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Massachusetts Lawmakers Approve Bill on Holocaust Education Amid Rise in Antisemitism

Massachusetts lawmakers approve a bill that will enforce middle and high schools to teach the history of genocide and human rights issues, including the Holocaust, amid a rise in antisemitism in the United States.

Republican Governor Charlie Baker must decide within 10 days to sign the measure into legislation. The state does not have any education requirements about genocides in its curriculum currently.

If enacted, a Genocide Education Trust Fund would be made under the bill to help create teaching materials and give training for educators, The Associated Press reported. Additionally, school districts would have to send a description of lesson plans and programs on genocide instruction to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education every year.

Following the dismissal of a school football coach in regards to reports that antisemitic language was used by the team, lawmakers began to push for the genocide education requirement again. Those in support use a 2020 survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany as part of their argument.

The survey targeting millennials and Generation Z showed that 63 percent of respondents in the U.S. didn’t know that six million Jews were murdered in Holocaust, according to the AP. About half of the respondents also didn’t know much about Nazi concentration camps.

A similar bill was approved by the Massachusetts Senate that required schools to teach about genocide before students graduated. However, it failed to reach Baker.

Democratic Senate President Karen Spilka said society must learn from humanity’s past crimes.

“As a Jewish woman and daughter of a World War II veteran who liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, I believe it is our responsibility to ensure we educate our children on the many instances of genocide throughout history so that it is never repeated,” Spilka said in a written statement.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Massachusetts, Holocaust Education, Secondary School
In a bill approved by Massachusetts Lawmakers, a Genocide Education Trust Fund would be created to help educators teach the history of genocide and human rights issues. In this photo, Mrs. Robinson and her 6th grade class await former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney at Universal Bluford Charter School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on May 24, 2012.
Mark Makela/Corbis via Getty Images

According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, as many as 17 states require Holocaust education as part of their secondary school curriculums.

An outside investigator in June found that the Duxbury high school football team that used antisemitic language during a game this season has been using similar language at practice for about a decade.

The investigator was hired in March in response to revelations that the Duxbury High School team used the word “Auschwitz” during on-field play-calling during a game. The team also used the words “rabbi” and “dreidel.”

Duxbury schools Superintendent John Antonucci, in a summary of the report released at the time, said the coaching staff likely was aware the team was using such language.

Holocaust Education, Massachusetts, Requirement, Bill
There are around 17 states in the U.S. that require education on the Holocaust, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. In this photo, Holocaust survivor Leon Schwarzbaum shows a family picture as he arrives to observe a trial against Josef S in Brandenburg an der Havel, Germany, on October 7, 2021.
Tobias Schwarz/AFP via Getty Images

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