‘Silence is complicity.’ Education officials call for better Holocaust education amid rising hate incidents at schools

Holocaust education is mandatory in New York state schools, but specific requirements about it are undefined.

Jon Dowding

Nov 9, 2023, 10:13 PM

Updated 163 days ago

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New York state educators and community leaders call for better Holocaust education to address rising antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents in schools.
Regent Roger Tilles held a press conference Thursday calling on Long Island school districts and universities to review their Holocaust education programs before the Board of Regents does.
He says the recent spike in antisemitic incidents on the island has many people on edge.
"So many people are scared and hurt by what's going on,” said Tilles.
Malverne School District Superintendent Dr. Lorna Lewis said it’s a problem many superintendents across the state are having to address to make students feel safer.
"We know that children are not feeling safe,” said Lewis. “That's the goal of every superintendent, to create a place where children are feeling comfortable and able to express their fears."
School and community leaders say better education in schools could address the problem.
"Islamophobia and antisemitism is a disease,” said ERASE Racism Board member Frederick Brewington. “It's a disease that can only be handled with the salve of understanding the history."
Holocaust education is mandatory in New York state schools, but specific requirements about it are undefined.
Regent Tilles says he and the other regents will start reviewing Holocaust education standards by asking districts about their programs.
"What are you doing? How long are you spending on it? The substance of what should be taught,” said Long Island Council for the Social Studies President Gloria Sesso. “Frankly, this whole measure goes into the American history DNA."
The hope is by teaching students about the past, they'll be more tolerant now and in the future.
"Silence is complicity,” said Tilles. "If we don't act very, very affirmatively, then we're all subject to the same kinds of problems that both Jews and Muslims are having."
Education leaders say they also feel better education about the Holocaust will lead to a better understanding of the larger impacts intolerance has on the community.


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