The Senate unanimously passed the Never Again Education Act on May 13 to support national Holocaust education.
The legislation authorizes $10 million over five years for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to create and distribute educational resources designed to help teachers incorporate Holocaust education into their curriculums.
The bill, which passed in the House of Representatives by a vote of 393-5 on Jan. 27 — International Holocaust Remembrance Day — awaits President Donald Trump’s expected signature.
“As the number of survivors able to share their stories diminishes, it is important and urgent that we develop new approaches to Holocaust education. The money made available to the museum will provide us with resources to continue to educate young people about the universal lessons of the Holocaust,” said Arlene Fickler, chair of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
“The need is clear,” she said. “Just this week, the ADL issued its report on the increased incidence of anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, including in Pennsylvania.”
It has been five years since Pennsylvania passed Act 70, a bill prioritizing Holocaust education in schools by funding teacher training and educational resources. According to Fickler, only 11 other states have similar laws.
Robin Schatz, director of government affairs at Jewish Federation, noted the bill received strong bipartisan support in Pennsylvania.
“We in Southeast Pennsylvania are really very lucky that while our (delegation) members are of different parties, they understand the need to work with members of the opposite party to get things done, and it’s very encouraging,” she said.
U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District and U.S. Rep. Brendan Boyle of the 2nd Congressional District were original bill co-sponsors.
Boyle was also a sponsor for the Holocaust education bill in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, although his was not the version that ultimately passed.
His dedication to the cause was inspired, in part, by his time as a board member of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center.
“It had a transformative effect on me. I personally got to know and become friends with many Holocaust survivors who are also my neighbors,” he said.
When he was elected to the Pennsylvania Legislature, he realized the state did not have a law supporting Holocaust education.
“For a number of us, it’s been a long journey and a long fight in this area. Part of what fuels my passion now is, sadly, it’s actually more necessary today than when I started. We see Holocaust denial on the rise. Given the passage of time, we will not always have the living survivors with us,” he said.
He believes the Never Again Education Act offers reason for hope.
“Especially in a time of remarkable cynicism about government and politics, what is really special about this undertaking, which started more than a decade ago, is you have so many passionate citizen activists who have been part of this for a long time and have just continued to push for it. It’s something to really be proud of and is an example of the system when it’s working,” he said.