85,000 elementary school students in US city offered free trips to learn about Holocaust, antisemitism

The new program is part of a $2.5 million Holocaust education initiative that has received $1 million in funding from the Gray Foundation.

By Shiryn Ghermezian, The Algemeiner

All eight graders from public and charter schools in New York City will be offered free field trips to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage — A Living Memorial to the Holocaust and learn about antisemitism as part of a new initiative announced on Thursday.

The Holocaust Education School Tours program will begin in the fall and be offered free of charge to more than 85,000 students in public and charter schools over the next three years.

Specially trained museum educators will guide student groups through the museum’s exhibitions, and work with schools to schedule tours and to provide free transportation.

The museum will also hire additional education staff to help with the program.

The museum said the field trips “will provide critical education about the global history of antisemitism and propaganda, factors that precipitated the Holocaust, while fostering opportunities for students to reflect on the relevance of historical events to contemporary issues.”

New York is one of almost two dozen states where Holocaust education is required and educators have noted that the eighth and tenth grades are prime stages in a student’s development to introduce Holocaust education, according to the museum.

The program was spearheaded by Julie Menin, a Jewish city councilwoman from Manhattan and a member of the council’s Jewish Caucus. Menin’s mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust in Hungary.

She suggested the idea for the field trips following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attacks on Israel, after realizing the urgent need to educate younger generations about the Holocaust and antisemitism.

New York City Public Schools Chancellor David C. Banks said there have been 281 incidents of religious bias in city schools since the Oct. 7 attacks and 42 percent of them have involved antisemitism.

“We must take decisive action as we witness the alarming surge in antisemitic incidents in our city and across our country,” Menin said.

“We needed a proactive approach to combat this hatred at its roots. This initiative, born out of personal conviction and a deep sense of responsibility, aims to ensure that every young mind comprehends the history of the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism. My hope is that through education and reflection, we can inoculate future generations against the horrors of the past.”

The new program is part of a $2.5 million Holocaust education initiative that has received $1 million in funding from the Gray Foundation, which is co-founded by Jon Gray, the president of the investment firm Blackstone. The Gray Foundation has supported the Museum of Jewish Heritage since 2016.

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The Museum of Jewish Heritage previously created an “educator antisemitism resource,” to help teachers address questions about antisemitism, and is working with the New York City Department of Education to develop a new Holocaust teaching guide for teachers that will be released in the fall. The 2024-25 New York state budget allocated $500,000 for the review and update of Holocaust curricula in schools.

“As we witness a troubling resurgence of Holocaust denial and antisemitism around the world, it has never been more critical to ensure that younger generations are equipped with the knowledge and understanding of the Holocaust,” said Jack Kliger, president and CEO of the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

“By educating our youth about the horrors of the past, we strive to instill in them a sense of empathy, tolerance, and the resolve to prevent such atrocities from ever happening again.”

Bruce Ratner, chairman of the board of trustees at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, said that by giving eighth graders in New York City more access to Holocaust education “we are taking a proactive stance against ignorance and prejudice.”

“We believe that by understanding the consequences of hate, our youth can help build a future rooted in compassion, respect, and the steadfast commitment to never let history repeat itself,” he added.

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The Museum of Jewish Heritage opened in October 2023 its first exhibition designed for visitors aged 9 and up titled “Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark,” which highlights how Denmark’s ordinary citizens united to save nearly 95 percent of the country’s Jewish population during the Holocaust.

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