Holocaust Center’s LIFT program teaches teens how to be leaders in tolerance


PROVIDENCE – Fifteen R.I. high school students from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds are getting together once or twice a month as part of LIFT, one of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center’s new education initiatives.

In the six months since LIFT (Leadership Institute for Teens) launched its dinner-and-learning sessions, the students have learned lessons from the Holocaust and other genocides on how to promote human dignity and justice; the challenges that marginalized communities face; and how we can all support one another. Since the program launched, it has partnered with the ADL, Dorcas International and the Non-Violence Institute to face antisemitism and all forms of prejudice.

In addition, the program has given the teens the tools needed to be active “upstanders”, rather than passive bystanders, and worked on developing the skills needed to articulate opinions on pressing social issues.

At a recent LIFT program, Ada Winsten, a Holocaust survivor and a LIFT supporter, told her story to the teens. After escaping the Nazis, Ada settled in Rhode Island, where her first husband, Jordan Tannenbaum, was from. After Jordan passed away, Ada met and married Harold Winsten.

Ada Winsten wanted to start an endowment in their memory, and she said LIFT was the perfect program to support. She explained that both of her husbands loved to help kids. And she said she believes that when people sit down with others who are different from themselves, barriers come down, stereotypes are broken and friendships are made.

For this reason, LIFT meetings usually feature dinner, since eating together helps provide a comfortable atmosphere to discuss topics that are not always comfortable to talk about.

As the culmination of the year, LIFT students are doing a mitzvah of collecting books about people with different backgrounds for Little Free Libraries throughout Rhode Island. In these books, kids will see examples of kindness and empathy in action and will learn about people who are different from themselves.

LIFT has been so successful that there will be two sections in the fall, one in Providence and one in the East Bay. But there is still so much more the Holocaust center wants to do to make the world a kinder place, which is why it is launching a campaign to raise $35,000 to honor its 35th anniversary, on May 5. The money raised will help the center expand its education programs, including offering adult classes.

To learn more about LIFT, to submit an application for 2023-2024, or to make a donation, go to bornsteinholocaustcenter.org or email info@hercri.org. To support the Little Free Library project, go to https://amzn.to/3KaiYS0.

LIFT is partially funded by the Jordan Tannenbaum and Harold Winsten Family Fund.

WENDY JOERING (wjoering@hercri.org) is the executive director of the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center.