Holocaust Education, IHRA And Anti-Semitism In Arizona

Holocaust Education, IHRA And Anti-Semitism In Arizona

By Paul Miller |

House Bill 2241 requires Arizona students to be taught about the Holocaust and other genocides twice between seventh and twelfth grades.  Although the bill passed unanimously in February of this year, at issue is a proposed Senate amendment defining anti-Semitism in accordance with the definition adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).

The sponsor of HB 2241, State Rep. Alma Hernandez, is a self-declared progressive and staunch Zionist. The Mexican-American Jewish Democrat is a refreshing and important voice in Arizona’s pro-Israel community, especially at a time in American politics when the term “progressive” is often associated with with anti-Israel sentiment. In an interview with the Haym Salomon Center, Hernandez expressed her support for the IHRA definition, but not in the context of this bill.

“I have championed the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in the past and hope to do so in the future with colleagues across the aisle in a separate bill,” said Hernandez, adding, “I worked with Holocaust survivors, families and organizations to create this bill. This is their bill, and I will keep my promise to them and pass their legislation.”

Hernandez is part of a chorus of bill supporters who believe the unanimous passing of the legislation sends an important message to students on the significance of Holocaust education.

Joining that choir is Sheryl Bronkesh, president of the Phoenix Holocaust Association. During our conversation she expressed how critical it is to pass this legislation now, with no amendments.

“We’ve been working on this legislation for three years,” explained Bronkesh. “This past year I lost 10 survivors. I don’t want to see another legislative session end without survivors and their families not witnessing Holocaust education being passed while they are with us.”

Disagreeing with Bronkesh is fellow Phoenix Holocaust Association member Marion Weinzweig. Weinzweig, a Holocaust survivor, believes “we need the IHRA definition in the bill. If we don’t define anti-Semitism – teach students about contemporary anti-Semitism – what stops this bill from being used against Jews and Israel?”

Weinzweig and other supporters of the IHRA amendment fear that without the definition, Holocaust education can be used to foment anti-Semitism.

Sounds absurd to some. But during a period in our history where disdain for Jews is growing, anti-Israel advocates and their anti-Semitic minions in government, culture, and academia intend to use the Holocaust to stir up Jew-hatred.

Holocaust inversion is an actual phenomenon. It’s the portrayal of Jews and Israel as modern-day Nazis. Anti-Semites claim Israel treats the Palestinians as the Nazis treated the Jews during the Holocaust.

This sad reality is one of the driving forces that led Arizona State Sen. Paul Boyer to author and sponsor the IHRA amendment.  The Republican lawmaker believes the purpose of Holocaust education is not only to teach the history; it must also help eradicate anti-Semitism in the future.

Boyer notes that over 550 survivors, family members of survivors and concerned citizens emailed the Arizona legislature in support of the IHRA amendment.

“The IHRA definition must be part of any Holocaust education bill if the legislation is to have any teeth,” Boyer explained. “If educating students about the Holocaust is to be successful in preventing future injustices, we have to include safeguards to prevent Holocaust inversion.”

Boyer is not wrong in his concerns about contemporary anti-Semitism. In fact, it exists in the very legislative body in which he serves.

For example, Arizona State Rep. and Minority Whip Athena Salman took to the floor in April 2019 and claimed the Israel military has a history of abducting children.

An anti-Israel, anti-Semitic diatribe such as that of Democratic lawmaker Salman makes one wonder how this type of behavior is being tolerated in our society. Invectives spewed by Congresswomen Ilhan Omar (D-MN) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), who receive very limited scrutiny for their rank anti-Semitism, only reaffirm the position of IHRA definition supporters.

All the interested parties, on both sides of the debate, understand the importance of Holocaust education but disagree on how best to implement it. What is not up for debate, however, is that anti-Semitism exists even among publicly elected officials, and that Holocaust inversion is now part of contemporary anti-Semitism. Thwarting the trend necessitates a curriculum that includes a clear definition of anti-Semitism, past and present.

Paul Miller is president and executive director of the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him on Twitter at @pauliespoint.

Arizona Legislature Approves Teacher Lunches During School Events – But Only If They Meet School Nutrition Guidelines

Arizona Legislature Approves Teacher Lunches During School Events – But Only If They Meet School Nutrition Guidelines

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona legislature has voted to allow schools to feed teachers during school events – but only if they use Arizona Department of Education (ADE) nutritional guidelines. That means that teacher meals will be constrained to the five food group components of meat/meat based alternatives, grains, vegetables, fruit, and fluid milk.

One of the nutritional standards is zero grams of trans fat. That would nix out fried foods, like doughnuts, and certain baked goods like biscuits or crackers. Further, there are limits on the types of desserts made available. Any grain-based desserts can only be offered at a rate of 2.0 oz/eq of grain a week.

More leeway exists with the USDA guidelines for “Smart Snacks” – those food or drink items sold elsewhere, like through vending machines. It is unclear if the bill will allow schools to provide meals to teachers with foods or drinks that would qualify as “smart snack” items – such as candy or sodas. The “smart snacks” are technically considered “competitive” foods to meals provided through the school.

No analysis of the estimated fiscal impact accompanied the bill.

The Senate passed the bill enabling school boards to provide food and drinks during district events on Tuesday. The bill also clarified that boards acting under this legal authority would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause.

State Representative Daniel Hernandez (D-Tucson) is the sponsor on the bill. The House Education Committee recommended the bill for passage quickly.

“Statutes don’t explicitly allow school districts to be able to provide food for teacher trainings, board meetings, [etcetera,]” explained Hernandez, in brief.

No further questions were asked of the bill.

Only six House members voted against the bill, all Republican. State Representatives Walter Blackman (R-Snowflake), John Fillmore (R-Apache Junction), Gail Griffin (R-Hereford), Jacqueline Parker (R-Mesa), Judy Burges (R-Prescott), Travis Grantham (R-Gilbert), Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek), Bret Roberts (R-Maricopa), and Joseph Chaplik (R-Scottsdale) voted no.

An amendment to the bill, introduced by Hernandez in February, deleted the provision that would’ve enabled school boards to provide food and drinks via a cafe open to the public. Another amendment to the bill was what added the stipulation that these food and drink provisions would be subject to the Arizona Gift Clause, added by the Senate Education Committee.

The Senate passed along the bill quickly without discussion. Six senators voted against the bill, all Republicans again – State Senators Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), David Livingston (R-Peoria), Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa), Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-Scottsdale), Sine Kerr (R-Buckeye), and Warren Petersen (R-Gilbert).

The bill will now head to the governor’s desk for approval.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.