Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

The new year is a time to stand up and be counted


September 20, 2019

Ellen Lang

An alarming story was recently in the news about a Palm Beach County parent who wrote her child's principal asking if the Holocaust was being taught at the high school. She was stunned by his response. He said that while the school had a "variety of activities" for Holocaust education, it was not specifically being taught because "not everyone believes the Holocaust happened" and that he "can't say the Holocaust is a factual, historical event."

In response to this shocking statement, Florida's Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran reminded officials in Palm Beach County of the mandate, passed by the legislature in 1994, requiring all public schools to teach about the Holocaust (Florida Statute 1003.42). He subsequently communicated with every district throughout the state requesting documentation on how and when the Holocaust is being taught to students.

As you can imagine, this incident has caused great alarm not only across the nation, but right here in our community. We quickly began fielding calls at the Holocaust Center from concerned parents asking how (and if) their students' schools are incorporating Holocaust education into the curriculum.

The good news is that the mandate does not limit instruction on the Holocaust to any particular grade level or subject, so incorporating Holocaust studies may be included in the curriculum of social studies, civics, language arts, American and world history, music and art just to name a few of the appropriate academic areas. 

As a member of the Florida Department of Education's Commissioner's Task Force on Holocaust Education, we immediately reached out to our education partners throughout the Central Florida region offering to help them develop fully integrated Holocaust education programs. We provided administrators and curriculum specialists with a full menu of programs and services the Holocaust Center is able to provide, free of charge, in order to respectfully and responsibly teach the Holocaust: field trips; in-school presentations designed by teachers according to grade and subject; teaching trunks; extensive lesson plans that include a unit overviews, notes for teachers, essential questions and learning goals and scales; as well as professional development opportunities for teachers. We also gave an overview of our signature two-year, multi-phase UpStanders: Stand Up To Bullying initiative, the only program for which we charge a fee. 

This remarkable incidence of Holocaust denial by a long-time school administrator reminds us of the critical importance of our Holocaust Center and its mission: to use the history and lessons of the Holocaust to build a just and caring community free of anti-Semitism and all forms of prejudice and bigotry.

Pam Kancher

Tess Wise established our Holocaust Center almost 40 years ago because she understood all too well what happens when anti-Semitism, racism, and prejudice are left unchecked. She also had the foresight and tenacity to work with Holocaust educators throughout the state to get legislation passed to ensure that the history and lessons of the Holocaust would be studied, remembered, and understood for generations to come. Florida was the fourth state to pass this groundbreaking legislation and one of only 11 states today requiring Holocaust education. Tess' legacy of activism continues to inspire us.

Rosh Hashanah is a time for joy, a time for new beginnings, counting our blessings and for standing up and being counted.

On behalf of the board and staff of the Holocaust Memorial Resource & Education Center of Florida, Shanah Tovah Umetukah. We hope that you have a good and sweet year.

Ellen Lang, President

Pam Kancher, Executive Director


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