Teaching our children for a better future


How do we tell our children about the worst crime of the 20th century – the Holocaust? What is the right age to tell them how the Nazis systematically murdered two-thirds of European Jewry, perhaps including some of their relatives?

If told the wrong way, or at the wrong time, we could inflict psychological damage and end up with frightened children prone to nightmares. If told properly, we could instill a sense of social justice and engender a commitment to work to prevent future atrocities.

As many Rhode Islanders know, the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center’s mission is to teach the history of the Holocaust in order to promote dignity and justice, and to serve as a memorial to the victims. SBHEC strives to reduce prejudice against all minorities by teaching about the experience of the Jews, and the suffering of other peoples because of hate and bigotry.

Each year, SBHEC’s programs reach over 10,000 students, from middle school through college. Its speakers open dialogues that encourage participants to be aware of  prejudice and take constructive action to stop it.

Students report that SBHEC’s programs have changed their lives, opening their eyes to incidents of mistreatment.

Unfortunately, bigotry and prejudice continue to plague our society, and there is much that still needs to be taught.

Through SBHEC’s continuing efforts, in conjunction with Rhode Island’s mandatory Holocaust and Genocide education for all middle and high school students, more and more people are being sensitized to social injustice and are actively working toward ending it.  

SBHEC regularly sends Holocaust survivors to give testimony at schools and community groups throughout Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts. Additionally, several thousand Rhode Island students participate in the annual Arts and Writing Contest and the Holocaust Through the Arts Program.

But SBHEC has another resource, designed specifically for families that want to educate their children about the Holocaust without scaring them: a free lending library with hundreds of books, videos and works of art.

The material is appropriate for elementary through high school students and will augment and deepen what children learn in school, as well as spurring family conversations. The collection’s offerings include history, biographies, novels, documentaries and feature films

SBHEC strongly believes that what children learn at home is just as important as what they learn in school.

SBHEC encourages parents to bring their children to the center and peruse the lending library collection.  Books, videos and art are wonderful ways to introduce sensitive issues and spur conversations about a difficult topic.

Stop by the center, at 401 Elmgrove Ave., in Providence, to browse through the collection, or call Paula Olivieri, SBHEC’s education director, at 401-453-7860, to learn more.

LEV POPLOW is a communications and development consultant who writes for the Sandra Bornstein Holocaust Education Center, in Providence. He can be reached at levpoplow@gmail.com.

SBHEC, children