update deskAntisemitism

Ontario government adds ‘new, expanded’ required Holocaust education

“Our government is decisively combatting the rise of antisemitism and hate in all its forms,” said Stephen Lecce, Ontario's education minister.

Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announces the expansion of Holocaust education in high schools at the Toronto Holocaust Museum on Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.
Ontario Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announces the expansion of Holocaust education in high schools at the Toronto Holocaust Museum on Nov. 1, 2023. Credit: Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Ontario has announced “new and expanded mandatory learning about the Holocaust” in its required grade 10 history course, in addition to $650,000 in funding for “community partnerships that provide resources for students and educator training to expand learning on fundamental Canadian values.”

The values include “the importance of safeguarding democracy from extreme and harmful ideologies,” the government of the Canadian province stated on Wednesday. (The allocated funds are roughly $484,000 in U.S. currency.)

Stephen Lecce, Ontario’s minister of education, called the move “decisively combatting the rise of antisemitism and hate in all its forms.”

“By including new mandatory learning in Holocaust education in elementary and secondary schools, we are ensuring students are never bystanders in the face of hate and division,” Lecce stated. “We will ensure that ‘Never Again’ is our legacy to the next generation, as we safeguard and promote those fundamental Canadian values of democracy, freedom, civility and respect.”

“One in three Canadian youth believe the Holocaust was fabricated or exaggerated. We will not be bystanders as denialism and hate is normalized,” Lecce wrote on social media. “To ensure we learn from history, Ontario is expanding Holocaust education in grade 10—strengthening democratic values and civic education.”

The expanded Holocaust component of that course will begin in September 2025, according to the Ontario government, and it will “explicitly link the Holocaust to extreme political ideologies, including fascism, antisemitism in Canada in the 1930s and 1940s and the contemporary impacts of rising antisemitism.”

FSWC
From left: Ontario Minister of Long-Term Care Stan Cho, Rabbi Yoseph Zaltzman, Minister of Education Stephen Lecce, Holocaust survivor Nate Leipciger, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center board chair Fred Waks and FSWC president and CEO Michael Levitt. Credit: Courtesy of FSWC.

There is also “new mandatory learning on the significance of the Holocaust included in grade six social studies,” it added.

The government’s $650,000 investment in 2023 to 2024 will include funding for an “antisemitism classroom toolkit” curriculum, which the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies will create for grades five to eight, and training for teachers about Holocaust instruction.

It will also fund programs of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Liberation75, the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem and the UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Holocaust Museum.

“While the Holocaust is part of the grade 10 history curriculum, it’s encouraging to see the Ontario government prioritize the need for teacher training,” Jody Spiegel, director of the Azrieli Foundation’s Holocaust Survivor Memoirs Program, told JNS.

The Toronto-based foundation’s 2020 Holocaust Education Research survey found that teachers struggle with how to talk about the Holocaust.

“With the survivor population aging, it is becoming more difficult for students to connect with the history of the Holocaust and the experiences survivors endured,” Spiegel told JNS. “Understanding how the Holocaust happened and how a democratic world could turn on its own population may help shed light on modern forms of hatred and antisemitism.”

Michael Levitt, president and CEO of the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, called the new education programs and funding “a critical and welcomed move.”

“As we witness a significant rise in antisemitism across the province and country, this enhanced Holocaust education will help ensure young people understand the dangers and impact of antisemitism and hate and the importance of standing up against it,” he stated.

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