Lawmaker wants the Holocaust to be taught in public schools

— State Sen. An­thony Hardy Wil­li­ams is push­ing a bill that re­quires the teach­ing of the Holo­caust and gen­o­cide in pub­lic school classrooms.

State Sen. An­thony Hardy Wil­li­ams is look­ing for­ward to re­in­tro­du­cing a bill re­quir­ing the teach­ing of the Holo­caust and gen­o­cide in pub­lic school classrooms.

The ori­gin­al bill was un­veiled in May, which turned out to be too late to be passed by the Sen­ate and House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives and signed by the gov­ernor by the end of the 2011-12 ses­sion. A new two-year ses­sion star­ted earli­er this month, and Wil­li­ams said he once again will push for pas­sage of the bill. He is hope­ful of its chances.

“There’s in­terest from Re­pub­lic­ans and Demo­crats,” he said.

Wil­li­ams re­cently vis­ited the Eph­raim Gold­stein Apart­ments, at 12003 Bustleton Ave. in Somer­ton, to dis­cuss the mer­its of his le­gis­la­tion and to urge res­id­ents to write to Gov. Tom Corbett on be­half of his meas­ure.

Wil­li­ams rep­res­ents the 8th Sen­at­ori­al Dis­trict, which in­cludes areas of South and South­w­est Phil­adelphia and Delaware County. He ran for gov­ernor in 2010 and is widely ex­pec­ted to seek the Demo­crat­ic may­or­al nom­in­a­tion in 2015.

Among those who joined him at his vis­it were former may­or­al can­did­ate Marty Wein­berg; Don­ald Wit­ten­berg, cur­at­or of the Holo­caust Aware­ness Mu­seum and Edu­ca­tion Cen­ter, loc­ated in the Klein JCC Branch, 10100 Jam­is­on Ave.; Lenny Neil Fried­man, a Rhawn­hurst res­id­ent who pro­duces Holo­caust sur­viv­or doc­u­ment­ar­ies; Klara Vinok­ur, a Holo­caust act­iv­ist who sur­vived gun­fire in the former So­viet Uni­on; Rabbi So­lomon Isaac­son; and at­tor­ney Mar­ina Kats. Wil­li­ams ad­dressed the crowd of seni­or cit­izens in Eng­lish, and trans­lat­or Lar­isa Nar­ita re­peated his com­ments in Rus­si­an.

The le­gis­lat­or men­tioned that some Amer­ic­an uni­versity pro­fess­ors have chal­lenged wheth­er the Holo­caust and oth­er gen­o­cides ac­tu­ally have taken place. In parts of Europe, anti-Semit­ic writ­ings and say­ings are pre­val­ent.

“That should be troub­ling to all of us,” he said.

Wil­li­ams, who is black, said he is par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the sub­ject of the Holo­caust be­cause his an­cest­ors were en­slaved.

“There’s a com­mon bond between op­pressed people,” he said.

As for his le­gis­la­tion, he guesses that many stu­dents are un­aware of the Holo­caust and even more would be shocked that the ac­tions were sanc­tioned by the Ger­man gov­ern­ment.

“What they know is very lim­ited,” he said.

As for today, he be­lieves stu­dents and oth­ers would be shocked that the gov­ern­ment of the Afric­an na­tion of Su­dan for years has en­gaged in des­troy­ing prop­erty and killing its own cit­izens.

“People say it can’t hap­pen, but it does hap­pen,” he said.

In gen­er­al, Wil­li­ams said the in­struc­tion would en­cour­age stu­dents to re­spect all people. Rabbi Isaac­son en­dorsed the le­gis­la­tion, not­ing that some people ques­tion the Holo­caust even though there are liv­ing sur­viv­ors of the mass killings. In an­oth­er quarter-cen­tury or so, he ad­ded, there will be no more liv­ing sur­viv­ors.

“It’s very crit­ic­al that the chil­dren of today know what happened,” he said.

Wil­li­ams in­tro­duced Sen­ate Bill 1523 on May 18 at the Holo­caust Aware­ness Mu­seum. He wants young people to know of the hor­rors of places like Nazi Ger­many, Bos­nia, Rwanda and Su­dan.

The new bill will mir­ror that one. It would re­quire pub­lic schools to teach stu­dents in sixth through 12th grades about Nazi at­ro­cit­ies com­mit­ted from 1933-45, gen­o­cide, hu­man rights vi­ol­a­tions, anti-Semit­ism, ra­cism and the abridge­ment of civil rights.

State Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-170th dist.) in­tro­duced sim­il­ar le­gis­la­tion in the House of Rep­res­ent­at­ives.

The state De­part­ment of Edu­ca­tion would de­vel­op a mod­el cur­riculum to be used by schools. The in­struc­tion would be in­teg­rated with­in the so­cial stud­ies and lan­guage arts courses. It would al­low for train­ing and in­struc­tion pro­grams for teach­ers.

New Jer­sey, New York, Flor­ida, Illinois and Cali­for­nia re­quire the teach­ing of the Holo­caust, ac­cord­ing to the Task Force for In­ter­na­tion­al Co­oper­a­tion on Holo­caust Edu­ca­tion, Re­mem­brance and Re­search. ••

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