NY Gov. Hochul signs Holocaust education legislation

The legislative package signed Wednesday at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan consists of three bills.

 NEW YORK LIEUTENANT Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference the day after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, in Albany.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
NEW YORK LIEUTENANT Governor Kathy Hochul speaks during a news conference the day after Governor Andrew Cuomo announced his resignation, in Albany.
(photo credit: REUTERS)

NEW YORK —New York legislation that aims to expand Holocaust education was signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

The governor, who took office last August and has close ties with the local Jewish community, signed the legislation at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan alongside state officials, as well as survivors and their families.

"As New Yorkers, we are united in our solemn commitment to Holocaust survivors: We will never forget."

Gov. Kathy Hochul

The legislative package consists of three bills that require schools to provide Holocaust education, obligate museums to acknowledge art stolen by the Nazi regime and ensure that the New York State Department of Financial Services publishes a list of financial institutions that voluntarily waive fees for Holocaust reparation payments.

It comes as antisemitism remains at record levels in the state and polls show a lack of knowledge among young people. 

 THE MUSEUM of Jewish Heritage ‘s exhibit ‘The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do’ currently on display in New York. (credit: HALEY COHEN) THE MUSEUM of Jewish Heritage ‘s exhibit ‘The Holocaust: What Hate Can Do’ currently on display in New York. (credit: HALEY COHEN)

"As New Yorkers, we are united in our solemn commitment to Holocaust survivors: We will never forget," Hochul said.

"These are individuals who have endured unspeakable tragedy but nonetheless have persevered to build lives of meaning and purpose right here in New York. We owe it to them, their families, and the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust to honor their memories and ensure future generations understand the horrors of this era."  

Consul General of Israel in New York Asaf Zamir called the package "historic," adding that it will "further Holocaust education." 

The bill "will cast light where there is now darkness, empathy where there is terrifying ignorance," Zamir said. "Knowledge of the largest scale operation of persecution and genocide is waning, and hate has risen unchecked for too long. Protecting our history is important to the survival of not only every group targeted by genocidal fascism, but to sustaining the health of democracy itself."

Holocaust education to combat rising antisemitism 

The legislation comes as New York has seen skyrocketing rates of antisemitism. Antisemitic hate crimes in New York City almost quadrupled in January 2022 compared to the same month last year, US media outlets reported, citing NYPD crime statistics.

In her remarks, Hochul indicated that the increase in hate crimes could be combated by ensuring that as many New Yorkers as possible are educated about the Holocaust. A 2020 Claims Conference study found that New York Millennials have shockingly low awareness and understanding of the events of the Holocaust; with 58% unable to name a concentration camp, 19% believing that Jews caused the Holocaust, and 28% believing that the Holocaust is a myth or has been exaggerated.

In April, the governor announced that over $2 million would be directed to services that benefit the 40,000 survivors of the Nazi genocide who currently reside in the Empire State, 40% of whom live in poverty.