Holocaust center celebrates a successful year and innovative plans


PROVIDENCE – Art, augmented reality and appreciation were the themes of the day at the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center’s Annual Meeting, held on May 29.

Prior to Rabbi Ethan Adler giving an opening d’var Torah, attendees had a chance to socialize while taking in the beautiful displays of the Annual Art and Writing Contest winners and a slideshow featuring all the schools the center has visited this year.

Dan Gamm then gave his final address as board chair, reflecting on his term, which spanned the COVID-19 pandemic and the hiring of a new executive director, Wendy Joering, as well as the meteoric rise in antisemitism following the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7.

Gamm praised the center’s leadership and staff for their innovation and expansion of the organization’s reach.

He was presented with an engraved gavel as well as a copy of the book “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” which was signed by all the board members.

In her remarks, Wendy Joering remembered two people the community lost this year: May-Ronny Zeidman, the previous executive director of the center for over 15 years, and Holocaust survivor Alice Eichenbaum, who was an integral part of the center’s Speakers’ Bureau.

Joering reflected on this unprecedented year and how the center has flourished, advancing its mission despite rising hatred of all kinds.

She also revealed a new program being launched this fall, the Harold A. Winstead Youth Interactive Learning Program. With a smartphone or tablet, students will be able to watch and listen as an immersive hologram shares the stories of Holocaust survivors and their children. Thanks to this modern technology, the individual will appear on screen, standing right in front of the students. Curriculum is currently being written to accompany each individual hologram.

“Whether educators have two days, two weeks, or two months to dedicate to Holocaust education, we will have a curriculum available for them,” Joering said.

The center is able to offer this state-of-the-art program to educators thanks to the generosity of the distribution committee of Winstead’s estate: his nephews Norman Jay Bolotow and Phillip M. Weinstein, and Benjamin G. Paster, who passed away in 2023 and was replaced by his law partner John M. Harpootian.

David Cicilline, the CEO of the Rhode Island Foundation and an honorary board member, installed new board members Ruth Forstadt, Alex Hershey, Len Newman, Jon Orent, Shanna Trufan, Shannon Weinstein, Michael Xiarhos and Lisa Davis (presidential appointee).

He also welcomed the incoming board chair, Michael Bryant, to his new position. Bryant, a professor at Bryant University is a brilliant Holocaust scholar who is “a gift to this organization,” Cicilline said.

In his remarks, Professor Bryant expressed excitement about his upcoming term and the future of the center as a resource to communities and schools across the state.

Giovanna Wiseman, director of programming and outreach, presented prizes to the winners of the Art and Writing Contest, as well as to honor participants of the high school program Leadership Institute for Teens (LIFT).

Retiring English teacher Donald Hogue, of Mount Saint Charles, in Woonsocket, was honored for his dedication to Holocaust education and his commitment to having his students participate in the Art and Writing Contest every year. This year’s winner in writing, Omar Abdelkhalek, came from Hogue’s class.

LIFT students Sam Licht and Liam Dee reflected on their time in the program. Sam expressed his appreciation specifically for the knowledge he gained about the Holocaust, which he said will arm him and his fellow LIFT participants with much needed facts as they enter college, where misinformation and lack of education about historic events can often exacerbate antisemitism.

Liam talked about the group’s session on Rachel’s Challenge, an organization promoting kindness that was started by the family of Rachel Scott, the first child killed in the Columbine High School shooting.

Liam stressed the importance of choosing to be good, saying that “people underestimate how easy it is to make the world a worse place and too often overestimate how easy it is to make it a better one.”

The center will be taking the LIFT participants to the Auschwitz exhibit in Boston over the summer.

In these dark times, the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center remains committed to providing high-quality Holocaust and genocide programs and education to children and adults across Rhode Island.

GIOVANNA WISEMAN is the director of programming and outreach at the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, in Providence.

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