Results of a recent study have prompted state Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) to announce a bill for New York state to conduct a study on courses of study on the Holocaust in the state’s schools.
Kaplan announced the bill at an April 29 news conference at the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center in Glen Head, alongside Assemblywoman Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), the bill’s sponsor in the state Assembly; state Sen. Jim Gaughran (D-Northport); Assemblyman Charles Lavine (D-Glen Cove); and state Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach).
The officials were also joined by representatives of the American Jewish Committee Long Island, the Jewish Community Relations Council Long Island and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Kaplan said that a recent study by the nonprofit Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany revealed that 58% of New Yorkers aged 18 to 39 cannot name a single concentration camp, that 19% believe that Jews caused the Holocaust and that 28% believe the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated. In each of these three metrics, New York had the worst score of any state in the country.
“When we talk about the Holocaust, we say never forget – but in order to forget something, you need to learn about it in the first place,” Kaplan said. “We’re doing a terrible job of teaching our kids about the atrocities of the Holocaust and the 6 million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis, and in a time when disinformation is exploding, and anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic violence are on the rise, it’s never been more important to teach the lessons of the Holocaust to the next generation.”
The bill, to be shepherded by Kaplan through the state Senate and by Rozic in the Assembly, would authorize the state’s Commissioner of Education to conduct a study to determine which school districts are offering instruction on the Holocaust in compliance with Section 801 of the Education Law, which mandates teaching of citizenship, patriotism and human rights issues “with particular attention to the study of the inhumanity of genocide” in schools. The Holocaust is one of three tragedies mentioned by name in the law and mandated to be taught, with the other two being slavery and the mass starvation in Ireland from 1845 to 1850.
The bill would require a report on the findings of the study by the first of January after the bill becomes law, and direct the commissioner to promulgate rules and regulations ensuring school districts are offering instruction on the Holocaust in compliance with Section 801.
“As we experience historic levels of anti-Semitism in New York and around the country, Never Again needs to be a call to action and not merely a platitude offered on Holocaust Remembrance Day and Genocide Awareness Month,” Rozic said.
“When study after study delineate embarrassing ignorance and misinformation about the Holocaust, we need to rectify the issue at the source – educational requirements. Ensuring that the Holocaust is properly taught in schools coupled with education on recognizing anti-Semitism and other hate crimes is a crucial first step in stopping dangerous conspiracy theories.”
Lavine, Kaminsky and Gaughran all voiced support for the bill.
“As a representative of the state of New York and a Jew whose entire European family was murdered by the Nazis and their allies, I am proud to support this legislation to ensure students are taught about the Holocaust,” Lavine said. “It works hand in hand with my Hate Education bill which makes learning about the noose and swastika compulsory. We must never cease in our efforts to attack hatred through education.”
Nassau County Executive Laura Curran gave support to the proposal in a statement.
“We must redouble our efforts to ensure present and future generations understand the lessons of past,” Curran said. “With anti-Semitism on the rise again, it is more important than ever that we speak up and combat hatred through education.”
Andrea Bolender, chairperson of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center, voiced support for the bill and said that much work remained in eradicating antisemitic hate.
“[The center] has worked with many Long Island school districts to offer a standardized and thorough Holocaust and genocide curriculum, but much work remains to be done,” Bolender said. “We support this bill, as we know that the only effective vaccination for hate is education.”