Cruzado mug

Waded Cruzado, president of Montana State University

Earlier this week, 1,400 MSU students, faculty members and Montanans from across the state, gathered to hear 90-year-old Mrs. Eva Schloss, from London, England, share her life story as Anne Frank’s stepsister and a Holocaust survivor who endured the Auschwitz death camp.

It was an unlikely partnership between a local synagogue and MSU’s Leadership Institute that created this incredible moment of community. Our collaboration was based on a common understanding that the only way to ensure a bright future, a future of young minds seeking to know raw history, to comprehend diverse human experiences and to learn from past errors perpetrated at home and abroad, is through education.

Our society seems to have shifted to Kvetching, a Yiddish term loosely translated as complaining. When we witness evil being committed, when we hear insults or character assassinations being spewed, when we encounter dark elements who seek to divide us, we complain. We use our readily available social media platforms, we utilize our family dinner conversations and even infuse it into our fun leisurely activities, Kvetching, to anyone who will listen, and even to those who won’t, about the ignorance and illiteracy plaguing society.

Yet, we can’t fight ignorance with ignorance.

It is our belief that complaining doesn’t get results and laws don’t change people’s minds. Undoubtedly, muttering feels good, but if we are looking to change the fabric of our culture, if we seek to share from the past with those who will lead us into the future, it can only be done through genuine, unadulterated, education.

Mrs. Schloss spoke from her heart. She shared with us stories of her childhood as a Jew in Vienna and Amsterdam before the war, and later, her experience in the camp that ended the lives of millions, including her loved ones. Her story is one of human perseverance, one that each of us can replicate in our own lives. It was a stellar reminder to all in attendance, that despite evil rising its ugly head, our goodness, including random acts of kindness to people we don’t know, will transform the present and brighten the future.

We mustn’t ever give up on making the world a better, more loving, place, but that happens mostly through acting lovingly and not through easy judgmentalism and effortless grumbling.

We are honored to have brought Eva to Bozeman and we hope we can bring more moments of genuine education to big sky country!

Waded Cruzado is president of Montana State University and Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana.