Improving Holocaust Education and Combatting Anti-Semitism

Why We Support the Never Again Education Act
February 20, 2019Jacob Greenblatt

Shortly after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Representatives Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY-12) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY-21), reintroduced the Never Again Education Act, an important piece of legislation designed to improve Holocaust education and combat anti-Semitism. This bill could not come at a more opportune moment, and we are proud to once again endorse this historic bill.

The Never Again Education Act would establish a fund through the U.S. Department of Education to provide grants to schools to further Holocaust education through new textbooks, teacher training seminars, field trips, and survivor visits. The legislation would also direct federal curriculum experts to collaborate with trained Holocaust educators to develop curriculum and launch a Holocaust education website where teachers can find lesson plans and other resources. These initiatives will help make Holocaust education more affordable and accessible nationwide.

In a statement of support in Congresswoman Maloney’s press release, Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner remarked,

“Amidst rising anti-Semitism and discrimination, it is imperative that our children understand the tragic lessons of the Holocaust. By providing instructional resources and curriculum support, the Never Again Education Act would help ensure that educators are well-equipped to teach students about the profound consequences of hatred and bigotry. We commend Congresswoman Maloney for her leadership and encourage Congress to pass this important bill.”

Recent studies reveal a shocking lack of knowledge about the Holocaust in the United States, particularly among young people. An April 2018 survey by the Claims Conference in Germany found that 31 percent of Americans, including 41 percent of millennials, believe that only two million or fewer Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. A shocking 45 percent of Americans were unable to name a single concentration camp, while 80 percent of respondents have never visited a Holocaust museum.

This lack of Holocaust knowledge may come in part because only a few states require Holocaust education. Although some state education standards strongly encourage teaching about the Holocaust, only ten states actually mandate Holocaust education. While the Never Again Education Act would not require Holocaust education in every state, it would demonstrate that this issue is a priority for the federal government and make it easier for teachers in states without Holocaust education programs to access curriculum materials written by experts.

Given rising anti-Semitism and discrimination against minorities, it is more important than ever to teach students about the Holocaust. The Anti-Defamation League reports that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57 percent in 2017, which was the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number since the ADL began tracking incidents almost 40 years ago. The most recent FBI Hate Crimes Statistics Report found that hate crimes (including those targeting African Americans, Hispanics, members of the LGBTQ community, and religious minorities) increased by 17 percent in 2017. Alarmingly, hate crimes against Jews increased by 37 percent since the previous year and accounted for almost 60 percent of offenses motivated by religious bias.

Holocaust education isn’t just about promoting a better understanding of history. Students who understand the lessons of the Holocaust are better prepared to act with compassion and confront discrimination in their own communities. We must ensure that younger generations are equipped with this vital understanding of one of the darkest moments in human history, so that they can be leaders in creating a world where genocide can never happen again.

We are hopeful that the Never Again Education Act will be enacted in this congressional session. There is broad public support for improving Holocaust education; in fact, the Claims Conference reported last April that 93 percent of Americans believe that all students should learn about the Holocaust. This bill is also backed by legislators from both parties as well as a variety of Jewish and secular organizations.

We urge Congress to pass the Never Again Education Act.  

Interested in combatting anti-Semitism or enhancing Holocaust education in your congregation or community?

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