Gov. Dannel Malloy signed into law on May 10 legislation, dear to Wilton’s state Senator Toni Boucher (R-26), that adds Holocaust and genocide education and awareness to the required courses of study for public schools in Connecticut.

Boucher lobbied hard for what was known as the Holocaust education bill. Following overwhelming passage by the state House of Representatives, she said, “When Rabbi Philip Lazowski came up to the Senate to tell me the good news, he was so full of emotion. We wrapped our arms around one another with tears in our eyes thinking about those victims of the most horrific chapter in human history.

“In my heart, I would like to think that all those victims of the Holocaust are looking down with hope for the many generations to come who will learn about these atrocities and will stand against the persecution of all people.”

She said she hopes this legislation “can serve as a model for other states and spread throughout our country. I truly believe that education is the key to ending anti-Semitism and racism.

“Promoting and helping to pass this bill is one of the proudest efforts I have ever had the privilege to be a part of in the Connecticut General Assembly,” she said.

Wilton’s state Rep. Tom O’Dea (R-125) also spoke out on the bill’s passage.

“The Jewish population has still not recovered since 1939,” he said. “In fact, there were more Jewish people in the world in 1939 than there are today. That is disturbing. Genocide is not something unique to World War II. It is still persistent today, and we cannot ignore it. The events of the Holocaust are a lesson in the dark side of humanity, and it is something that we must teach our children before they enter the real world so they understand. We must teach our youth about the mistakes of the past because if we do not, they are doomed to repeat them. As long as I am alive, I will continue to fight against these atrocities.”

“It is incredibly disturbing that we have seen an uptick in hate crimes and hate speech over the last year — including assault, bomb threats, and vandalism — in nearly every region across our country,” Malloy said.  “Equally as disturbing are recent statistics showing that two-thirds of American millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is and 22% of millennials say they haven’t heard of the Holocaust. We are simply not doing enough to teach our young people the extreme and deadly mistakes of the past.  Holocaust and genocide awareness are not just essential curriculum, but critical.”

The legislation takes effect for the coming school year beginning in the fall of 2018. Boards of Education are encouraged to utilize both existing material, public and private, as well as outside gifts, grants, donations and in-kind donations.

O’Dea said he and his colleagues in the legislature introduced and passed this legislation because they believe educating the public about these events is the most effective way to combat them in the future.