The U.S. House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved $10 million over five years to fund Holocaust education in American schools.
The vote Monday was timed for International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz death camp.
Under the House bill, the funds would be administered by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to disseminate curriculum materials. A pending Senate bill would instead fund the U.S. Department of Education.
“If we do not learn from history, we are doomed to repeat it,” said Manhattan Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney, who initiated the bipartisan bill with upstate Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik. “I urge the Senate to act quickly on this bill.
Hadassah and the Jewish Federations of North America led the lobbying for the measure.
“This legislation addresses a critical need for our country and an urgent priority for Hadassah,” said Hadassah CEO Janice Weinman. “Improving the availability and enhancing the quality of Holocaust education is within our reach.”
Hadassah sent an email on Tuesday to its 300,000 members, calling on them to act. “L’olam lo od. Never Again,” it said. “Your senators need to hear from you today!”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke in support of the bill and noted her visit last week to Auschwitz.
“At Auschwitz, we walked on ground scarred by almost unspeakable evil where more than one million innocents were murdered,” she said.
The House bill passed 393–5, with four Republicans and one Independent voting no.
“We have learned over time that it’s not enough to simply condemn these attacks and disgusting actions,” said Maloney. “Studies have shown that education is one of the best ways to knock down the lies and the denials, and foster mutual understanding and respect.”
“It’s a start, but it’s an important start,” Maloney said.
A Senate bill, introduced by Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), would fund the DOE instead of the Holocaust Memorial Council.
Maloney explained that “there was some disagreement about how the curriculum should be handled and I just felt that it would be better to move it to the Holocaust museum where it would become the prime focus of that museum to tell the story, to preserve it and to combat anti-Semitism.”
The legislation would create an online Holocaust-education repository of resources for educators to teach both middle-school and high school students about the genocide that killed 11 million people, 6 million of whom were Jews.
Additionally, the House bill would establish a 12-member Holocaust Education Advisory Board to carry out the responsibilities under the bill.
Three of the members would be appointed by the Senate majority leader, three by the House speaker, three by the Senate minority leader and three by the House minority leader. Each member would serve a four-year term with four of the members serving an initial six-year term. Vacancies wouldn’t affect the board’s powers.
Currently, 18 states either encourage or require teaching about the Holocaust.
Fewer than half of Americans, some 45 percent, know that 6 million Jews perished in the Holocaust, while 29 percent weren’t sure or had no answer, according to a Pew Research Center study released on Wednesday.