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Holocaust museum will host free field trips for eighth graders in New York City public schools

New York City’s Holocaust Museum will offer free educational field trips to eighth-graders in public schools as part of a program aimed at combating anti-Semitism, it announced Thursday.

The program, which begins this fall and runs for three years, will allow up to 85,000 students from traditional public and charter schools to tour the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan. New York City is the largest school district in the nation, serving more than 1 million students. Organizers say the museum and new program can accommodate up to one-third of the district’s eighth-graders each year.

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City Council member Julie Mennin said she proposed the idea to the museum to combat rising anti-Semitism in the U.S. after the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Since the Israel-Hamas war began, incidents targeting Jewish and Muslim Americans have been recorded across the country, ranging from offensive graffiti to violence.

Portraits of Holocaust survivors are on display at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York, Sunday, March 31, 2019. An old German train car, such as one used to transport people to Auschwitz and other extermination camps, was discovered on the tracks outside the museum. In New York City, a privately funded initiative will provide Holocaust education field trips to all eighth-graders in public schools. The partnership between the Museum of Jewish Heritage and the Gray Foundation was announced Thursday by New York City Council Member Julie Menin. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

“An aggressive approach was needed to eradicate this hatred at its roots,” Menin, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and a Democrat, said in a statement. “That’s why I approached the Museum of Jewish Heritage with the vision for a universal tour program.”

The effort will cost about $2.5 million, with $1 million coming from the Gray Foundation, a nonprofit backed by Blackstone CEO John Gray that funds youth programs and cancer research in New York. Menin said the group plans to find other sources for the rest of the money.

The museum already offers student discounts and free admission days, and Menin said the new program will also cover transportation, guides and take-home materials for eighth-graders.

In a statement, Mennin said the tour would focus on the global history of anti-Semitism and propaganda that led to the Holocaust, as well as provide students with an opportunity to reflect on current issues.

Mennin said by phone that principals play a key role in deciding which schools will participate in the program, which schools can apply through the museum’s website.

“While programs are determined by schools, the funding announced in this announcement will help remove barriers to participation,” New York City Public Schools spokesman Nathaniel Styer said in a statement.

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New York City Superintendent of Education David Banks, in testimony before Congress earlier this month, said the city has already begun implementing new measures to combat anti-Semitism in schools, including developing new curriculum that “highlights the culture and contributions of the Jewish community.”

New York schools are required to teach about the Holocaust and have an explicit curriculum covering the subject starting from the eighth grade.

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