Holocaust Museum Houston to Honor Rhona and Bruce Caress with the 2023 Guardian of the Human Spirit Award
Bruce and Rhona Caress, photo by Wilson Parish, courtesy of Holocaust Museum Houston
Thomas Schlamme, photo courtesy of Shoe Money Productions
On Monday, November 20, 2023, Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH) will hold its annual Guardian of the Human Spirit Luncheon at the elegant Hilton Americas-Houston. This year, the prestigious award, which acknowledges dedicated individuals and institutions who have worked to enhance the lives of others and to better humankind, will be presented to Rhona and Bruce Caress.
Distinguished community leaders, the Caress’s have been active supporters of HMH since its inception in 1996. They have served as members of the Museum’s Leadership Circle, the Generation to Generation Legacy Society, and the Cornerstone Society. Bruce also served as a member of the Board of Advisors from 2014 to 2020. Together, the couple chaired HMH’s Silver Jubilee and have been host committee members for numerous Guardian of the Human Spirit Award Luncheons as well as Lyndon Baines Johnson Moral Courage Award Dinners. Their devotion to HMH is evident in the building itself: The Caress Family Education and Arts Floor and the Rhona and Bruce Caress Gallery - And Still I Write: Young Diarists on War and Genocide provide inspiration and insight to all HMH visitors.
Dedicated to the community as a whole, the Caress’s are involved with numerous important organizations. These include, the Jewish Federation of Greater Houston’s Connection Mission to Israel; Congregation Beth Yeshurun, Rhona and Bruce Caress Family Campus; The Emery/Weiner School; American Israel Public Affairs Committee as Minyan club and Legacy members; and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF).
Tamara Savage, Interim Co-Executive Director of HMH, says this of the Caress’s: “It goes without saying that Rhona and Bruce have made a tremendous impact on the community as a couple and individually. As supporters of the Museum’s mission since its inception, they have served on host committees and in chair positions on various HMH events. They are quiet ambassadors working for the Jewish community who don’t seek the limelight for their work. Make no mistake about it, they are true servant leaders.”
Award-winning director and executive producer, Thomas Schlamme will be the afternoon’s guest speaker. The native Houstonian’s partnership with Aaron Sorkin has produced The West Wing, Sports Night, and Studio 60. His recent projects include the limited series A Man in Full for Netflix, Under the Banner of Heaven for FX, The Plot Against America for HBO, and A West Wing Special to Benefit When We All Vote for HBO Max. Schlamme is the recipient of three Directors Guild of America (DGA) Awards and nine Emmy Awards. From 2017 to 2021, he served two terms as the president of the DGA. Along with his directing work, Schlamme develops projects through his company, Shoe Money Productions. A second-generation Holocaust survivor, he is the son of Otto Schlamme, z”l, and nephew of Ruth Schnitzer, z”l.
This year’s Luncheon chairs are Mandy and Ronnie Caress, Denise and Steve Estrin, and Jessica Strehlow and Brian Caress. KPRC meteorologist and Houston Newsmakers host Khambrel Marshall will emcee. PaperCity magazine is the media sponsor.
Previous recipients of the award have included Y. Ping Sun and David W. Leebron; Punkin and Walter Hecht; Dr. Milton Boniuk; the Astros Foundation; Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and Aggie Liberators of World War II; UT President Gregory L. Fenves and The University of Texas at Austin; Ric Campo; Velva G. and H. Fred Levine; Edith and Josef Mincberg, Bill Morgan and Murry Bowden; the Harry Mach family; KIPP founders Dave Levin and Mike Feinberg; former Mayor Annise Parker, Barbara and Gerald Hines; Marc J. Shapiro; Lester and Sue Smith; Sandra Weiner and Martin Fein; Naomi Warren and Fred Zeidman; Joan and Stanford Alexander; Ed Wulfe and the H-E-B grocery chain; Jack Blanton and the Houston Chronicle; the Rev. William A. Lawson and Julie and Ben Rogers; Linda P. Lay and Siegi Izakson; and Ron Stone.
About Holocaust Museum Houston
Holocaust Museum Houston (HMH), Lester and Sue Smith Campus, is a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization. It was founded in 1996 by Houston-area Holocaust survivors, their descendants, and members of the community and is accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The museum is dedicated to educating people about the Holocaust, remembering the 6 million Jews and other innocent victims who lost their lives during this terrible period in history, and honoring the survivors’ legacy. Using the lessons of the Holocaust and other genocides, HMH teaches the dangers of hatred, prejudice, and apathy.
After two years and a $34 million expansion, HMH reopened in June 2019. Now 57,000 square feet, HMH is the nation's fourth largest Holocaust museum. Fully bilingual in English and Spanish, the new three-story structure houses a welcome center, four permanent galleries, two changing exhibition galleries, classrooms, research library, café, 187-seat indoor theater, and 175-seat outdoor amphitheater. Over 50 screens, mini-theaters, and interactive terminals are featured throughout the museum.