In the last 12 months, antisemitic incidents in New Jersey reached the highest levels ever recorded. 30% of those incidents took place in public K-12 schools.
Jewish Federation in the Heart of New Jersey has been working on real-time interventions and broader measures to make a lasting difference -- including: HOLOCAUST EDUCATION, which is critical for the next generation to understand the consequences of ignorance, indifference, and hate.
In 2022, Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ approached State Senator Vin Gopal, president of the Senate Education Committee, with the goal of improving consistency, accountability, and transparency in Holocaust education throughout the state.
On April 17, 2023, the Eve of Yom HaShoah -- after months of advocacy work together -- Bill(s) S3145/A3145 became law requiring school districts to take the first steps toward this end.
There is a long road ahead to achieve curriculum changes across school districts. While our government advocacy work on this front will continue, the Monmouth and Greater Middlesex counties community is fortunate that many nonprofit organizations have made substantial commitments to Holocaust education for young people.
NAMES, NOT NUMBERS©
Recently, Rabbi Pesach Raymon Yeshiva (RPRY) in Highland Park hosted a public screening of its Names, Not Numbers© (NNN) film. NNN is an interactive, multi-media Holocaust education and memory project in which students are trained by professionals to interview and film survivors while they themselves are filmed by an expert filmmaker -- "Bearing witness to the witnesses," as NNN founder, Tova Rosenberg says. The result is an unforgettable film preserving history, remembering victims, and honoring survivors.
Above: RPRY's Names, Not Numbers event
Chaya Friedmann, former RPRY principal of general studies, is still heavily involved in bringing NNN to the RPRY and recently assisted Congregation Torat El of Oakhurst in bringing the program there for the first time – working with Shira Meyer, a CTE volunteer who leads many teen initiatives at the synagogue.
CTE presented its NNN film earlier this spring. Friedman explains, “NNN not only captures history but allows children to create a relationship with a survivor and discover stories about people they didn’t know previously."
Meyer ads, “The Holocaust has always been an important part of our family history. It is really important for us to have (our daughter) understand where she’s from – it’s her history, as well.”
Above: Congregation Torat El's Names, Not Numbers event
To help prepare students for the program at RPRY, Friedmann brings them to Chhange (The Center for Holocaust, Human Rights, and Genocide Education).
Chhange is a nationally recognized Holocaust Resource Center that our community is fortunate to have located in central NJ on the campus of Brookdale Community College. Among its wide ranging resources and world-class exhibits and programs are:
- The Building Bridges curriculum in selected public schools, helping build a culture of mutual respect and understanding in which to examine difficult topics related to prejudice, bias, and discrimination
- Its annual Colloquium welcoming thousands of public school students from throughout the state to learn about and meet survivors of the Holocaust and other genocides.
MARCH OF THE LIVING
When high school senior, Liyah, embarked on March of the Living -- traveling with fellow teens to Poland and Israel to learn about the Jewish community that once flourished in Europe, the tragedy of the Holocaust and the establishment and survival of the State of Israel -- she thought she knew what to expect. From chilling accounts of human cruelty to the sound of silence and ultimately to the joy of celebrating our living generations of Jews, she recently shared impressions from the life-changing experience. READ HERE
Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ helped make the trip possible through its teen travel grant program increasing access for more young people to immersive, educational travel to Israel and other Jewish heritage destinations.
During this extraordinary program, participants march the three kilometers from Auschwitz to Birkenau, the largest concentration camp complex built by the Nazis during World War II. The March commemorates Yom HaShoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Proud marchers' experience is in contrast to the tragic fate of hundreds of thousands of Jews and others, who were forced by the Nazis to take part in the infamous death marches under the harshest of conditions. This, however, is a March of the Living concluding with the singing of Hatikvah, reaffirming Am Yisrael Chai – The Jewish People Live. From Poland, participants fly to Israel to join the entire Jewish community in celebrating Yom Ha’atzmaut, Israel’s Independence Day.
For information about Federation's teen grants for educational travel, CLICK HERE.
"Teaching about the Holocaust demonstrates the dangers of prejudice, discrimination, dehumanization, the U.N. said in establishing International Holocaust Remembrance Day, adding it:
- demonstrates the fragility of societies and of the institutions that are supposed to protect the security and rights of all. It shows how these institutions can be turned against a segment of society.
- highlights aspects of human behaviour, such as susceptibility to scapegoating and the desire for simple answers to complex problems; the potential for extreme violence and the abuse of power; and the roles that fear, peer pressure, indifference, greed and resentment can play in social and political relations.
- deepens reflection about contemporary issues that affect societies around the world, such as the power of extremist ideologies, propaganda, the abuse of official power, and group-targeted hate and violence.
Holocaust education can develop an awareness not only of how hate and violence take hold but also of the power of resistance, resilience and solidarity in local, national, and global contexts."
Jewish Federation in the Heart of NJ is proud to be part of the extended network of partners, people, and organizations making Holocaust education a priority. Together, we embrace the lessons of our past to fulfill hope for our future.