As the temperature dramatically dipped outside on Tuesday, Nov. 12, an eminent community group gathered at Great Neck South Middle School to hear about Holocaust education and its relevance to the Great Neck School District. United Parent Teacher’s Council’s (UPTC) total community involvement committee and its subcommittee Holocaust Education Actively Reinforces Tolerance (HEART) teamed up with its Legislative committee to present this informative event regarding HR 943, the Never Again Education Act.
The bill, introduced by New York Congresswomen Carolyn Maloney and Elise Stefanik, would create a new grant program at the U.S. Department of Education to give teachers across the United States the resources necessary to teach the lessons of the Holocaust and the consequences of hate.
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise around the world and here at home,” Maloney said when the bill was introduced. “We can combat this by making sure we teach our students, tomorrow’s leaders, about the horrors of the Holocaust.”
The forum brought together community leaders who gathered to hear about the Never Again Education Act. Clergy, educational representatives, parents and politicians listened to Hadassah National Legislative Director Karen Barall explain the congressional path that this act is on to ensure holocaust education across the country. Great Neck Public Schools Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz and all trustees were in attendance, as were politicians such as New York State Senator Anna Kaplan, Nassau County District 10 Legislator Ellen Birnbaum, New York State Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso and Town of North Hempstead councilwoman Veronica Lurvey. Voices for Truth and Humanity, a group that supports state education for World War II and the Holocaust had delegates attending, as well as Christians United for Israel (CUFI) and the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County.
Great Neck Public Schools Superintendent Teresa Pendergrast quoted Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana’s saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” and stressed the importance of Holocaust education.
Stephen Lando, GNPS Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, explained that the district has a variety of programs addressing the Holocaust and genocide awareness, as well as a robust anti-hate initiative.
New York is one of 11 states that requires Holocaust education, but requirements vary across the state.
“Holocaust education is paramount to looking at the diabolical events that have spawned hatred in the present day,” Moji Pourmaradi, co-president of UPTC, said. “Our children need to recognize this behavior for what it is: hatred. It’s our hope that through the lens of Holocaust education, our students will embrace true leadership to stand up against hatred.”
—Submitted by Judy Liman, a HEART committee member