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

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NEW YORK (AP) — A Holocaust museum in New York City will offer free educational field trips to eighth grade students in public schools in a program announced Thursday aimed at combating antisemitism.

The program will allow up to 85,000 students at traditional public schools and charter schools to tour Manhattan’s Museum of Jewish Heritage over the next three years, starting this fall. New York City is the largest school district in the nation, serving more than a million students. Organizers say the museum and the new program have the capacity to host up to one-third of the district’s eighth graders each year.

City Council member Julie Menin said she raised the idea with the museum after the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israel, in an effort to combat rising antisemitism in the U.S. Incidents targeting Jewish and Muslim Americans have been recorded across the country since the Israel-Hamas war erupted, ranging from offensive graffiti to violence.

“We needed a proactive approach to combat this hatred at its roots,” Menin, a Democrat and daughter of a Holocaust survivor, said in a statement. “That’s why I approached the Museum of Jewish Heritage with the vision of a universal field trip program.”

The effort will cost around $2.5 million, with $1 million coming from the Gray Foundation, a nonprofit backed by Blackstone CEO Jon Gray that funds other programs for New York youths, as well as cancer research. Menin said the museum will look to other sources for the rest.

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

The tours will focus on the global history of antisemitism and propaganda that precipitated the Holocaust, as well as offering an experience for students to reflect on current events, Menin’s statement said.

Principals will play a key role in deciding which schools will participate in the program, Menin said in a phone call. Schools can sign up through the museum website.

New York City Public Schools spokesperson Nathaniel Styer said in a statement that “programming is a school-based decision, but the funding in this announcement will help remove barriers to participation.”

In testimony before U.S. Congress earlier this month, New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks said the city had already begun rolling out new measures to combat antisemitism in schools, including developing a new curriculum “highlighting the culture and contributions of the Jewish community.”

New York schools are required to teach about the Holocaust, with explicit curriculum covering the subject beginning in eighth grade.

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