Lawmakers want Holocaust taught in Pa. schools

State Sen. Anthony Williams and state Rep. Brendan Boyle are both hopeful that their legislation requiring the teaching of the Holocaust, genocide and human rights violations will become law.

Williams and Boyle spoke at last week’s meeting of the Rhawnhurst Naturally Occurring Community.

Boyle, who will be running for Congress next year, is a board member of the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, located at the Klein JCC Branch, at 10100 Jamison Ave. The board arranges for Holocaust survivors to speak at Philadelphia-area schools.

At present, five states — New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Florida and California — require Holocaust instruction.

“I’m trying to change that,” Boyle said.

Boyle said teaching the subject matter is important because there are Holocaust deniers and because most children don’t know this history of Nazi Germany from 1933–45. In addition, many Holocaust survivors are dying of old age.

The lawmaker recalled a Jewish scholar who said, “The road to the Holocaust was paved with indifference.”

“It’s important that we do this,” Boyle said.

Boyle, who recalled studying the Holocaust as a student at Cardinal Dougherty High School, said greater knowledge of that era will help young people to make sure that it happens “never again.”

Williams and Boyle both urged NORC members to contact their state representatives and senators to urge them to support the legislation.

The bills are in the Senate and House education committees.

Williams, who is expected to run for mayor in 2015, spoke of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Besides not knowing about the Holocaust, many school children don’t know about Martin Luther King Jr. or more modern episodes of genocide in Africa, according to Williams.

“While it’s a simple bill, it’s a very powerful bill,” he said.

Sen. Joe Scarnati, the Senate Majority leader, has expressed interest in pushing the bill for a vote.

“My hopes are high,” Williams said.

State Rep. John Sabatina Jr., who also attended the meeting, is a co-sponsor of Boyle’s bill. He believes Williams has the clout in Harrisburg to make the bill become law.

Williams became emotional when a man told him how much he liked the movie 42, which chronicled Jackie Robinson’s rise to become the first black player in Major League Baseball.

“For you to say that means the world to me,” he said. Among those in attendance was Rhonda Fink-Whitman, whose mother is a Holocaust survivor. Fink-Whitman has written a book, 94 Maidens, a novel based on true events of the Holocaust. The book is available at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com and 94maidens.com

In other news from the May 23 meeting, held at Congregations of Ner Zedek synagogue:

The first Holme Circle Community Day is set for Saturday, June 1, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Immaculate Mary Home, at 2990 Holme Ave.

The day will include a pig roast and car show. Nazareth Hospital will offer blood pressure screenings. Home Depot will present a children’s workshop. Musical entertainment will be provided by disc jockey Neil McGlynn.

The rain date is Sunday, June 2.

Volunteers are needed for Northeast Philly Fights Hunger, an effort scheduled for Sunday, June 9, at 9:30 a.m. at Tarken Playground, at 6250 Frontenac St. (near Levick Street).

Individuals will deliver information on food resources to homes of senior citizens. Light refreshments will be served.

For more information, contact Noelle Dames, of the Coalition Against Hunger, at 215–430–0555, Ext. 108 or ndames@hungercoalition.org

The Samuel Tabas House, at 2101 Strahle St., will host lunch and board and card games on Tuesday, June 11, from noon to 3 p.m. The cost is $1.

For transportation, call Elaine at 215–320–0351, Ext. 4.

Rhawnhurst NORC will hold its next luncheon meeting on Thursday, June 27, at noon at the Samuel Tabas House. ••