Hate crimes on the rise
In the past three years, hate crimes have nearly doubled in Washington state. In November 2018, a West Seattle family's home was vandalized with swastika symbols and the word "jew" painted in red on a garage and on the pavement outside. In January, a teacher at a private school in Wedgwood was caught on video dropping anti-Semitic letters into teacher mailboxes in the school office. In Mercer Island just this past month, a photo of two teens brandishing Nazi salutes sparked outrage across social media.
"In my 20 years working with the Holocaust Center for Humanity, I have never seen so many incidents of antisemitism and bias in our schools and communities," says center Executive Director Dee Simons.
Meanwhile, according to this recent Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness study, nearly 50 percent of young adults cannot name one of over 40,000 concentration camps or ghettos in Europe during the Holocaust. Sixty-six percent of adults younger than 35 reported that they had never even heard of Auschwitz. Eighty percent of Americans today say they have not visited a Holocaust museum, and two-thirds of Americans do not personally know a Holocaust survivor.
Why students need to know about the Holocaust
Research indicates that Holocaust education is one of the most effective ways to teach students about antisemitism, bigotry and the cost of ignorance and apathy to social injustices. The tireless work on the part of the Holocaust Center for Humanity could change all that. Working with the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s director of Government and Community Relations, the center drafted a bill to promote Holocaust education in Washington state.
A new way to teach tolerance
In February, a group of educators, students and Holocaust survivors gathered to offer testimony to the importance of the initiative. On Monday, March 25, the group will testify in Olympia again, seeking to garner support for the bill.
In March, the Senate unanimously passed Holocaust Education Bill SB5612. If passed by the House, this bill will create a partnership between the Holocaust Center for Humanity and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) that would provide professional development for educators statewide, training teachers to apply the recommended standards for teaching students about the Holocaust and genocide.
How can you help?
This bill has passed the Senate with almost 20 senators from both sides in support of it. Now, the bill needs to be voted out of the House Education Committee by April 3. To show your support, you can sign in support of the bill and donate to the Holocaust Center for Humanity.