Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools

Mar 6, 2020 | Article

Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools

Mar 6, 2020

I recently had the distinct pleasure of speaking with several state legislators, most of whom were not only trusted public servants but friends to me and to our Jewish community; many were alumni of our Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) Public Officials Mission to Israel. 

The subject of our discussion was the Holocaust and genocide education bill, which was co-sponsored in the House by Representatives Dafna Michaelson Jenet (HD-30) and Emily Sirota (HD-9). JEWISHcolorado, acting on behalf of the JCRC’s 39 member organizations, wanted to express our strong support, as well as our concern that the issue not become partisan.

Holocaust and genocide education go beyond the value of remembering history. Like all history, the Holocaust will recede ceaselessly into the past, so both its meaning and the means by which it was perpetrated must be constantly revealed to new generations. My teacher and friend Dr. Michael Berenbaum has said that the real power of Holocaust education is that it asks students of all ages to put themselves in the shoes of the perpetrators. A decade-long campaign of Nazi propaganda turned Jews into “the other,” into less than, into vermin. Students must ask themselves, How would I respond to such propaganda? Who in my life do I see as the other and how do I treat them?

Holocaust education requires firefighters to ask themselves, Would I have allowed the synagogues to burn on Kristallnacht? It demands police ask themselves whether they would enforce unjust and discriminatory laws. Holocaust education demands government officials consider whether the laws they enact demean or raise up the dignity of all human beings.

The Holocaust and Genocide Studies in Public Schools Bill, with Senate co-prime sponsors Majority Leader Steve Fenberg (SD-18) and Senator Dennis Hisey (SD-2), has now moved to the state legislature for debate.

When the words Never Again seem hollow, they become more critical than ever. So we thank the JCRC for the valuable and meaningful relationships it’s built with elected officials over the years and acknowledge Norman Brownstein for his tremendous work on the federal level helping protect our communities from the scourge of anti-Semitism.

— Rabbi Jay Strear