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A Holocaust museum in New York City has announced a program that will offer free educational field trips to eighth grade students in public schools in an effort to combat antisemitism. The program will allow up to 85,000 students from traditional public schools and charter schools to tour Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage over the next three years, starting in the fall. The city’s largest school district, serving over a million students, will have the opportunity to participate in this program, with the capacity to host up to one-third of the district’s eighth graders each year. The initiative was raised by City Council member Julie Menin following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, with the goal of addressing rising antisemitism in the U.S., which has resulted in offensive graffiti and violence targeting Jewish and Muslim Americans.

The program is estimated to cost around $2.5 million, with $1 million funded by the Gray Foundation, a nonprofit organization backed by Blackstone CEO Jon Gray. Additional funding sources will be sought by the museum to cover the remaining costs. In addition to offering student discounts and free admission days, the new program will cover transportation, guides, and take-home materials for the eighth graders participating in the educational field trips. The tours will focus on the global history of antisemitism and propaganda that led to the Holocaust, in addition to providing students with an opportunity to reflect on current events, according to a statement by Menin.

Principals will have a significant role in selecting which schools will take part in the program, with schools able to sign up through the museum’s website. New York City Public Schools spokesperson Nathaniel Styer stated that while programming decisions are made at the school level, the announced funding will help eliminate obstacles to participation. New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks recently testified before U.S. Congress, reporting that the city has implemented new measures to address antisemitism in schools, including a revised curriculum that highlights the culture and contributions of the Jewish community. Schools in New York are mandated to include Holocaust education in their curriculum, with dedicated lessons on the subject beginning in eighth grade.

Efforts to combat antisemitism have become increasingly critical, particularly in light of recent events such as the Israel-Hamas conflict that sparked a surge in hate crimes targeting Jewish and Muslim Americans across the country. Menin’s visionary approach to implementing a universal field trip program with the Museum of Jewish Heritage aims to tackle hatred at its core, by educating students about the history of antisemitism and the Holocaust while encouraging them to reflect on current societal issues. With the support of the Gray Foundation and other potential funding sources, this program will provide an invaluable opportunity for eighth graders in New York City to engage with and learn from the museum’s exhibits and educational resources, fostering greater understanding and empathy within the community.

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