By Judie Jacobson
HARTFORD – On Thursday, May 10, Governor Dannel P. Malloy signed into law legislation that adds Holocaust and genocide education and awareness to the required courses of study for public schools in Connecticut.
While the State Department of Education has made an optional course on these topics available to districts for years, not all schools have chosen to use it.
“It is incredibly disturbing that we have seen an uptick in hate crimes and hate speech over the last year – including assault, bomb threats, and vandalism – in nearly every region across our country,” Malloy said. “Equally as disturbing are recent statistics showing that two-thirds of American millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is and 22 percent of millennials say they haven’t heard of the Holocaust. We are simply not doing enough to teach our young people the extreme and deadly mistakes of the past. Holocaust and genocide awareness are not just essential curriculum, but critical.”
Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman agreed.
“Young people must understand the devastating and permanent consequences of the Holocaust,” she noted. “With soaring oratory and singular legislative actions that codified supremacy, the Nazis built an extermination machine that virtually wiped out East European Jewry. It’s critical that students are taught this history, not just to ensure their vigilance in preventing future genocide, but also so they recognize the opportunities they have every day to speak out against hate and injustice and recognize how racism happens. These small acts of good shape a future of equality – and they start with education.”
The legislation – SB 452: An Act Concerning the Inclusion of Holocaust and Genocide Education and Awareness in the Social Studies Curriculum – was passed on Monday, May 7 by a unanimous vote of the Connecticut State Legislature. The historic legislation, which will go into effect July 1, is the product of more than 10 years of effort by a broad coalition of Jewish organizations, faith groups, educators and elected officials.
“Our Jewish community is part of a larger whole that deserves credit for the passage of SB 452. We worked side by side with survivors and advocates from the Rwandan genocide, members of the Armenian community, and elected officials,” said Howard Sovronsky, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford, said, “Let us all pray that this small step will lead to more tolerance, greater acceptance, and compassion for all.”
Other Jewish community leaders also reacted with gratification and gratitude.
“We are thrilled with the passage of this important legislation,” said Michael Bloom, executive director of JFACT, the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut. “As we have seen in recent surveys, Holocaust and genocide education is needed in our schools, and this legislation will create countless teachable moments regarding humanity, compassion and being upstanders for current and future students.”
Rabbi Philip Lazowski, who serves as a chaplain to the State Senate and was one of the bill’s leading advocates, believes the legislation will have impact far beyond Connecticut’s borders.
“This is not only important for Connecticut, but can serve as a model throughout the nation. I urge teachers to fully embrace this important curriculum that will have a positive, lasting impact on generations to come,” said Lazowski, a Holocaust survivor.
The new law requires all local and regional boards of education to include the topic in their social studies curriculum beginning in the 2018-19 school year. In developing and implementing the curriculum, the boards can use existing and appropriate public or private materials, personnel, and other resources. They can also accept gifts, grants, and donations, including in-kind donations.
CAP: Community leaders were on hand on May 10 to witness Gov. Dan Malloy sign legislation requiring that Holocaust and genocide education be a part of Connecticut’s public school curriculum.