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Holocaust Torah Dedicated, Now on Display in Special Collections

Department News

On Thursday, Holocaust Torah No. 1518, held by University of Houston Special Collections, was dedicated in a ceremony that included a speech by Holocaust survivor and UH alumna Celina Fein.

Celina Fein

Celina Fein, a Polish Jew, survived the Holocaust by obtaining false papers with the help of her older sister and working for a family in Germany under the identity of a Christian. After the war’s end, she moved to the United States with her aunt, who had survived the Holocaust with her, and began speaking to groups about her experience. At the age of 71, she earned a B.A. in English from UH.

The Torah was recently placed in a specially-designed Plexiglas case and is now on permanent display in the Special Collections Reading Room. The case was commissioned by UH faculty, alumni, students from the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity and the Houston Jewish community.

UH has held the Torah, the holiest book in Judaism, since 1976, when it was obtained on behalf of the student body with the help of UH faculty and the Houston Jewish community. Instrumental in bringing the Torah to UH was English professor Irving Rothman. In 2012, Rothman began the effort to commission the display case.

The Torah is said to have been brought during World War II from its community to the Pinkas Synagogue in Prague and is held under the protection of UH in agreement with the Memorial Scrolls Trust of the Westminster Synagogue of London, which gathered the Holocaust Torahs after World War II and repaired the scrolls for safekeeping.  The Torah is not a printed document, but a scroll of 80 panels of parchment sewn together with animal sinew, constructed by highly qualified scribes through a painstaking, careful method. The scroll includes the five books of Moses.

To hear Rothman and Rabbi Kenny Weiss, executive director of the Houston Hillel and adjunct faculty in the UH department of religious studies, speak about the scroll, take a look at this short video.

The public is welcome to view the Torah during the Reading Room’s regular hours. For more information about the history of the scroll, visit UH News.

*Editor’s note: The original text of this post has been updated to better reflect the Torah’s history.

The Park People Digital Collection Now Live

Department News, Digitization, Houston History Archives

2005, A Green Tie Affair

Our latest digital collection, and the first from the Houston History Archives, is now available in the UH Digital Library. The Park People Annual Awards Dinner Invitations includes invitations for events that reflect the mission championed by The Park People: to preserve and expand green space in Houston.

The awards began as a simple affair in 1981, and invitations from from 1992-2005 are included in this digital collection. These creative invitations reflect not only The Park People’s success but also the spirit of woodsy and easy elegance that characterized the organization.

The Park People emerged in 1978 as an organization devoted to advocacy for parks and green space in the Houston area. Following the environmental protest organizations of the 1960s, The Park People became a model for collaboration and cooperation by inviting government, business interests, non-profit organizations, and private citizens to join the effort to preserve and expand Houston’s green spaces.

The Park People relied on multiple avenues of community outreach to carry their message and expand support, and the awards ceremony became an anticipated avenue of outreach. An innovation in 1981, the awards event grew into a gala affair welcomed by those who spearheaded community-wide efforts to promote parks and green space.

These invitations are part of the The Park People Records, which can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room during normal business hours.

For more information about The Park People Records and the invitations, contact Dr. Terry Tomkins-Walsh.

New Houston History Archives Finding Aid Available Online

Finding Aids, Houston History Archives

In 1987, Houstonian Jon Schwartz created a documentary film, This is Our Home, It Is Not For Sale, that traced the history of Houston’s Riverside neighborhood from land grant to inner city neighborhood, and Special Collections holds a collection of records that covers the full scope of the production of the documentary film.

The finding aid for the This is Our Home, It is Not For Sale Film Collection is now available in Archon. The finding aid describes the materials in the collection, which cover fundraising activities, releases and contracts, insurance, research materials, production notes and logs, film screenings and festivals, photographs, and posters.

The documentary tells tells the story of Riverside through interviews, photos, and home movies.  Informally known as the Jewish River Oaks, Riverside became an idyllic neighborhood close to downtown.  It was an all-white neighborhood until 1952 when the first black family moved in, and white flight followed. Real estate agents working house-to-house encouraged owners to sell, but many residents resisted the inclination to move and posted yard signs stating “This is Our Home, It’s Not for Sale.”  Transformation became inevitable for a constellation of reasons.  Intrusions into the neighborhood included Highway 288 and the Harris County Psychiatric Center.  By the conclusion of the time period covered in the film (mid-1980s), Riverside was a multi-ethnic neighborhood, combining characteristics of a peaceful wooded residential area with the conflicts of an integrated urban neighborhood.

The materials in this collection, along with a  copy of the film, can be viewed in the Special Collections Reading Room.

Special Collections Welcomes New Archives Fellows

Department News

Not only is today the first day of the semester here at the University of Houston, it is also the first day for Special Collections’ two new archives fellows, Alison Clemens and Ryder Khouba.

Alison will hold split her time here, spending six months processing collections related to Houston and Texas History and six months processing collections related to Houston Hip Hop. She is a recent graduate of the University of Texas’ iSchool, where she specialized in Archives & Special Collections. Alison’s previous experience includes positions at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and the Scarborough-Phillips Library.

Ryder will spend his year working with University Archives. Ryder is also a recent graduate of UT’s iSchool with a concentration in archival science. His previous experience includes working with a variety of collections at the Wisconsin Historical Society, the Austin History Center, and the Dolph Briscoe Center.

Alison and Ryder will both assist patrons in our Reading Room, so if you see them be sure to welcome them to the University of Houston!

Get Ready for the New Semester!

Department News

Fall classes at the University of Houston start next week, and before long the semester will be in full swing!

Special Collections will continue our summer hours through Sept. 7. On Sept. 8, we’ll start our semester hours, which means we’ll be open from noon to 4 p.m. most Saturdays. If you plan to visit the Reading Room and aren’t sure when we’re open, you can always check out our hours.

Here in Special Collections we have a number of tools to help with your classwork or research. We collect, preserve, and make available archives, rare books, and other great culturally and historically significant materials, so if you need to use primary sources, be sure to check us out. In addition to holding the University Archives, we also have materials related to Texas and Houston history, contemporary literature, architecture and planning, Hispanic collections, performing arts, Houston hip hop, and military history. Our Women’s Archive & Research Collection contains the records of women’s organizations and the papers of prominent Texas women. These materials document the range of women’s concerns, the ways in which women have come together to achieve their goals, and the impact they have had on the world around them. We also have a large collection of rare books.

Special Collections materials have also been digitized and can be found in the UH Digital Library. And if you need images for presentations, be sure to check out the Image Café.

Finally, if you find yourself in the M.D. Anderson Library on campus, be sure to check out our exhibits. Right now, you can see the DJ Screw and the Rise of Houston Hip Hop and Samplified Studios Mini-Exhibit, and later in the fall we’ll have an exhibit on music in medieval manuscripts.

If you need assistance with Special Collections materials, just contact the appropriate librarian:

Collection Area Librarian
Architecture & Planning Vince Lee
Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection Vince Lee
Contemporary Literature Julie Grob
Hispanic Collections Mary Manning
Houston & Texas History Vince Lee
Houston Hip Hop Julie Grob
Houston History Archives Terry Tomkins-Walsh
Mehra Collection Mary Manning
Performing Arts Pat Bozeman
Rare Books Pat Bozeman
University Archives Mary Manning
USS Houston & Military History Valerie Prilop

Have a great semester!

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