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This article originally appeared in the New York Times.
By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
May 23, 2024, 3:00 a.m. ET

New York City plans to send eighth-grade students from across the city on field trips to the Museum of Jewish Heritage as part of an effort to address antisemitism.

An exterior view of the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Battery Park City in Manhattan.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage in Lower Manhattan is featuring a program designed to educate younger visitors about the Holocaust. Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

As tension continues to simmer over the Israel-Hamas war, New York City officials have embraced a privately funded initiative to send all eighth graders in public and charter schools to visit the Museum of Jewish Heritage.

The program, part of a $2.5 million public-private partnership to address antisemitism, will be seeded with $1 million from a foundation run by Jon Gray, the president of the investment firm Blackstone.

The citywide field trip plan, which will be announced on Thursday and would start this fall, will center on the museum’s efforts to educate younger visitors about the Holocaust. The initiative comes as schools grapple with questions about how to approach the Israel-Hamas war and what to teach about the history of the conflict.

In places like California, there have been pushes for teaching pro-Palestinian lessons in schools. Leaders in New York City’s school system, which is particularly diverse, with tens of thousands of Jewish, Muslim and Arab students, are moving to offer new curriculum materials about antisemitism and Islamophobia.

New York is one of nearly two dozen states that are required to teach students about the Holocaust, and lawmakers included $500,000 in the state budget this year to review and update Holocaust curriculums in schools.

The field trip program was created by Julie Menin, a Jewish city councilwoman from Manhattan whose mother and grandmother survived the Holocaust in Hungary. She said that she was worried about a rise in antisemitic attacks in the city.

“We need a proactive approach to combat this hatred at its roots,” she said.

Ms. Menin said that eighth grade was an appropriate time for students to learn about the atrocities of the Holocaust, in which six million Jews were killed. She said that visiting the exhibition would make a more lasting impression than reading about it in a textbook.

“We know there are Holocaust deniers,” she said. “When you see this exhibition and you personally witness the stories of survivors, it truly makes a difference.”

The program will be offered to more than 85,000 students in public and charter schools over the next three years. The museum, in Lower Manhattan, opened in 1997 and describes itself as a living memorial to the Holocaust.

Mr. Gray, who is Jewish, has worked with Ms. Menin on other programs to offer free swim lessons and college savings accounts to public school students. He and his wife, Mindy, said in a statement that an “alarming rise in antisemitism today must be addressed through better education about our past — both its darkest moments and the incredible displays of courage in response.”

The museum will hire additional staff to run the program and work with schools to schedule tours and to provide free transportation.

The city’s Education Department is also working with the museum to create a new Holocaust teaching guide for educators that will be released in the fall. The schools chancellor, David C. Banks, has also said that by June 2025, the system will offer separate curriculum series on the culture and contributions of Jewish and Muslim Americans to society — as part of a social studies initiative that has already offered materials on Asian Americans and L.G.B.T.Q. stories.

Mr. Banks supports the museum field trip, Ms. Menin said, and will attend the event announcing the program.

The Museum of Jewish Heritage is currently offering a new exhibit, called “Courage to Act: Rescue in Denmark,” which is designed for 9- to 12-year-olds and explores how ordinary Danes saved 7,200 Jews by smuggling them into Sweden by boat.

Troy Closson contributed reporting.

Emma G. Fitzsimmons is the City Hall Bureau Chief for The Times, covering Mayor Eric Adams and his administration. More about Emma G. Fitzsimmons