Representative Dan Goldman: Holocaust education should also celebrate Jewish life

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(New York Jewish Week) — nearly three months ago, Rep. Dan Goldman was one of dozens of co-sponsors of a bipartisan bill to monitor Holocaust education across the country. Now, ahead of Holocaust Remembrance Day — and in the wake of a report showing rising anti-Semitism in the United States — Goldman says Holocaust education needs to celebrate Jewish life as well as combat hate.

“We learn from experts around the world different ways, not only of preventing anti-Semitism but also of promoting knowledge, education about Jewish life, Jewish history, Jewish culture, personalizing Jews who obviously have traditionally borne the brunt of persecution but also who they are. Leaders in many different aspects of society,” Goldman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in a phone interview Friday.

On Sunday, Goldman is scheduled to speak at the annual memorial gathering at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a Holocaust museum in its midtown Manhattan borough. The event will take place one day prior to Yom Kippur, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, which begins on Monday evening.

Goldman is a member of the House Bipartisan Task Force on Combating Antisemitism, and was a co-sponsor of the Holocaust Education and Lessons of Antisemitism Act (HEAL), which directs the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to determine which countries require education about the Holocaust, and what criteria they use.

His speech at the event on Sunday — where Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and UN Ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield will speak — comes after a report by the Anti-Defamation League showed a rise in anti-Semitism in the United States last year. The report found that nearly half of the 111 assaults recorded across the United States took place in Brooklyn alone. Goldman, whose area includes the densely envious Brooklyn neighborhood of Borough Park, called the assaults “unacceptable.”

“They bear the brunt of anti-Semitic attacks because of their appearance,” Goldman said of the orthodox Jews bluntly. “We need to do more to make it clear that it is unacceptable, hold people who commit hate crimes accountable and also, in my opinion, add improvements in sentencing for those who commit hate crimes.”

Goldman said he experienced anti-Semitism while in public life. He said social media users called him a “Jew,” and said he had a big nose. During Trump’s first impeachment hearings, in which Goldman served as lead counsel, he noted that Republicans referred to him as a “New York lawyer,” which some consider an anti-Semitic trope.

This is something Jewish public officials deal with all the time,” Goldman said. “I’ve got some pretty thick skin on it.”

He said former President Donald Trump’s dinner last year with Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes — as well as Kanye West, a rapper who made a string of anti-Semitic comments — illustrates the importance of Holocaust education. He also called out Republican officials for their rhetoric that attributed Trump’s latest indictment to George Soros, the progressive hardliner at the center of a host of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

“The urgency to continue educating the public about anti-Semitism and the Holocaust specifically takes on even greater meaning when the former president dines with a Holocaust denier,” Goldman said. “We cannot accept the continuation of allowing anti-Semitic tropes, such as George Soros’ support for prosecutors, which have so clearly become a euphemism for an anti-Semitic trope.”

Goldman, 47, is not descended from a Holocaust survivor, though he remembers a family story about his maternal grandmother needing to remain silent as a child while his ancestors fled persecution in Russia a century ago. But he said Holocaust remembrance is an imperative that connects Jews more broadly.

He said, “We are all linked through anti-Semitism and the persecution of Jews throughout history.” There is an inexhaustible bond between the Jews because of our common history. And so when we commemorate the Holocaust, I believe we commemorate all of those around the world who suffered the persecution resulting from anti-Semitism.”