NEW YORK – About a dozen Jewish advocacy groups joined Rep. Carolyn Maloney on Monday in renewing a call to enshrine in legislation the need for Holocaust education in schools across the United States.
At a press conference hosted by the Center for Jewish History in Manhattan, the Jewish groups, Maloney and Rep. Jerry Nadler reintroduced the bipartisan Never Again Education Act – a bill Maloney has been pushing to bring to a vote in Congress for close to eight years with no success. Israeli Consul General in New York Dani Dayan was also in attendance.
“This is a very serious occasion,” Maloney said. “The rise of anti-Semitism in our country is extremely disturbing and I am terrified of the fact that people have walked through the district I am privileged to represent and have been beaten up and hurt because they are Jewish.
“This is outrageous; this is America and this has got to stop,” she continued. “It's also not enough to only condemn these hate-driven disgusting acts. We need to take proactive steps to combat this hatred; we must begin educating people, especially our young people.”
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The proposed legislation aims to provide teachers with resources to educate about the Holocaust in their classrooms and entails a $2 million annual grant that would help schools purchase textbooks, support and fund field trips to memorial sites, and bring survivors or experts to speak to students.
The bill also calls for educator training on the subject and a guiding website with lesson plans.
Last April, a study revealed that 66 percent of American millennials didn’t know what Auschwitz is and 22 percent didn’t have any knowledge of the Holocaust.
In her remarks, Maloney pointed out that only eight U.S. states, including New York, currently mandate that their schools teach children about the Holocaust. Another 13 recommend it.
At the conference, while making clear he was not in a position to formally endorse the legislation, Dayan voiced his support for Holocaust education at large.
“I am the only person in this room who is not here to endorse this legislation because formally I can’t do that, as a representative of a foreign state,” he said. “Nevertheless, I knew that despite the limitations of the protocol, there is no other place in New York City in which I want to be more than in this place,” he told the audience. “You can understand perfectly what my sentiments are toward this specific legislation.
“The State of Israel obviously does not have authority in order to fight anti-Semitism outside our country. But the fact that we don’t have authority doesn’t mean we don’t have responsibility,” Dayan added. “We have responsibility, and we will stand by that responsibility in order to make sure that it happens never again.”
Among the co-sponsors of the proposed law are the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Claims Conference, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, Hadassah and the UJA Federation, among others.
“I have been trying to pass it for a long time,” Maloney – who is also a former teacher – told Haaretz after the event. “It’s not easy. People don’t like to spend any money. It’s going to be $2 million a year.
“I’ve reintroduced it four times and I’ve always thought if it could get to the floor it would pass,” she added.
Despite several pushes, the Never Again Education Act has yet to make it to a congressional hearing, the step preceding a vote.