Assemblyman Cymbrowitz Calls on Chancellor to Require More Discussion of the Meaning of a Swastika in Public Schools

January 17, 2012

In the wake of additional anti-Semitic incidents involving swastikas in Brooklyn − home to the nation’s largest population of Holocaust survivors − Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz has called on Schools Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott to immediately implement a program that fosters age appropriate discussion of the meaning of a swastika during social studies lessons. Cymbrowitz made his request after Sunday’s discovery of swastikas spray-painted on trees inside a community garden at Floyd Bennett Field, the painting of a swastika on the Yeshiva of Brooklyn-Boys’ Division, as well as a garage around the corner, and less than two months after swastikas were painted on an automobile and nearby benches before additional cars were firebombed in the same area. Just last week, five swastikas were discovered scrawled near the elevator of a Borough Park apartment building and last July, also in Borough Park, a swastika was scratched into a Hatzolah volunteer ambulance.

“We don’t know who perpetrated most of these horrible acts. Were they done by hardcore anti-Semites or were they childish pranks? What is known is that the acts have generated much hurt and concern in our community. It is important that we make certain everyone understands exactly what a swastika has come to mean. Just last week a shopkeeper in Greenpoint was selling swastika earrings claiming not to know what the symbol represented,” Cymbrowitz explained. “I want to make sure that each and every one of New York City’s one million students understands exactly what this symbolism of hatred means.”

Cymbrowitz said, “I know that the Holocaust is required to be taught, but with the frequency of swastika incidents increasing, it is important to go beyond the history and discuss the present day implications of drawing a swastika in public. This is why I am asking Chancellor Walcott to expeditiously have grade appropriate discussion points produced and that teachers be required to bring this up with their students.”

“It is neither asking too much nor imposing a heavy burden on class time to ask that this important topic immediately become a part of the New York City school curriculum. I know a true anti-Semite might not be swayed by this added discussion, but given the mounting momentum with which swastika incidents are occurring, it is our responsibility to make sure students truly understand the hurt that their actions cause,” Cymbrowitz stated.

Cymbrowitz made his request in a letter to the Chancellor.