An important message from all of us at the HHRC

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Dear Friends,

In difficult times like these, our mission – to inspire people to reflect and act upon their moral responsibility to confront prejudice, discrimination and intolerance – is possibly more important than ever. 

We know that racism, anti-Semitism and hate are viruses too and that pandemics bring out the worst in some people even as they bring out the best in most of us. The fact that neo-Nazis are weaponizing coronavirus to target law enforcement, “non-whites” and Jews is just one vile example of rising hatred in times of trouble. Given our extraordinary mission, history and resources, the HHRC has the unique power to stand up against hate by providing public, online tools to inspire and educate people to advance equity and inclusion. 

We also know Maine schools and teachers have taken learning online and may be at home for the rest of the spring. Parents have suddenly become homeschool teachers too. Mainers all over the state are practicing social distancing by staying home for work and education alike. At the HHRC, we’ve always been committed to going anywhere we are needed in Maine to educate and inspire. Now, it’s time to go where the teachers, students and all Maine people are – online. 

Over the past weeks, the HHRC Board and staff have been working on contingency plans, and the HHRC Board of Directors has voted unanimously to move forward with the following contingency plan program goals: 

Education:  

  • Develop online Holocaust and human rights education modules for students and teachers
  • Develop virtual teacher seminar plan to carry out summer seminars online
  • Develop virtual museum elements for Michael Klahr Center

Sustainability:

  • Expand outreach online to broader audiences to recruit new members
  • Create and deepen new partnerships in education and human rights communities
  • Preserve the core financial and programmatic sustainability of the HHRC regardless of what happens to any one person within the organization

The HHRC Board voted on a contingency budget that eliminates many expenses but preserves one of our greatest strengths by retaining our entire staff including the three educators and committing to keeping them on board for the entire year. This is possible because people like you have been such strong and loyal supporters for so long. You have helped build an enduring legacy here at the HHRC, and we are grateful to you.  

We are seeking commitments from those who are willing and able to support us in these times.  Your gift today can help us transform our programs to meet the urgent needs of teachers and students this spring.  We are still accepting gifts in the mail or you can donate online here. Thank you for staying with us in this journey.

In April, we honor an important anniversary. It’s been 35 years since a remarkable group of Holocaust survivors and allies led by Gerda Haas launched the Holocaust and Human Rights Center of Maine. Their courage and kindness informs our decisions to continue this vital work, including protecting each other and this organization we hold dear. All in-person meetings and celebrations including our annual meeting will be rescheduled to a later date (yet to be determined). But we will find ways to connect, even as we are physically distant. We will be sharing opportunities for online learning and connection through this email newsletter and via our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as well, so please look for those.

Michael Klahr, who was a hidden child during the Holocaust, had several mottos including “make tomato sauce without tomatoes” and “bad is good.” These mottos reflected his philosophy, and with them he offered a recommendation based on firsthand experience: When we are faced with a seemingly insurmountable obstacle, we must use the obstacle itself as a springboard to launch us through and then beyond the hardship into invention, finding for ourselves something we never otherwise would have considered or attempted, something beneficial beyond what we could ever have imagined. He would frequently hum the song, “The Impossible Dream,” from Man of La Mancha. 

We are all facing challenges right now, but we will get through this, together.  Remember the lines from the second stanza of “The Impossible Dream?”  

“To right the unrightable wrong, to love pure and chaste from afar, to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star.”

With a world turned upside down, sometimes it all seems unreachable, but we will keep working at fulfilling our mission for Maine and beyond. Please let us know your thoughts or ideas on our new plans. Thank you for being there for us. And please know that we’re here for you. Please reach out if there is any way we can support you in this difficult time.

Take good care and stay safe,
Shenna, David, Phil, Marpheen, Piper and Erica (Staff)
Nancy, Tam, Sheri, Peter, Adelaide, Bob, Emily, Jenna, Joan, Megan, Nick, Phyllis, Ragnhild, Richard and Steve (Board)

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