LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — With reports of antisemitic incidents on the rise across the U.S., Nebraska lawmakers considered a bill Monday that would fund teaching the history of the Holocaust and other genocides to the state’s students.
The bill by Omaha Democratic Sen. Jen Day would provide $4 million in funding over the next two years for instruction and training to schools on teaching the Holocaust, which is already a required part of the state’s social studies curriculum.
Eleanor Dunning, 21, of Omaha, testified at the public hearing on the bill about her experience as a sophomore at Nebraska Wesleyan University in Lincoln in December 2021, when she said she watched a sorority sister stand up during a new member training event and throw up a Nazi salute. Dunning, who is Jewish, said she objected on the spot, only to be brushed off and told by the girl that she “had been doing that all week at practice.”
When Dunning and her family met with the college’s president, Darrin Good, they were told that while the student’s action was regrettable, “It was not actionable,” she recounted. Dunning soon transferred.
Good said in a statement to The Associated Press that the matter “was absolutely addressed through the student conduct process, but records and outcome of conduct proceedings are confidential.”
But Dunning said the school failed to take the incident seriously and that she suffered backlash and retaliation from other Wesleyan students before she left the school.
“I mean, my great-grandfather fought in World War II,” she said. “This kind of thing would never, never have been tolerated by his generation.”
More than four in ten Jews in the United States feel their status in America is less secure than it was a year earlier, according to a report released last month by the American Jewish Committee.
Day’s bill follows up on her success last year in passing a measure requiring the Nebraska State Board of Education to adopt standards for teaching about the Holocaust and other acts of genocide.
The curriculum is imperative, Day said, not only because of a rise in antisemitism, but because the diminishing number of survivors of the Holocaust declines every year.
“We are losing our human connection to that atrocity,” she said.
Day cited a recent survey indicating that 63% of Generation Z, or those born somewhere between the mid-1990s to 2013, did not know 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, and that 66% of millennials were unable to identify Auschwitz.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp is where Nazi Germany set up and ran a series of concentration, labor and extermination camps in occupied Poland during World War II. It endures as the leading symbol of the terror of the Holocaust.
The new Holocaust curriculum does not include any mentions of slavery, lynching or the massacre of Native Americans, despite a push by Omaha Democratic Sens. Justin Wayne and Terrell McKinney — the only two Black lawmakers in the state Legislature. That effort failed because an amendment to include those U.S. atrocities was filed so late in last year’s session that supporters feared that it could delay the bill until the next year.