protest is Congregation Beth El Binah, a Reform synagogue that meets at the Resource Center. (Full disclosure: I am a member of Congregation Beth El Binah and received the original fax from the Phelps gang about their impending visit).

Beth El Binah’s services will be held on a normal schedule. Everyone is welcome. Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor conducts services that last about an hour beginning at 7:30 p.m.

—  David Taffet

Westboro Baptist Church to picket Dallas' gay Jewish congregation, Beth El Binah, in July

Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor
Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor

Westboro Baptist Church will be in North Texas for a few days beginning Friday, July 9, according to their picketing schedule. Among their stops that day will be Congregation Beth El Binah, a Reform synagogue that meets at the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Other stops listed are the Dallas Holocaust Museum on Record Street in the West End; the Jewish Community Center off Royal Lane and Central Expressway; the Texas Jewish Post, which is the local Jewish newspaper whose office is in a building on Beltline Road; and Yahneh Academy, a co-ed modern Orthodox high school in North Dallas.

“Oh, we’ll prepare something special for that evening,” said Beth El Binah Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor.

—  David Taffet