Holocaust education bill passes state senate
On April 24, members of the Connecticut Senate unanimously approved legislation to require Holocaust and genocide education in Connecticut high schools starting in the 2018-19 school year. Sen. Toni Boucher (R-26) praised the bill’s passage and thanked the legislators, organizations, and others who expressed their support for the initiative.
“I am so excited by today’s vote,” Boucher said in a press release. “I’m excited and I’m inspired by the great level of support I have received for this bill from people, from the Jewish Federation Association of Connecticut, and so many others throughout the state. I have been working on this issue with my Jewish colleagues for several years. This definitely is legislation whose time has come.”
Boucher serves as co-chair of the legislature’s Education Committee and had the committee’s support pursuing passage of Senate Bill 452, An Act Concerning The Inclusion Of Holocaust And Genocide Education And Awareness In The Social Studies Curriculum.
“This last year, there were four (anti-Semitic) incidents in four of the communities that I represent,” she said. “In fact, during his testimony in support of this bill, Adam Lazowski of Voices of Hope told us that anti-Semitic incidents increased by 57% during 2017. Incidents in kindergarten through 12th grade nearly doubled for the second year in a row.”
Boucher said she believes one of the reasons these incidents are on the rise is because of a lack of knowledge about the Holocaust and the terror and racism the swastika symbolizes.
“So many of our young students don’t have any knowledge at all of Holocaust and the terrible things that happened to people simply because of their religion,” she said. “But the history of the Holocaust isn’t only about the torture and murder and unspeakable horror. It is also about lessons of resilience and courage that can inspire people.”
Boucher said the requirement does not represent a cost for school districts because various foundations and nonprofits throughout the state have offered materials and funding so the events can be taught.
“People ask why an Italian immigrant, a Roman Catholic, would be so passionate about an issue that doesn’t really affect me,” she said. “I am the daughter of a soldier who fought in World War II and my family owned a farm in Italy that was taken over by the Nazis. They did unspeakable things to my aunt and cousins.”
Boucher said because her father would never talk about the war, she was driven to learn about what happened and was horrified by what she found. As she grew up and made friends, she was disappointed to learn people still discriminated against people who were Jewish. As a legislator first in the House of Representatives and now in the Senate, fighting anti-Semitism has been an important issue for her.
She said the fact that incidents of racism and anti-Semitism still happen are why this education bill is so important.
The bill now moves to the House for a vote.
Boucher said she hopes the bill receives the same level of support in the House that it received in the Senate.
“Alan Lazowski said that it is only through education that we can teach our students to ‘never forget.’ We must all remember that the past informs our present and provides priceless guideposts for our future,” she said.
Sen. Boucher represents the communities of Bethel, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.