Remarks by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, given to the leadership of the Rialto Unified School District & Related NBC News story...

Below are the prepared remarks by Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, given to the leadership of the Rialto Unified School District at an Emergency Board Meeting convened to address the district's controversial "Holocaust Writing Prompt"  assigned to eighth-grade students.

Rabbi Cooper is pictured at the Rialto USD meeting with California State Senator Norma J. Torres.


Read related NBC story:

SoCal School Board Apologizes for "Horribly Inappropriate" Holocaust Assignment


Rialto Unified School District Meeting
Remarks: Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Associate Dean
Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum of Tolerance

 
May 7, 2014

I want to thank Acting Superintendent Mohammad Islam for inviting me to address you today.


2,000 years ago, a Jewish sage taught: "The world exists on three pillars: Justice, Truth, and Peace."


In 2014, in our Internet-dominated world, we have been taught a lesson that everything local is global and everything global is local.


It is a bitter lesson because the monstrous Nazi Holocaust is the most documented crime in human history and it is difficult to conceive that there would be such a phenomenon as "Holocaust Denial." But such is the world that there are leaders in Iran, neo-Nazis here and in Europe, even pseudo-intellectuals who insist the Holocaust never happened, that Anne Frank and the 1.5 million Jewish kids never lived, that her diary is a fraud ...


That Holocaust Denial exists is a slander against every victim of the Nazis, dead and alive, that it is an insult to the greatest generation of Americans who went over to Europe to fight and very often die to defeat the Nazi beast ...


So it is absolutely appropriate that our children and grandchildren learn not only about the victims of the Holocaust but the victimizers, not only about the tragedy of slavery, but who kept that institution alive, not only about the victims of racism and hate, but the anatomy of bigotry and hatred.


To be able to look at and learn about history, a young person needs to develop the skills of critical thinking. I think it is safe to say that no one in the Rialto School District still believes that the assignment on Holocaust Deniers served to develop critical thinking. Unfortunately, it bestowed legitimacy and created equivalency between hate and history.


I am here today to acknowledge the role that your acting Superintendent Mohammad Islam played in stopping the exercise. The Simon Wiesenthal Center thanks him for doing the right thing. I also want to thank [CA State] Senator Norma Torres (SD-32) for leadership in dealing with this crisis.


So where do we go from here?


The Simon Wiesenthal Center and its Museum of Tolerance expect that all the teachers and related staff associated with this travesty will soon come to our museum to meet with our educational experts and historians. Yes, adults, even teachers also have an obligation to continue their education.


We also invite the entire Rialto School District to make a visit to the Museum of Tolerance a mandatory part of the annual curriculum for all middle and high school students.


Finally, I want to emphasize that this incident had nothing to do with any religion, not Judaism or Islam and we reject anyone or any group that seeks to inject interfaith relations into this matter.