In light of the uptick in anti-Semitic incidents nationwide and polls showing ignorance of the Holocaust in the post-millennial generation, Assemblywoman Nily Rozic of Fresh Meadows sponsored a bill requiring the State Education Department to survey how the Holocaust is being taught across the state. This week, it passed in the Assembly and Senate after a five-year effort, awaiting the Governor’s signature to become law.
“The original law was created in 1994, but Holocaust knowledge among New York millennials doesn’t reflect it. This new law will fill in that gap – and help us improve education for all New Yorkers,” Rozic said.
A cursory look at stories relating to the Holocaust, Israel, and anti-Semitic incidents shows a widespread misunderstanding and dismissal of Jewish concerns about security. Rozic argues that an educated public would recognize the impact of the Holocaust in combating hate speech, incidents, and views. An example cited by Rozic and organizations supportive of the bill is the study conducted in 2020 by the Claims Conference that found New York as having one of the lowest Holocaust knowledge scores: 58 percent of Millennials and post-Millennials unable to name a single concentration camp, and 60 percent of young people unaware that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
The bill took five years to pass the Assembly, overcoming procedural hurdles in committees and questions on funding and its importance. Keeping in mind the broad population and other examples of racism and hate directed at minorities, Rozic’s bill notes that Holocaust education is within the guidelines set by the Dignity for All Students Act. Passed in 2010, this law requires schools to teach awareness and respect for race, ethnicities, disabilities, and orientations to foster tolerance.
Rozic also noted that with fewer living witnesses to speak about the Holocaust, this is the time to enshrine this historical period as a required subject in public education.
“I commend Nily Rozic for championing this important bill that I am proud to co-sponsor. Passage today is a crucial step in ensuring that all New York State students learn about the Holocaust,” said Assemblyman Judy Griffin of Rockville Centre. “Recent events make clear that all New Yorkers should know the meaning behind ‘Never Again.’”
In the State Senate, the bill is sponsored by Anna Kaplan of Great Neck, herself a refugee from Iran who represents a sizable Jewish constituency. Kaplan expects the bill to become law shortly. “We’re doing our part in the New York State Senate to ensure that ‘Never Forget’ isn’t just a saying, but something we fight to ensure, by advancing the Holocaust Education Bill through the legislative process,” Kaplan said at a Yom HaShoah press conference last month in Albany.
Following the passage of the bill in the Assembly, Rozic thanked the Jewish Federation of New York, the American Jewish Committee, the ADL, Yeshiva University, Hadassah, and the Kupferberg Holocaust Center at Queensborough Community College for their advice and advocacy for this bill.
By Sergey Kadinsky