New Push For Holocaust Education In The House

The Pittsburgh Effect, you might call it, is making a legislative impact in Congress.

Spurred by a recent upsurge of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. — the most graphic example being the massacre last October at the Tree of Life Synagogue, which took the lives of 11 worshippers — Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney last week revived a moribund House bill that would fund Holocaust education in public and private schools.

Maloney, a longtime Upper East Side legislator, surrounded by officials from the Israeli Consulate and several local and national Jewish organizations, announced her action at the Center for Jewish History.

“The Never Again Education Act,” which has bipartisan House support, would establish a Holocaust Education Assistance Program Fund in the U.S. Treasury, with a $2 million annual grant, to help teachers develop and improve Holocaust education programs.

Maloney introduced similar legislation last year, but it didn’t come to a vote.

Janice Weinman, executive director of Hadassah, one of the bill’s supporters, cited the increase of anti-Semitism and surveys that indicate a decrease in the public’s knowledge about the Holocaust as reasons for supporting the legislation.

“We must be vigilant about anti-hate education,” Weinman said at the Center for Jewish History event. “We must insist that Americans understand, consider and do something about the growing hate in our country.”

Weinman said Hadassah, which is serving as the NGO “convener” of the bill in the Jewish community, is actively lobbying for its passage. “Advocacy teams” here and in Washington, “and our members in every congressional district,” are working with Maloney, she said.

“As people have exposure to the issues” of anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred, and “understand how hate manifests itself,” Weinman told The Jewish Week, “they will become far more interested in preventing it in the future.” She added, “The killings at Tree of Life only reinforced our commitment to fighting anti-Semitism.”

Weinman said the legislation has failed to pass because it “was not much of a priority of a lot of members of Congress.” But now, she believes, the recent increase in anti-Semitic incidents is likely to increase congressional interest.

Opposition to anti-Semitism has long been “a fundamental principle” of Hadassah, best known for its Zionist activities and support of health care in Israel and support for women’s issues, she said.

Provisions of the bill would establish a fund to finance grants to teachers in middle and high schools, give direct funding for the development of individualized programs, pay for teachers’ participation in Holocaust education seminars and workshops, and create a Holocaust education website.

Only eight states, including New York, mandate Holocaust education, and 12 recommend it.

Maloney called the recent upsurge in anti-Semitism “outrageous.”

“This is America and this has got to stop,” she said. “We are at a dangerous moment in time. Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world and here at home, and the memory of the Holocaust is fading for far too many Americans. We can combat this by making sure we teach our students, tomorrow’s leaders, about the horrors of the Holocaust.”

Other supporters of the proposed law include UJA-Federation of New York, World Jewish Congress, AJC, the Claims Conference and the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect.

Among the House’s 24 co-sponsors are New York-area Reps. Max Rose (D-S.I.), Peter King (R-L.I.), Eliot Engel (D-Bronx), and Jerrold Nadler (D-Manhattan-Brooklyn).

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