From ‘never forget’ to never mind? An Aspenite seeks to address Holocaust education

Jordan Rednor
Jordan Rednor/Courtesy

In 31 states, teaching high schoolers about the Holocaust and rise of Nazism is considered optional.

Texas has a law passed in 2021 prohibiting educators from discussing difficult, controversial issues, and if such topics come up anyway, the law, HB 3979, mandates taking no position. At least one school board interpreted it to mean that opposing views on the Holocaust must be taught as well. The district superintendent apologized later for suggesting there were “two sides” to this bit of history.

Florida’s department of education this month banned two textbooks concerning the Holocaust for being “woke.”

A 2020 study by the Pew Research Center found more than half of Americans didn’t know that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.

Enter Aspen resident and Roaring Fork Broadcasting partner Jordan Rednor, who is appalled. He’s decided to host a June 13 event at 5:30 p.m. in Aspen’s Chabad Jewish Community Center, introducing an initiative launched by his alma mater, Penn State. 

“The goal was to teach educators how to teach students and educate people about the Holocaust,” he says. “It’s part of Penn State’s Holocaust, Genocide and Human Rights Education Initiative.”

Boaz Dvir
Boaz Dvir/Courtesy photo

Israeli American film-maker and the initiative’s founding director Boaz Dvir will also speak at the Chabad, at 435 W. Main Street.

The Penn State effort examines possible ways for teachers to educate children in grades K-12 such difficult and disturbing history. Those who created the initiative wanted to expand it nationally. Rednor sees Aspen as progressive with a vibrant Jewish community, a perfect launching pad for a topic that he knows has become controversial.

He’s dismayed that some U.S. high schools have banned teaching about Nazism and the Holocaust because they view the topic as too disturbing. He notes that a civil discussion of school curriculum can become impossible because “we live in an age so filled with vitriol.”

He adds that a five-month program that tackled how to teach kids about enslavement and the Civil War won a $190,000 National Endowment of the Humanities grant. He says the initiative recently won a $5 million endowment from Pennsylvania’s Vic and Dena Hammel.

The event is free.