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Steve Faber

For U.S. Navy employee, Stennis Space Center experience put world in perspective

Steve Faber is a New York native through and through. He was born in Brooklyn, lived a short while in Islip on Long Island, grew up and lived his college years in Queens.

Although he has worked for the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) at NASA’s Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, for almost 34 years, he still remembers those earlier years fondly. “If I have to pick three things I miss about New York City, they would be pizza, Italian Ices and museums – in that order,” he said.

One thing Faber does not remember from those years is learning about the Holocaust. That education would come later, thanks to an office assignment and an aging Jewish woman. For Faber, who has now led Holocaust Days of Remembrance programs at Stennis for 30 years, it would be nothing short of an awakening.

Faber arrived at Stennis in May 1986, settling in Slidell, Louisiana, to begin a self-described “eclectic” career with NAVOCEANO. He and his wife later moved to nearby Lacombe, which he characterized as a “beautiful small town” full of age-old live oaks.

At Stennis, Faber’s career covered a range of areas. He began as a geophysicist but also trained sailors; served as a ship surveyor; worked with fleet customers, requirements drivers and systems designers; supported oceanographic environmental work; and served 18 years as the senior NAVOCEANO representative, leading teams for multi-month at-sea missions. He also served as lead for environmental support for South Korea, developing a close working partnership with its national Navy.

For the last year-and-a-half, Faber has served as NAVOCEANO’s International Program Coordinator. In that role, he works closely with the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command on foreign disclosure issues, as well as on Freedom of Information requests. “What I love the most about working at Stennis at NAVOCEANO is the knowledge that I am working to strengthen our national security,” Faber said. “I know that the work I am doing, that NAVOCEANO is doing, supports those who are defending our nation. It is an honor for me to be a part of this greater good.”

Faber’s experience at Stennis exposed him to the importance of diversity – in the workplace and beyond. “I work with a diverse team, from the leadership on down,” he said. “From my early days at NAVOCEANO, I feel that the command took equal opportunity and diversity very seriously.” The office eventually would team with the Stennis Diversity Council to host diversity programs on site.

For Faber, though, the most life-changing exposure to diversity began with a 1990 assignment to write an article on Kristallnacht, the 1938 organized attack on German Jews commonly as “the Night of Broken Glass.” He subsequently was asked to help organize Holocaust Days of Remembrance programs on site.

The first program in 1991 featured a pair of PBS films. “Having not grown up learning about the Holocaust and the magnitude of the atrocities, those movies tore my heart to shreds,” Faber said. 

In 1995, Faber was introduced to a group of Holocaust survivors in the New Orleans area, including a woman named Felicia Fuksman. Fuksman subsequently spoke during the 1996 Stennis program, talking about family she lost in the Holocaust and about her own experiences in the Lodz ghetto and the Ravensbruck concentration camp. She told of two friends who saved her life when she had given up, of her liberation by the Russian Army and of her return to Lodz, only to find someone else living in her house and with her possessions, refusing to surrender either. “Felicia put the world into perspective,” Faber said. “Felicia bared her soul to show how dark things can get and how we must never let this happen again.”

Faber took the message to heart. Though he will turn over leadership of Stennis Days of Remembrance programs to someone else next year, he is still quick to remind everyone of the importance of the observance. Not only were 6 million Jews killed during that period but also another 10 million people who did not fit – the sick, disabled, mentally ill, gypsies, university staff, various Christian sects, communists, homosexuals, political prisoners and prisoners of war.

“Many ask, ‘Why do we still hold this observance?’ The Holocaust ended over 70 years ago,” Faber said. “We must make the promise that these kinds of atrocities never again plague our world. We hold this observance so we can recognize and respond to the warning signs of genocide. As long as genocide remains a threat, we must continue to ask ourselves about the consequences of action – and of inaction. That is how we strive to fulfill the promise of Never Again.”

For Faber, the Holocaust period clearly shows the importance of highlighting and promoting diversity. “There are too many examples of man’s inhumanity to man – the atrocities of the Armenian massacres, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Darfur, and the North Korean work camps,” he said. “Keeping the memory of the Holocaust alive allows us to talk about these atrocities. This is why remembrance of Holocaust is so important.”

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