Holocaust Education Resource Center of Rhode Island join forces with the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island

Making the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial a reality

Artistic rendition of the Rhode Island Holocaust MemorialFor more than ten years, a committee of devoted individuals, led by Herb Stern and, more recently, Jeffrey Savit, president and CEO of the Jewish Alliance, have been working hard to build a very public Holocaust Memorial in Rhode Island. This Memorial will be located on Providence’s River Walk, appropriately alongside the WWI and WWII Memorials, which is arguably the most visible and populated locale in Southeastern New England.

Created by RISD-based sculptor Jonathan Bonner, the Memorial is designed to honor those who survived the Holocaust, as well as those lost – and to continue to tell their story long after the last of the    has passed into history.  This Memorial is being built as a tribute to, on behalf of, and with the collective input of, Rhode Island’s remaining Holocaust Survivors.

Small towns and cities around the country, such as Des Moines, Iowa, Charleston, South Carolina, and Columbus, Ohio, have also been working to build such Memorials, regardless of the size of their Jewish population. Holocaust experts have reported that, over the past two decades, museums and memorials dedicated to remember these horrific events have increased, even in the least likely of places.  “There are probably more than 300 Holocaust study centers and museums around the country, and the number of memorials would be hard to track down because of all the small ones,” said James Young, a professor of English and Judaic studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the author of a book about Holocaust remembrance.

As the survivors are dying off, our best hope for strengthening the ties that bind us – and for turning back violence around the world and here at home – is to foster empathy, to teach respect and to reveal the shocking, unspeakably high price we pay when bigotry and cruelty are allowed to flourish and when good people remain silent.  Every generation must learn the lessons of the horrors of the Holocaust.  Now is the time that we in Rhode Island do our part, by taking a lead, to ensure that the flame continues to burn brightly.

The Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial will also be among the few memorials in the world to be integrated with technology to allow “the stones to speak.”  Through this interactive technology, visitors will be able to immerse themselves in a different type of experience, one that is intellectual and visceral.

There are an abundant amount of possibilities in how this type of integration can lead to educational opportunities.  We are pleased to announce that we have already begun to work with Johnson and Wales University to research and develop the most effective means to incorporate this innovative feature.

At the same time, the Alliance Memorial Committee and the Holocaust Education Resource Center (HERC) have entered into a partnership moving forward.  The Memorial Committee will fund and manage the Memorial and HERC will be responsible for the Memorial’s education and outreach programs.  HERC has hired a Holocaust Educator, Dr. Barbara Silliman, who will be working with Holocaust educators, survivors and members of the Rhode Island community, to create a curriculum suitable for a variety of ages.  Dr. Silliman, along with May-Ronny Zeidman, Executive Director of HERC and Judy Jamieson, President of HERC, will become members of the Holocaust Memorial Committee, as we all work toward this common goal.

“I am thrilled that HERC is now part of this very important project,” said Jamieson.

Stern and his committee have currently raised almost half the money needed to build the Memorial and are confident that the other half will soon follow.  As a community united, the Alliance and HERC intend to create a place for meaningful reflection.  By sharing the lessons of the Holocaust, we can envision that the Memorial will help to create a kinder world.

For more information, contact Michelle Cicchitelli at (mcicchitelli@jewishallianceri.org) or at 421-4111, ext. 178