Romanian parliament passes bill making teaching of the Holocaust and Jewish history compulsory in all high schools


The Great Synagogue of Constanța in Romania. Photo: Monica35890 / Wikimedia Commons

Romania’s parliament on Monday passed a law making education about the Holocaust and Jewish history compulsory in all high schools across the country.

The school subject will be entitled “History of the Holocaust and the Jewish people”, with programs, teaching materials and a methodology developed by the Elie Wiesel National Institute for the Study of the Holocaust in Romania, in collaboration with the Romanian Ministry of Education.

Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, Chief Rabbi of Moscow and chairman of the Conference of European Rabbis, praised the passage of the bill and the efforts to bring the Holocaust and Jewish history into the education system.

“It is developing in Europe and helping us to build a European society that is more tolerant and inclusive for all religions,” he said on Friday.

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The bill, which was passed 107-13, was introduced by MP Silviu Vexler and MP Ovidiu Gant, and co-sponsored by bipartisan lawmakers from the Social Democratic Party and the Parliamentary Group of National Minorities, among others.

“This is a historic moment not only for the memory of all the victims of the Holocaust but also for Romania,” Vexler said during parliamentary discussions. “We are laying the foundations for our common future, a modern framework through which young people can learn and understand what happened in the past as a central part of their training as citizens. Education and understanding are our best tools to cultivate democracy and freedom, to fight anti-Semitism, intolerance and extremism.

The law would ensure that “the history and identity of Romanian Jews is recovered”, calling it “a moral imperative to redress the injustices of the dictatorial regimes that ruled Romania during the Holocaust”.

Members of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Romania, the Association of Romanian Jews Victims of the Holocaust, the United States Holocaust Museum, the Holocaust Memorial in France, Yad Vashem, the American Jewish Committee and B’nai B’rith International were also invited to participate in the development of the new school curriculum.

The bill also institutes the Constantine Caragea National Prize, named after the Swedish-Romanian diplomat who saved thousands of Jews during the Holocaust and was recognized by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. The award will honor special achievements in protecting the memory of Holocaust victims; fight against anti-Semitism; develop educational and research programs on the Holocaust in Romania; promote the history, culture and traditions of the Jewish community in Romania; and present Jewish contributions to the evolution and modernization of Romanian society.

The Romanian Parliament recently passed several bills expanding financial support for Holocaust survivors in the country and promoting the opening of the National Museum of Jewish History and the Holocaust in Romania, the creation of which would take “a few years ”. Another recent law considers all anti-Semitic incidents to be criminal offenses, punishable by prison terms ranging from three months to 10 years.


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