When “Holocaust” was trending on social media this week

Our work includes priorities that we work on for months and even years at a time. We don’t let go of these concerns and we never lose our focus on them, even as we work on several things at any one time. Then there are days when something in the news reminds us why we cannot and do not lose our focus. And sometimes, there are days when serendipity causes the head to spin, as such news unfolds side by side with progress on our efforts.

Yesterday was one of those days.

In the afternoon, the alerts started popping about a story broken by NBC, that a top administrator with a Southlake, Texas school district “advised teachers last week that if they have a book about the Holocaust in their classroom, they should also offer students access to a book from an ‘opposing’ perspective.”

You read that right. This official was positing that there is an “opposing” view to the fact of the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis against our people. Justified outrage and calls for retractions and apologies were being voiced. It was a vivid reminder of a problem  my colleagues and I have discussed repeatedly: in this space rising antisemitism along with a failure to know and understand the history of the Holocaust and other genocides and the lessons of that history. The result of that problem is that we have an American generation being raised with chasmic moral blind spots as we here in Massachusetts were reminded so vividly this spring in Duxbury.

(Reports this morning indicate that the situation in Texas may be more complex than originally reported and that the administrator wasn’t trying to “both-sides” Holocaust education, but rather is struggling to comply with a new state law barring certain educational methodologies)

And, yesterday, nearly simultaneously to the news out of Texas, came news that the Massachusetts Senate Committee on Ways and Means had reported out S.2557, An Act concerning genocide education, that we support. As we and ADL said together last night (you can read our full statement here):

This strong bill achieves key objectives in providing schools across the Commonwealth with access to resources to implement genocide education programs. Through lessons about the Holocaust, the Armenian Genocide, and other instances of genocide, such programs will serve to ensure that students learn to recognize and fight hate in their communities.

Genocide education is key to combating hate by helping students understand how seemingly benign stereotypes and prejudice can turn into atrocity. Over the last several years, we have seen a significant rise in hateful incidents in our communities, paired with a dangerous downturn in knowledge about the Holocaust and other genocides. We appreciate the support of the House and Senate Chairs of the Joint Committee on Education in moving this legislation forward early in session and hope to see it make its way to Governor Baker’s desk as swiftly as possible.

And so, this morning, and every day, we at JCRC, along with our partners, are fired up to keep working on this specific effort. And we’re reminded anew of the urgency and importance of ensuring that the memory of the Holocaust does not fade, and that every possible effort is being made to confront and combat rising antisemitism.

I’m grateful to you all for your partnership in this urgent and important work.

Shabbat Shalom,

Jeremy Burton