State Senate passes Holocaust education bill

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State Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-Flower Hill) addresses the Mineola Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, Feb. 21. (Photo by Noah Manskar)

The state Senate passed Holocaust education legislation sponsored by state Sen. Elaine Phillips (R-C-Manhasset) on Thursday, in hopes of curtailing rises in anti-Semitism.

The bill, S5530, would require the State Education Commissioner to make sure school districts teach the Holocaust in an age-appropriate way, Phillips’ office said. Findings would be detailed to the Legislature and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

It also authorizes the State Education Commissioner to create regulations necessary to ensure schools comply with state Holocaust education law.

“Learning from the past helps change the future for the better,” Phillips, the bill’s sponsor, said. “The Holocaust is one of the worst atrocities in human history; it can never be forgotten or allowed to happen again. Teaching students about it in a responsible manner will reinforce the importance of preventing genocide and condemning hate and anti-Semitism.”

The bill, S5530, responds to anti-Semitic threats and acts over the last few months, including bomb threats against Jewish Community Centers on Long Island and across the country.

It also came from concern over an assignment in an upstate school that had students pretend to be Nazis either supporting or opposing the extermination of Jews.

The Nazi regime systematically murdered up to six million Jews and hundreds of thousands of others in the Holocaust, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Steven Markowitz, chairman of the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County, said that current New York state requirements do not go far enough and that they aren’t necessarily conformed to by many districts.

But for Markowitz, the bill definitely helps.

“We welcome Phillips legislation as a good step in helping New York schools in better helping educate our students about one of the most horrific periods of human history and to help them better understand the lessons of the Holocaust and how they should conduct themselves today,” Markowitz said.

The legislation has been sent to the state Assembly.

Phillips previously sponsored two state Senate bills regarding anti-Semitism. S2492 aimed to prohibit the state from conducting business with companies engaged in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which protests Israel’s domestic security policies. S2493 meanwhile sought to ban state tax dollars from going to student groups advocating boycotts of Israel.

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