California launches Holocaust Education Council to counter hate with ‘empathy’

Council to provide students with tools to respond to campus antisemitism.

By Dion J. Pierre, The Algemeiner

California Governor Gavin Newsom launched the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education at the Museum of Tolerance on Wednesday.

Comprising state legislators, local civic groups, and three co-chairs, the council was convened to gather educational material for California students about the Holocaust and other genocides, providing “the tools necessary to recognize and respond to on-campus instances of antisemitism and bigotry,” Newsom’s office said.

The Council will also invite Holocaust survivors and other experts to speak at seminars and educational events at California public schools.

Newsom, whose 2021 budget included $110 million for various anti-hate programs, said Wednesday that the new initiative would be an antidote to “cynicism.”

“We find ourselves in a moment of history where hate pervades the public discourse,” he said. “National surveys have indicated a shocking decline in awareness among young people about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. But in California, we are offering an antidote to the cynicism that this is how things are, and responding to that hate the best way we know how — with education and empathy.”

Attorney General and Council co-chair Rob Bonta, who also spoke at Wednesday’s event, said the Council will position schools to “recognize the trauma of the past.”

“As we continue to confront the stain of bigotry and antisemitism in California and across the country, it is imperative that we come together to develop tools to combat hate across our society, including in education,” he said.

California’s 2021 state budget appropriated $10 million to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, and $2.5 million for the Holocaust Museum’s 35,000 square foot expansion. The Tauber Holocaust Library and Archives at the Jewish Family Children’s Services Holocaust Center in San Francisco also received $1 million for renovations.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond commended State Senator Harry Stern’s role in forming the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education.

“I applaud Senator Stern for his leadership to create this important educational opportunity,” he said Wednesday. “Education has the power to be a great equalizer and to help us grow, understand, and find a pathway to healing. It is the way to build inclusive welcoming school environments.”