Washington DC—September 17, 2020 – The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington is shocked and dismayed at the U.S. Millennial Holocaust Knowledge and Awareness Survey put out by The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. The report reveals appallingly low levels of Holocaust awareness and understanding among American millennials and members of Generation Z in our region.
The report, released yesterday, was the first ever state-by-state survey on Holocaust knowledge. A concerning number of young people in all states believe falsehoods including that Jews caused the Holocaust and that two million or fewer Jews were killed in the Holocaust. Maryland ranked among the ten states with the lowest level of Holocaust knowledge with a Holocaust knowledge score of 22 percent, and Virginia had a score of 29 percent. The state with the highest Holocaust knowledge was Wisconsin, with a 42 percent score.
“The children of Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are the future of our region. It is our responsibility to teach them about the consequences of hatred so they have the tools and understanding to build and sustain a tolerant, welcoming society for all in Greater Washington,” said Ron Halber, Executive Director of the JCRC. “We have to do better. This is why the JCRC advocates for legislation and educational policies that create awareness and teach respect, and works tirelessly to combat present-day anti-Semitism and bias in our schools.”
This year, the JCRC successfully advocated for the expansion of Maryland’s Holocaust education requirements, which now mandate improved Holocaust instruction in public schools, and is working to ensure Holocaust education is taught in schools through Virginia’s Culturally Relevant and Inclusive Education Practices Advisory Committee. The JCRC helped Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) develop new protocols to improve the climate for Jewish students and address hatred and bias in schools, trained 400 new teachers, counselors, and mental health professionals from MCPS, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) and Loudon County Public Schools to meet the needs and challenges of Jewish students amid rising school-based anti-Semitism, and is working as part of FCPS’ Religious Observances Taskforce to improve accommodations for students from diverse faiths.
The JCRC has led Greater Washington in Holocaust commemoration and education for six decades, drawing more than one thousand people to remember, mourn, and honor the memory of the Holocaust at community commemorations each year. This year, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the JCRC brought together 12,000 members of the Greater Washington community for a virtual Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony. More than 1,100 teenagers from 15 synagogues, religious schools and interfaith youth groups met with individual survivors and learned about their personal experiences in intimate video calls. The agency has also brought Holocaust survivors into middle and high schools to talk to more than 5,000 students and teachers and through our Student to Student program, trains Jewish high school students to talk about their lives as Jewish teens to non-Jewish peers at public and private schools.