Wanda Wolosky

Wanda Wolosky

Heavy support at the state Legislature for a bill requiring schools to teach students about genocide has one Green Valley Holocaust survivor hopeful that period in history won't be forgotten.

Wanda Wolosky was born in Warsaw, Poland, and survived the Holocaust and the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II.

She has written a book and traveled to schools and military bases around the nation telling her story. Wolosky said she is proud of Arizona now that there is a bill requiring the lessons making its way through the Legislature, and she will be there Wednesday as it moves forward.

State Rep. Alma Hernandez, D-Tucson, put HB 2682 in play. If passed and signed into law, the State Board of Education would require students to receive Holocaust and other genocide education at least twice from seventh through 12th grade.

"We are voting on the Holocaust education bill on the floor tomorrow," Hernandez said Tuesday evening. "It is Holocaust Remembrance Day tomorrow at the Capitol."

And the bill has plenty of support among legislators.

There are 80 co-sponsors – 57 representatives and 23 senators – in addition to Hernandez, who was the primary sponsor. That's 81 of the 90 state legislators.

Approval on the House floor Wednesday would send the bill to the Senate. Given the bipartisan support among state legislators, Hernandez said she doesn't see any obstacles as it makes its way through the Senate.

"I don't know if I broke the record on co-sponsors, I definitely worked the bill really hard," she said. "I went to every single member and asked if they could sign on because it's something I truly care about, and I knew that most of them, even if they didn't agree with or like me as a person, would sign on."

Hernandez received support from outside the Legislature as well.

Richie Taylor said the Arizona Department of Education supports the bill. Taylor is a communications director with the department.

Taylor said districts in Arizona have local control, and if there is something the state wants to be included in the curriculum it needs to be mandated by legislators.

"Right now, it's in the history standards as a suggestion but not a requirement," he said. "And that's what this legislation is hoping to change."

Sahuarita Unified School District exceeds the standard a new law would put forward.

Spokeswoman Amber Woods said SUSD students received Holocaust education in seventh and eighth grade as well as in high school U.S. history classes. 

She said some of the students might also have more Holocaust education with their English courses where history and literature overlap.

For Hernandez, the bill holds special meaning beyond education.

"I'm Jewish, and this is an important goal to the members of my community for many reasons, but most importantly because our Holocaust survivors are dying," she said. "And I think it's important for many of the people in our community whether they're Jewish or not."

Part of that importance is telling the survivors' stories, she said.

Hernandez said an especially emotional part of this process was having her former elementary school teacher, who is a Holocaust survivor, testify on the floor in support of her bill.

"For me, that was huge," she said. "Because the fact that I had someone who taught me about the Holocaust when I was a child be here in support of a bill that's going to, hopefully, help other children."

Those lessons the students could learn holds particular importance for Wolosky.

"I hope that they learn something that was happening," she said. "That they know what it was all about and if they see something again happening, that they speak up. That they don't stay quiet and let it happen."

Jorge Encinas | 520-547-9732