New York State’s stalled Holocaust education bill is given new boost by sponsor

Twenty percent believed that Jews caused the Holocaust, 28% believed the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated and 58% were unable to name a concentration camp.

 State Senator Anna Kaplan speaks at an event to discuss a bill that would improve Holocaust awareness in New York Schools. (photo credit: JTA)
State Senator Anna Kaplan speaks at an event to discuss a bill that would improve Holocaust awareness in New York Schools.
(photo credit: JTA)

(New York Jewish Week) — State Senator Anna Kaplan (D-Great Neck) brought a Holocaust exhibit to Albany last week to draw attention to a bill that would deepen and expand Holocaust education in the state.  

The bill would provide oversight into how the Holocaust is taught in schools across all of New York State.

The bill, currently before the Senate Education Committee, stalled in the legislature last year over debate whether it should include other topics, including slavery and the Irish Potato Famine. 

New York is one of 23 states requiring schools to teach the Holocaust, but a study by the Claims Conference in 2020 revealed New Yorkers ages 18-39 have a lack of awareness and understanding of the Holocaust. 

Twenty percent believed that Jews caused the Holocaust, 28% believed the Holocaust is a myth or exaggerated and 58% were unable to name a concentration camp.  

 A view of Hunter College in New York City. (credit: Matthew Rutledge/Flickr Commons via JTA) A view of Hunter College in New York City. (credit: Matthew Rutledge/Flickr Commons via JTA)

According to the study, New York ranked 41st among 50 states based on the percentage of Millenials and Gen Z adults who met the study’s Holocaust awareness criteria. 

The bill directs the state commissioner of education to conduct studies on how the Holocaust is being taught in school districts. The findings would then be delivered to the governor and other senators and Assembly members.

The Holocaust exhibition shown last week at the New York State Capitol included 40 education panels that have already been displayed across the world.

“The lessons of the Holocaust are more important today than ever before,” Kaplan said in a press release. “It’s critical that we know our history, that we learn from it, and that we ensure that ‘never again’ isn’t just a saying, but something we work to deliver.” 

The focus on Holocaust education comes amid a rise in antisemitic hate crimes across New York City, which were up 400% in February 2022 when compared to the same month in the previous year.