FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — A new Arkansas law requires public school educators to teach Holocaust history. A leader in Fayetteville’s Jewish community said it could lead to fewer acts of anti-Semitic violence in future generations.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) signed SB160 on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. The bill, submitted by State Sen. Bart Hester (R) and sponsored by State Rep. DeAnn Vaught (R), stipulates that curriculum changes will begin in the 2022-23 school year. The bill language states that the education:
- Generates an understanding of the causes, course, and effects of the Holocaust;
- Develops dialogue with students on the ramifications of bullying, bigotry, stereotyping, and discrimination;
- Encourages tolerance of diversity and reverence for human dignity for all citizens in a pluralistic society.
“It’s so important to our Jewish community [but also] to everyone in Arkansas,” Hester said.
Hester, a Christian, said the overwhelming passage of the bill symbolized solidarity between Abrahamic faiths.
“Your neighbor is everyone, regardless of if they look like you, believe like you, think like you,” Hester said.
The law requires the curriculum to be added for kids in grades 5-12. Some groups wanted it to start sooner, but others said the history may be too disturbing for younger children. During the Holocaust, which reached its peak during 1941-45, the Nazi Regime in Germany attempted mass genocide against Jews. More than six million were murdered.
Toby Klein is the co-president of Temple Shalom in Fayetteville, and she pushed for the legislation to be passed when a group started meeting with Hester two years ago.
“Arkansas students rank last in their knowledge of the Holocaust according to a recent survey, and it’s incredibly important that our students learn about the Holocaust,” Klein said.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a group that tracks hate crimes in the United States, reported that anti-Semitic violence is at an all-time high. Klein said she hopes education at a young age proves to prevent violence later on.
“The Holocaust is a prime example of what hatred, intolerance can manifest into—an absolute genocide of an entire population,” Klein said. “We can bare witness to this atrocity. We can identify with this and hopefully not allow this to happen in the future.”