Opinion: NYHS should implement Holocaust education

As awareness of the Holocaust wanes, the school needs to teach this personal and historical tragedy.

February 24, 2022

International Holocaust Day passed in January, and after hearing Whoopi Goldberg’s recent comments that the Holocaust “wasn’t about race,” as well as the recent banning of award winning Holocaust graphic novel Maus in a Tennessee school district, we started to realize that many people possess a huge gap in their knowledge of the Holocaust. That includes us.

We believe we lack a deep understanding of the Holocaust and its history, and, as a result, feel the NYHS curriculum requires adjustment. NYHS lacks Holocaust education and doesn’t teach the raw details of the terrible Holocaust. In addition, NYHS is the only Modern Orthodox Jewish high school in Washington, so why is there not even a little education on an occurrence that had such a huge impact on all Jews? NYHS has a reputation for being the only Modern Orthodox college preparatory high school in the Pacific Northwest, and we feel that a huge part of being a Modern Orthodox school is including a Holocaust curriculum. 

For me, Yasmin, the problem started in middle school. I attended Seattle Hebrew Academy and didn’t learn about the Holocaust. It was disappointing to come to high school with no knowledge about the Holocaust and not have the opportunity to close this knowledge gap.

On the other hand, I, Hannah Klinghoffer, attended MMSC Day School, where I learned about the Holocaust for a full semester in 8th grade. This was beneficial for me, and I’ve noticed that I know more than other NYHS students who attended other elementary and middle schools. 

Together we understand that maybe some of us weren’t taught much about the Holocaust in middle school because students aren’t mature enough to be exposed to the nature of the Holocaust at that age. However, now that we attend high school, we feel we are mature enough and must be taught.

It should be required for NYHS students to take a semester-long class or at least complete a comprehensive unit about the Holocaust. According to a 2020 study by the Claims Conference called U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey, 32 percent of Washington residents were found to have no knowledge of Auschwitz, the deadliest and most well-known concentration camp. 

Especially in a Jewish school, students should learn about the history of their people and what they have endured throughout history. Other schools study the Holocaust, and NYHS should make an effort to require books like Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, All But My Life, and Night to be read. These books will help educate students on what occurred and provide firsthand accounts of what it was like to live through Nazi-occupied Europe. We also believe NYHS should invite Holocaust survivors to share their stories, especially as the number of living Holocaust survivors continues to decline. It would also be valuable for NYHS students to take a field trip to the Holocaust Center for Humanity in Seattle. 

In the past, NYHS has taken its seniors on a trip to Poland, during which a great amount of Holocaust education occurs. Due to COVID-19, this is the third year in a row where NYHS students aren’t able to take their senior trip to Poland and visit Auschwitz and other important historical sites. This trip is vital to NYHS students as they get to dive deeper into the perils of the Holocaust. 

It should be mandatory for students to take a course about the Holocaust, because as young Jews, the tragic events of the Holocaust are part of our identity. Since many non-Jewish kids are not educated about the Holocaust and don’t know much about the topic, then how will the Holocaust not be forgotten? It is our responsibility to learn the facts and understand this personal and historical event.

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