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Newsom launches council to focus on teaching California students about the Holocaust

LOS ANGELES (RNS) – California Governor Gavin Newsom launched the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education to help students and teachers “recognize and respond to instances of anti-Semitism and fanaticism on campus ”.

The council will develop a bureau of volunteer speakers, which could involve Holocaust survivors, to guide lessons on the genocide, as well as welcome seminars for educators and students.

Led by Senator Henry Stern, Attorney General Rob Bonta and State Superintendent of Public Education Tony Thurmond, the council is made up of a range of state lawmakers. Academics, advocates and community organizations will also be included in the council.

Newsom made the announcement Wednesday, October 6 at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles.

RELATED: Poll: What Do Americans Know About the Holocaust? Some, not a lot

“National surveys have indicated a shocking decline in youth awareness of the Holocaust and other acts of genocide. But in California, we are offering an antidote to the cynicism that it is so, and are responding to that hatred in the best way we know how – with education and empathy, ”Newsom said in a statement.

In a study conducted in 50 states of millennials and millennials in the United States last year, researchers found that 63% of those polled did not know that 6 million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and 48% could not name a single concentration camp.

California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks outside the Museum of Tolerance on Wednesday, October 6, 2021, in Los Angeles, announcing the Governor’s Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education. Photo via Twitter / @ CAgouverneur

A 2019 Pew Research Center poll of 10,971 Americans found that less than half of Americans could correctly cite the number of Jews killed in the Holocaust, and even fewer answered correctly that Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany through a democratic political process.

“The fundamental fear of the Holocaust is quite pronounced when you look at the number of young people who don’t know, have never heard of Auschwitz, don’t know what the Holocaust is, sometimes don’t believe it” Newsom told Jewish Initiate. “I mean, they get their story from Instagram. It’s worrying. And so we have to catch up.”

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The announcement comes as a number of Holocaust survivors urged members of California’s Jewish legislative group to vote against a bill that would make ethnic studies a requirement for high school graduation, for fear of anti-Semitism in the program.

The state budget also allocated $ 10 million to the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles to create a new exhibit on anti-Semitism, $ 2.5 million to expand the Holocaust Museum LA and $ 2 million to spend contracts with non-profit organizations that teach about the Holocaust.