Rosen, Lankford introduce Holocaust education audit bill in the Senate

The HEAL Act would direct the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to report on the state of Holocaust education in the country

U.S. Senate

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK)

Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) are set to introduce legislation today that would require an audit of Holocaust education programs across the country, Jewish Insider has learned.

The Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act would require the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., to conduct and submit to Congress a nationwide study of the state of Holocaust education. Just 21 states currently require Holocaust education and recent studies have found many Americans are unaware of basic details about the Holocaust, amid record-high rates of antisemitic incidents in the U.S.

“One of the most effective ways to combat the rise of anti-Jewish bigotry is to improve how we teach about the Holocaust and talk about the dangers of antisemitism,” Rosen said in a statement. “Never again means ensuring we never forget the important lessons from one of history’s darkest chapters, and our bipartisan legislation will help ensure that Holocaust education in the U.S. is accurate and comprehensive.”

The bill would require the USHMM to report on where Holocaust education is required or offered, and examine standards, curricula and professional development opportunities for teachers, as well as other elements of Holocaust education efforts.

“Antisemitism and anti-Jewish crimes remain sadly on the rise in our nation and around the world,” Lankford said in a statement. “Our HEAL Act will help assess the current Holocaust-related resources available to schools and communities to ensure educators have the tools they need to teach future generations about the atrocities of the Holocaust and the devastating impact of antisemitism.”

Lankford and Rosen co-chair the Senate Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Antisemitism.

A House version of the bill was first introduced late last year and reintroduced this year. It currently has 102 co-sponsors. While largely identical, the Senate bill includes some additional specific requirements for the study requested in the bill. 

The Senate version requires that the requested study include an assessment of the obstacles to fulfilling existing requirements, the amount of time allotted to teach about the Holocaust in current curricula, the resources being used in existing courses, the training necessary to support educators, the disciplines in which Holocaust education is being taught and the intended goals for existing Holocaust education programs.

Julie Fishman Rayman, the senior director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, noted in a statement that a recent AJC study found that just over half of Americans knew that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

“Knowing about the Holocaust contributes to understanding and confronting antisemitism in the United States,” Rayman said. “We applaud Senators Rosen and Lankford for spearheading the HEAL Act in the Senate and appreciate their commitment to supporting educators throughout the country and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in its mission to ensure the Holocaust is taught in an accurate and comprehensive manner.” 

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement that ADL studies have shown that “Holocaust education builds understanding and empathy in young people,” and that, “at a time of historically high antisemitic incidents and attitudes, consistent and thorough Holocaust education curriculum is necessary to ensure that future generations are equipped with the knowledge and understanding needed to combat hatred and prejudice in all forms.”

Adam Teitelbaum, the associate vice president of public affairs at the Jewish Federations of North America — which has advocated for mandatory Holocaust education in every state — noted in statement that “a requirement is only part of the solution – ensuring quality is another critical aspiration.” Teitelbaum called the HEAL Act “an important next step in the multi-faceted efforts and Congressional commitment to eradicating anti-Jewish hate through education.”

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