While white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups have rallied across the country in recent weeks, a newly formed Bozeman nonprofit plans to build a museum that it hopes will both provide a history lesson and warn of the dangers of repeating the past.
The Holocaust Museum of Montana is set to build a facility in Bozeman dedicated to educating the public and addressing diversity across the state, the group announced this week.
Located on a 5-acre parcel of land on Bozeman Trail Road north of Kagy Boulevard, the preliminary design includes a library, several galleries, classrooms and a multi-media room.
“The Holocaust is a terrible event that affected the whole world and we want to remember and understand it, but not dwell on it and stop there,” said Chavie Bruk, executive director. “Our focus with this museum is taking that, propelling that and using our past to help create a brighter future.”
Bruk and several other community members began planning the museum earlier this year.
The museum council is chaired by former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, and its board includes mountaineer Conrad Anker, Montana State University President Waded Cruzado, former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill and former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley.
There is no set timetable on the project, Bruk said, and the nonprofit is currently in fundraising mode to help cover the building’s multi-million dollar price tag.
Though the museum is not a direct response to the documented rise of anti-Semitism in the U.S., the current political and social climate makes it an “opportune time” for such a project, Bruk added. A promotional video for the museum included a reference to a pair of incidents in May where anti-Semitic fliers were distributed to homes in Bozeman.
Bruk, who is married to local rabbi Chaim Bruk, said her four kids were also an important personal catalyst for the project.
“It’s so important for my children to broaden their horizons and give them perspective,” the 33-year-old said. “Diversity is what makes the world a beautiful place.”
Bozeman’s “wonderful community,” well-documented growth and high tourist traffic makes it the perfect fit for a museum that will represent the state, she added. And ideally, the museum will act as a starting point for constructive conversations about history, diversity and inclusion.
“It’s OK if we’re different and don’t agree on everything, we can still respect each other, love each other and work together to make a beautiful world,” she said.