Posted by: Andrew Hollinger  | Thursday, February 19, 2015

Transformative gift to sustain and expand innovative

approaches to genocide prevention

WASHINGTON, DC – The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum announced today that the Samerian Foundation of Indianapolis has committed a $20 million endowment gift to advance the Museum’s genocide prevention mission. The gift by Foundation founders Cynthia Simon-Skjodt and Paul Skjodt ensures that the Museum can build its leadership of the field and help make genocide prevention a global priority. The Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide has been renamed The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

“Seventy years after the Holocaust, the exceptional generosity of the Simon-Skjodt family positions the Museum to fulfill Founding Chairman Elie Wiesel’s vision for a living memorial that would address what he called ‘the most perplexing and urgent issue’ of preventing future genocides,” said Museum director Sara Bloomfield. “It remains a bold aspiration and tragically more relevant than ever. With this gift the Museum ensures its continued capacity to tackle this most intractable problem.”

Preventing genocide is a moral imperative and increasingly in America’s national interest, since genocide and mass atrocities fuel regional instability, spark refugee flows and humanitarian crises, and breed terrorists. However, still too little is understood about what genocide prevention approaches are most successful and long-term work is urgently needed to build a robust and enlightened field of genocide prevention champions across governments, thought leaders, and the public at large.

The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide will work to make the prevention of genocide a core priority for leaders and academics around the world through its multi-pronged program of research, education, and public outreach. Continuing its work to implement the findings of the Museum-sponsored Genocide Prevention Task Force, the Center will equip decision makers, including officials in the US as well as other governments, with the knowledge, tools, and institutional support required to prevent – or, if necessary, halt – genocide and related crimes against humanity.

This gift will allow the Simon-Skjodt Center to continue to develop innovative approaches and initiatives to further our understanding of genocide prevention and reach new audiences with its work. Such initiatives include the creation of an early warning system and a dangerous speech initiative that aim to expand understanding of the warning signs and causes of genocide and get this vital information to decision makers, academics, and the public before atrocities begin.

“Our motivation in making this gift is to inspire other people to become involved in preventing genocide,” said Cindy Simon-Skjodt. “My parents were teenagers during the Holocaust, and while they were born in the United States, they were deeply impacted by what was happening in Europe. The questions of how and why—how human beings could commit such crimes and why so many others were complacent—lingered throughout their lives. We are proud to support this remarkable institution that we believe can help answer these questions and use that knowledge to prevent atrocities in the future. If we can help move this mission forward even a fraction, then we will have accomplished something meaningful for future generations.”

Founded in 2003, the Samerian Foundation seeks to enhance the quality of life through humanitarian projects and a focus on education, economic development, health, youth sports, and community organizations meeting the needs of the underserved.

“Addressing the challenge of genocide and creating the change we want to see in the world to pursue the cause of prevention takes a long-term commitment and investment. The permanence of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and this generous gift from the Samerian Foundation enable us to sustain momentum and further advance the field of genocide prevention through the development of new tools and new understanding that we hope will drive better outcomes on the ground,” said Cameron Hudson, director of the Museum’s Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide.

The Simon-Skjodt gift is part of the Museum’s $540 million campaign, led by honorary chair Elie Wiesel, which will enable the Museum to make critical investments to keep Holocaust memory alive as a relevant, transformative force in the 21st century. The campaign will build a stronger endowment, increased annual fund, and a new collections and conservation center.

A living memorial to the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum inspires citizens and leaders worldwide to confront hatred, prevent genocide, and promote human dignity. Its far-reaching educational programs and global impact are made possible by generous donors. For more information, visit ushmm.org.


Related Links:

WTHRDT13, Indianapolis. Eyewitness News at 6 click here.

Indianapolis Star, Samerian Foundation of Indianapolis makes $20 million donation

Indianapolis Business Journal, Local philanthropists make $20M gift for genocide center

Washington Post, Foundation gives Holocaust Museum $20M to combat genocide

Philanthropy News Digest, Samerian Foundation Awards $20 Million to U.S. Holocaust Museum