New NY legislation signed to support Holocaust survivors, bolster education

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STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Governor Kathy Hochul signed a legislative package on Wednesday to honor and support Holocaust survivors in educational, cultural and financial institutions.

The legislative package will help ensure schools are providing high-quality Holocaust education; require museums to acknowledge art stolen by the Nazi regime; and require the New York State Department of Financial Services to publish a list of financial institutions that voluntarily waive fees for Holocaust reparation payments.

“As New Yorkers, we are united in our solemn commitment to Holocaust survivors: We will never forget,” Hochul said. “These are individuals who have endured unspeakable tragedy, but nonetheless have persevered to build lives of meaning and purpose right here in New York. We owe it to them, their families, and the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust to honor their memories and ensure future generations understand the horrors of this era.”

The new legislation will help ensure that New York schools are properly educating students on the Holocaust. It directs the New York State Education Department to determine whether school districts across the state have met education requirements on instruction of the Holocaust, which have been required by law since 1994. It will also require NYSED to identify how non-compliant schools will close gaps in knowledge of the Holocaust in schools.

“With antisemitism on the rise, and Holocaust misinformation exploding around the world, it’s never been more important that we learn the lessons of the Holocaust, and ensure our next generation knows about our history, no matter how dark or difficult the conversation may be,” State Senator Anna M. Kaplan (D-North Hills, N.Y.) said.


The legislation also requires museums to acknowledge the origins of art pieces that were stolen from Europeans during the Nazi era, primarily from Jewish families.

During World War II, the Nazis looted some 600,000 paintings from Jews, enriching the Third Reich and eliminating all vestiges of Jewish identity and culture. Museums across New York display this stolen art with no recognition of or transparency around their origins, and this legislation will require museums to disclose information on the history of these stolen art pieces.

In addition, the legislation requires the New York State Department of Financial Services to maintain and update a list of financial institutions that waive wire fees associated with Holocaust reparations payments. About one-third of Holocaust survivors in the U.S. live in poverty. This legislation will ease unnecessary burdens that banks may place on Holocaust survivors who receive reparation payments.

“We thank our governor and the state Legislature for today’s action. Sadly, studies have shown that far too many youth and young adults in our state — and across our nation — are unaware of the Holocaust, have never visited a Holocaust museum, or spoken with a Holocaust survivor,” said Museum of Jewish Heritage Chairman of the Board of Trustees Bruce Ratner said.

Preserving the history of Staten Island’s remaining Holocaust survivors, visual journalist and filmmaker Shira Stoll, who formerly worked for the Advance embarked on a project, “Where Life Leads you.” The Emmy-winning 24-minute documentary traced the Holocaust through 10 of the survivors’ personal recollections, and the website also features 15 five- to 10-minute documentaries, each focused exclusively on one individual’s story.

The Where Life Leads You project also includes extensive community outreach, particularly to Staten Island’s schoolchildren. New York City public schools in District 31 — Staten Island — have adopted parts of the project into their Holocaust curriculum, and Stoll has screened the documentary for thousands of public and Catholic school students across the borough.


And the borough’s first permanent Holocaust exhibit opened earlier this year at Wagner College, the culmination of years of dedicated work by two professors committed to honoring the courage and defiance of those who fought for the rights and lives of the persecuted, those lost to atrocities, and the survivors forever effected.

The Holocaust Education and Action Gallery, part of the Wagner College Holocaust Center, weaves history with interactive and immersive experiences for visitors, and is meant to inspire upstanders — those who intervene on behalf of a person being attacked — through its emphasis on anti-Nazi rescuers and resistors.

“We wanted to tell the stories of people of all faiths, Jews and non-Jews, who risked their lives to save one woman, man or child, or to save thousands,” said Dr. Lori Weintrob, director of the Holocaust Center and gallery co-curator.