Honoring Survivors at the RI Holocaust Memorial

by Michelle Cicchitelli, Vice President of Programming

For the past five years, I have been the project manager for the Rhode Island Holocaust Memorial working alongside my friend, Herb Stern, who chaired a committee of volunteers to help lead the charge. The Memorial was dedicated in August 2015, and since then, thousands of people have walked through the site which commemorates a tragic time in our history and the lasting impact that often results from hate. The Memorial stands in tribute to all that we have lost and all that we have learned. But the meaning of the Memorial goes well beyond its gates and columns.

I didn’t expect this project to change the way I think and feel about the Holocaust—but it has. Instead of focusing on the hatred, violence and loss of life, I focus on the stories of survival and the resiliency of the human spirit. It’s these stories that impacted me most. Stories of heroic men and women who put their lives on the line to help save others and fight back against injustice. Stories of families who, years later, were finally able to reunite with one another. And learning the stories of my own family members escaping Nazi Germany. These are the stories that remind me that empathy, courage, and hope still exist and that there is still good in the world.  These are the stories I choose to remember, the lessons that I hope my children, and all future generations, will embody as they grow. For learning how to truly love and respect one another—regardless of one’s beliefs—is what will ultimately make our world a better place.

Through this project, I have met some amazing people and learned that even the darkest of times can help shape a bright future, one that was never even imaginable.  And I have gained an even stronger understanding of the words never forget.

I feel privileged to be part of honoring some of these survivors who have made a life for themselves and their families here in Rhode Island, at a ceremony at the Memorial on Monday, August 28, at 4:00pm. The Memorial has become a place for meaningful reflection for many, and now with the addition of survivor names permanently engraved in stone, may it continue to help us heal.

Honoring Survivors at the RI Holocaust Memorial

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