BESA: Muslims who Saved Jews During World War II
June 24, 2010
This art exhibition opening event was co-sponsored with the SFU Gallery and launched Norman H. Gershman’s portrait collection on display at SFU Vancouver’s Teck Gallery until October 29, 2010.
Besa is an ancient Albanian principle of offering protection to those who need it. The photographs in this exhibition curated by Laura Kruger and toured by the Hebrew Union College in New York City were taken by Norman H. Gershman, a photographer originally from the east coast who is currently based in Colorado. His photographs are not simply portraits, but evidence of extraordinary story. Gershman spent time over a five-year period in Albania and neighbouring Kosovo seeking out rescuers, their descendents, and those with knowledge of people who, at great risk to themselves, protected Jews from the Nazis during the Second World War. The photographs in the exhibition and their stories, are a sampling of the results of that research, undertaken in the ever-difficult terrain of the relations between memory, history, and actual events in the past.
At the opening night of the exhibit, June 24, Dr. Steven Wasserstrom, professor of Judaic Studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon gave a lecture entitled "Thoughts on the Rise of the Term "Abrahamic Religions"".
Dr. Derryl MacLean, CCSMSC director, said: “The BESA exhibit counters the widely-held notion that Jewish-Muslim relations were always and necessarily confrontational.”
Bill Jeffries, director and curator of SFU’s galleries, noted: “The stories in the BESA images provide a magical example of people being tolerant and supportive of people who are not like themselves. The behaviours discussed, if extended globally, would make this an amazingly pleasant planet.”