Thousands drawn to landmark papal exhibit

A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and The Jewish People runs through July 15 before moving to D.C. | July 6, 2005

In its first month, the landmark exhibition documenting the late Pope John Paul II’s life-long affirming relationship with the Jewish people has drawn 4,500 people to campus. But more than that, "A Blessing to One Another: Pope John Paul II and The Jewish People" has inspired, moved and profoundly affected those who visit.

From third-graders to church and synagogue groups, about 100 people a day are visiting the exhibit. And following in the late pontiff’s footsteps, groups such as the Jewish Community Federation and Cathedral Heritage Foundation of Louisville are coming together to see the exhibit.

"Some people are coming more than once," says Anastasia Nurre, exhibit manager. "And it’s not unusual for people to be so moved they have tears in their eyes as they leave." Nurre also says calls are coming in from all over the country from organizations asking about hosting Blessing.

The exhibit runs through July 15. It then moves to the John Paul II Cultural Center in Washington, D.C., where an opening is planned for mid-September. It will later tour Catholic and Jewish colleges and universities and other venues in the United States before traveling to Europe and becoming a permanent display in Israel.

The 1,500 square-foot exhibition, located at the A.B. Cohen Center, takes its name from the pope’s commemoration in 1993 of the 50th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The exhibition includes photos, artifacts and videos documenting the pope’s history with the Jewish people.

Visitors walk through several rooms representing various stages of the pope’s life, including one from his childhood. There is also an interactive area where visitors can write prayers that will be taken to the Western Wall in Jerusalem.

“Throughout the world, he has built a bridge that we hope only will continue to be strengthened and will carry the foot traffic of people committed to peace and brotherhood for generations to come,” says Rabbi Abie Ingber, executive director of the local Hillel Jewish Student Center of Cincinnati. “This exhibition tries to anchor that bridge as firmly as possible.”