September 21, 2019

Get Serious About Holocaust Education

Photo from the National Museum of the USAF.

We were two of the youngest Jewish-Americans to run for Congress in 2018 — Naomi Levin and Bryan Leib. We have many things in common, including our backgrounds, our core beliefs, our love for Israel and the reasons we ran for Congress against insurmountable odds. 

We have a mutual belief that Congress should do more to educate our next generation about the Holocaust. In April 2018, a bipartisan group in the House of Representatives (four Democrats, four Republicans) introduced a bill called the Never Again Education Act (HR 5460). It was introduced in response to an alarming survey by the Claims Conference asserting that more than two-thirds of American millennials have never heard of Auschwitz. 

Furthermore, more than 45% of those surveyed couldn’t name one of the ghettos or concentration camps, and 9 in 10 surveyed responded “yes” when asked if American students should learn about the Holocaust. 

After hearing the results of this study, it became clear that the memory of the Holocaust is quickly fading while anti-Semitism around the world is on the rise. I (Leib) am the grandson of a Holocaust survivor and I (Levin) have relatives who survived the Holocaust. We will never forget about the Holocaust and we are personally invested in seeing Holocaust education rolled out nationwide. But what about the millions of Americans who don’t have grandparents or relatives who are Holocaust survivors and can’t name a single concentration camp? 

In response to these shocking statistics, the eight members of the House introduced a bipartisan bill that would authorize and fund the Department of Education to provide grants to carry out educational programs about the Holocaust. We and many others applauded these eight members who introduced the bill and started working with our friends, community members and members of Congress to whip up support for additional cosponsors of the bill. 

To date, the bill has 53 co-sponsors (33 Democrats, 20 Republicans). The growing number of cosponsors seemingly would have increased the likelihood that the bill would be voted on in committee with recommendation for a full vote on the House floor. 

Here is where things get weird and, well, frustrating. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on April 10, 2018 (the same day the bill was introduced), and now more than 365 days later, the bill has not been read once in committee and has not been voted on in committee. 

We don’t believe the federal government should tell Americans how to live our lives. However, in this case, we will make an exception because our future depends on it. 

The federal government has a real opportunity to pass a real bill that will have tangible and measurable results — that will affect the lives of our children. If we don’t start educating the next generation about the Holocaust, Adolf Hitler and the 6 millions Jews that were erased from existence, then we run the risk that history will repeat itself. 

We, Bryan Leib and Naomi Levin, are calling on Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Chairman Bobby Scott and the bill’s original lead sponsor, Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), to breathe life back into this bill, get it out of committee and onto the House floor for a full vote. 

In the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “The time is always right to do what’s right.” This bill is right, the cause is just and members of Congress must stop placating the American people by telling us they care about the growing tide of anti-Semitism and actually do something to address it. This bill is their opportunity to change the tide and make an impact. Will they? Your move, Congress.

Bryan E. Leib is a program manager for the Israeli-American Council and a member of the board of the National Museum of American Jewish History. He ran for Congress in Pennsylvania’s 3rd Congressional District. Naomi Levin, a software engineer, ran for Congress in New York’s 10th Congressional District. She is a board member of Endowment for Middle East Truth.