The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Never Again Education Act on Wednesday, legislation promoting Holocaust education in the United States that had been stalled for more than eight years.
It had passed the U.S. House of Representatives in January and now awaits President Donald Trump’s signature to become law.
The bill, which was introduced into the House by New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, provides teachers with resources to teach about the Holocaust in their classrooms. It will allocate $2 million a year for five years to help schools purchase textbooks about the Holocaust, to support and fund field trips to memorial sites, and to bring Holocaust survivors and experts to speak to students in American schools.
In addition, it calls for training for educators on the subject and for a centralized website, to be maintained by the Washington-based United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, with curriculum materials for educators. (The museum’s website already has a range of such material.)
A study conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany in April 2018 revealed that 66 percent of American millennials – young adults aged 18 or older – didn’t know what Auschwitz was and that 22 percent didn’t have any knowledge about the Holocaust.
Only eight American states, including New York, currently require that their schools teach children about the Holocaust. Another 13 recommend it.
“Combating hate and intolerance must always be a priority, and I’m glad that the Senate agrees,” Maloney said after the legislation got the Senate’s nod. “Passing this bill by unanimous consent today sends a strong message that the Congress is overwhelmingly united in combating anti-Semitism and hate through education.”
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The passage of the bill in the Senate comes after a long battle. Maloney had pushed for more than eight years for the legislation to make it to a congressional hearing. She told Haaretz last year that she “always thought, if it could get to the floor, it would pass.”
She reintroduced it four times into the House of Representatives, most recently in January 2019, with the support of a dozen Jewish groups and New York Congressman Jerry Nadler.
On January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the House finally passed it. Now that the Senate has passed it as well, the bill only awaits Trump’s signature.
Among the act’s co-sponsoring organizations were the World Jewish Congress, the American Jewish Committee, the Claims Conference, the New York-based Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, Hadassah and the Jewish Federations of North America.
In Congress, a number of Democrats and Republicans co-sponsored the legislation. “Children are not born with hate in their hearts. It is up to us to make sure they never learn it,” Maloney said.
“Even in the era of COVID-19, we have seen an unprecedented wave of violent anti-Semitic attacks across the country and the sense of threat is universal,” said Mark Wilf, board chairman of the Jewish Federations of North America. “Holocaust education and specifically the Never Again Education Act is one legislative vehicle that will help alleviate this problem.”
Earlier this week, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents committed in the United States. It showed a 12 percent increase in such incidents in 2019, with a 56 percent rise in assaults. The ADL welcomed the Senate’s passage of the act.
“Through the study of the Holocaust, students can grow as responsible citizens in a democratic society and develop critical thinking, empathy, and social justice skills for the future,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We look forward to President Trump signing the bill into law, and to working closely with teachers and districts across the country to ensure that Holocaust education is uniform and consistent across the country.”
Greenblatt pointed out that the ADL’s Global 100 poll determined that only an estimated 54 percent of the world’s population has even heard of the Holocaust. A survey of anti-Semitic stereotypes released by the ADL in January also found that 19 percent of American adults agreed that “Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust.”