Bill To Revise Holocaust Classes

By E.B. Solomont

Published February 04, 2005, issue of February 04, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Bowing to protests from Jewish organizations, two Illinois state legislators have altered their proposal to include contemporary examples of genocide in mandatory Holocaust education courses.

Jewish organizations were troubled last week over House Bill 312, a measure that would amend the state’s groundbreaking 15-year-old law requiring Holocaust education in public schools. In particular, critics complained that the proposed legislation would replace the word “Holocaust” with “genocide” in the law’s title, and delete some references to the 6 million Jews murdered by the Nazis.

After meeting with Jewish organizational officials, the co-sponsors of the bill — Rep. John Fritchey, a Chicago Democrat, and Rep. Paul Froehlich, a Schaumburg Republican — reinstated the old wording. The updated version of their bill, which was to be introduced this week during a meeting of the State House’s education committee, still will require public schools to teach about more recent examples of genocide in addition to the Holocaust. The measure still would require the approval of the full legislature.

For now, all sides are expressing satisfaction with the new version of the bill.

“We believe that the re-draft, as it now stands, is clear and unambiguous — that the addition of genocide is indeed an addition to the existing and reinforced mandate of Holocaust education,” said Richard Hirschhaut, executive director of the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois.

“What we wanted to be certain of was that as the original bill was amended, it would not be interpreted to imply that Holocaust education has moved from a mandate to one of seven or eight optional menu items that school districts or teachers could choose from,” said Jay Tcath, director of Chicago’s Jewish Community Relations Council.

Fritchey said that his intention was never to de-emphasize the Holocaust by calling for attention on atrocities in Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur. “The genesis of the amendment to the legislation was that the teaching of the Holocaust shouldn’t just be a lesson in remembrance, but a continuing and living endeavor,” he told the Forward.

The Democratic lawmaker said that he didn’t confer with Jewish groups before writing the original bill, because he saw no need at the time. A January 25 article in the Chicago Sun-Times reported that critics had “blasted” the legislation, but Jewish groups later denied being outraged and praised Fritchey for consulting them during a second go-around.

“[Fritchey] didn’t get his ducks in order, and it happens to the best of us,” Hirschhaut said.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.