Monday, September 11, 2017

Month 9: The Martin-Springer Institute


When Cristy and I mapped out the organizations we’d focus on for each of the first 12 months, we of course didn’t account for the massive curveballs our nation would be tossed each month (or, each hour). We had a perfectly wonderful organization picked for September (and we’ll definitely come back to it), but then Charlottesville happened, and we listened to our President try to normalize these atrocities, and we knew our focus needed to shift. Then things hit close to home when an Iraqi American-owned business in Flagstaff was vandalized with Nazi symbols (Link to http://azdailysun.com/news/downtown-flagstaff-business-vandalized-with-nazi-symbols/article_349547c7-a5ca-521b-a997-1c11446d7c45.html), and we realized that NOW is the time for organizations like the Martin-Springer Institute.

The Martin-Springer Institute (MSI) at Northern Arizona University attends to the experiences of the Holocaust in order to relate them to today’s concerns, crises, and conflicts. Their programs promote the values of moral courage, tolerance, empathy, reconciliation, and justice. Doris Martin (nee Szpringer) and her entire family survived the Holocaust, and knowing that this history could not be forgotten, she and her husband Martin founded MSI.

MSI Director Björn Krondorfer said his organization has a dual mandate of preserving the history of the Holocaust, but also bringing it to contemporary times. Nothing is more contemporary than our current political situation. We’ve spent years focused on bullies in school, but today the bigger question is, what do we do with a bully in the White House? Suddenly, people feel encouraged and emboldened to say and do terrible things. Björn and MSI have some practical, real-world advice and applications for those of us who might feel at a loss:

  • Moral Courage: Doris Martin is a huge believer in the concept of moral courage. If you see something, say something. Don’t be a bystander and let things happen. This is an important lesson to teach our kids, and one we can also heed as adults.
  • Exposure: We need to be exposed to things that might make us uncomfortable (speakers, books, etc.), but in a productive sense. By creating safe spaces for difficult dialogue, we can get things moving in the right direction.
  • Investment: If you believe in certain values, now is the time to get invested. We cannot stand on the sidelines and allow what happened in Charlottesville, or even here in Flagstaff to become our new normal. Investment may look different for different people, and that’s ok. You don’t have to be on the street corner holding a protest sign, but you must stand up for your values. Democracy cannot be taken for granted.
  • Education: MSI has a robust outreach program, providing guest speakers for local schools and events, and a vast resource library with nearly 600 volumes. There is nothing more powerful than being armed with information. 

When asked how we could get involved, Björn gave a response that might be our new rallying cry at 48Months. He told us there are three ways to support MSI – Talent, Time, Treasure. At the end of the day, aren’t these the three things that can really help ANY organization?  Here are a few ways to get involved with MSI, and help further their vitally important mission:

  • Follow their Facebook page for updates about events, programs, and news: https://www.facebook.com/MSIatNAU/
  • Special Events: MSI plans many events that are open to the public (some are only available to NAU students). The upcoming Symposium on Refugees on October 15 will discuss the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish perspectives (check the Facebook page for information on this event. We will also post on our 48months Facebook page).
  • If you work with kids (or know someone who does), reach out to Björn to have him speak to a class, or connect you with a Holocaust survivor. 
  • Donate! About 1/3 of the MSI budget comes from endowments and they are looking to raise $5 million in the next five years. Every little bit helps, and we need organizations like MSI now more than ever. 


For more information, visit: https://nau.edu/Martin-Springer/

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