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Virginia antisemitism commission suggests focus on educational standards

Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin is considering a series of recommendations to combat antisemitism in Virginia, including more systematic collection of hate crime data and specific educational standards on Judaism and the Holocaust.

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Virginia Commission to Combat Antisemitism

The recommendations come from a report released this week by the Virginia Commission to Combat Antisemitism.

According to the commission’s report, a recent survey found nearly 1 in 4 people of younger generations said the Holocaust is a myth, or over exaggerated. That’s why the commission highlights education as a critical point of improvement.

“Studies have shown that when people participate in Holocaust education, when they know something about the Holocaust, they’re far less likely to be involved in antisemitic activities,” said Sam Asher, director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum and a member of the commission.

According to the Anti-Defamation League in 2021 there was a ten-year high of recorded antisemitic incidents in the U.S. Those include the targeted murder of Jews, swastika graffiti, and Holocaust denial.

But antisemitism also takes other forms – including the suggestion that Jews control politics or the media. Far-right politicians will use George Soros, a liberal Jewish philanthropist, as the face of those conspiracy theories. That kind of hate is often espoused by white supremacists and historically gone hand-in-hand with other forms of discrimination.

“One of our Holocaust survivors says that we are the canary in the coal mine. And we have to scream out when we see bigotry and racism and antisemitism,” Asher said. “And we’re going to keep doing it.”

The Governor and lawmakers will now decide how to act on the commission’s recommendations.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Mallory Noe-Payne is Radio IQ's Richmond reporter and bureau chief.