On February 9, 2023, Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey testified before the NJ Assembly Education Committee in support of a bill aimed at improving Holocaust and genocide education in the state's public schools.
The bill, A4720, was passed unanimously by the committee and requires the Commissioner of Education to distribute a survey to school districts to gather information about current instruction on the Holocaust and other genocides – an important first step in the process.
Although its mandated, Holocaust and genocide education in New Jersey public schools lacks uniformity and structure. Instruction on the subject can range from a simple book assignment to an elective course or part of a World War II history unit. Federation's Manager of Community Relations and Israel Engagement, Dan Rozett, two high school students from Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties, Liyah Rozett and Lynda Levy, and Federation board member Liran Kapoano spoke about these issues in their testimony before the Committee.
“The New Jersey Holocaust education mandate compels all public school districts to include lessons on the Holocaust and genocide in their curriculum, however, in my school, it is only offered as an elective to only a small portion of the student population,” said Liyah Rozett. “The phrase ‘never again’ commands us to commit to preventing another Holocaust. Education and awareness of antisemitism, though currently lacking, is necessary for change, and passing Bill A4720 is a first step in this process.”
“When I was in 11th grade, there was somebody who I used to call a friend who wrote a deeply antisemitic essay. He didn't realize how hurtful his words were and, when he was approached about it by the diversity board of our school, he doubled down on his words,” said Levy. “I think that having this bill and adjusting teachers' curriculum is essential to providing a safe environment for students like myself now and to come.”
In the past two months, Federation's testimony led to a companion bill, S3145, passing the New Jersey Senate's Education and Budget and Appropriations committees.
“I believe very strongly that this is an issue, not just for the Jewish community… but for our entire state and our entire community at large,” said Kapoano. “People who understand these things become better protected against falling for the random videos that they see on the internet.”
Federation's Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) continues to work with our partners in the NJ Senate, Assembly, and Commission on Holocaust Education to combat antisemitism and improve Holocaust education across the state.
For more information about the JCRC, visit jewishheartnj.org/jcrc.
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