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Bipartisan bill aims to examine Holocaust education efforts

Legislation would require the Department of Education to identify where Holocaust education is not part of the curriculum and assess the quality of existing programs

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) speaks on Iran negotiations at a news conference on Capitol Hill, April 06, 2022, in Washington, D.C.

A new bill, set to be introduced on Thursday by a bipartisan group of lawmakers, seeks to examine the status of Holocaust education efforts in public primary and secondary schools, Jewish Insider has learned.

The Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act is sponsored by Reps. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA).

The bill draft, obtained by JI, would mandate that the Department of Education submit to Congress a report on Holocaust education in public schools, including identifying schools and states that do not require Holocaust education, and examine the quality and type of education and materials used and how students are assessed on their learning.

The bill suggests measures of educational quality, including whether the curricula include in-class discussion, homework and projects. 

“It is critically important not just to remember the victims of the Holocaust killed by the Nazis in gas chambers and concentration camps simply for being Jews, but also because our history teaches us that we have a responsibility to confront bigotry, hatred and intolerance wherever it can be found,” Gottheimer told JI.  “Therefore, we cannot — and must not — ignore the stunning rise in antisemitism and Holocaust denial around the world and, increasingly, here at home in the United States.”

The bill arrives as incidents of antisemitism within the U.S. continue to rise. It also follows alarm about shrinking knowledge of the Holocaust among younger generations.

According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., 21 states require schools to provide Holocaust education. A 2020 study conducted by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany of people ages 18 to 39 — millennials and Gen Z — in all states showed that 63% of respondents did not know that 6 million Jews were killed, and the majority of those thought less than 2 million were killed.

A full 10% of respondents were not sure if the Holocaust had happened or denied that it had, and 11% blamed the Jews for it.

“The mounting evidence that knowledge about the Holocaust is beginning to fade should also alarm us all,” Gottheimer added. “As Elie Wiesel said: ‘Indifference, after all, is more dangerous than anger or hatred.’ With this commonsense bipartisan legislation I’m introducing, both Democrats and Republicans are coming together to ensure we’re working to stem the rising tide of hate and to improve Holocaust education in schools nationwide.”

Congress passed the Never Again Education Act in 2020 to provide more resources to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to expand Holocaust education nationwide. The current session of Congress is expected to adjourn by the end of the week, so the legislation will likely need to be reintroduced in the new year in order to proceed.

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