SAN ANTONIO — Four local women are making sure the history of the Holocaust will never be forgotten. They helped pass a bill requiring schools to teach all students about it every year.
The four women who fought for the passage of Senate Bill 1828 are Sharon Greenwald, Varda Ratner, Ginny Wind and Lisa Barry. The women said they saw a video of students at an elite college who didn’t know the facts of the Holocaust. They were moved to take action. Greewald, Ratner and Wind, who are children of Holocaust survivors, said it became their mission to make sure future generations would never forget.
"Although the three of us are children of survivors, of Jewish survivors, Lisa is not Jewish. The reason I point that out, is that this isn't a Jewish issue,” said Ratner. “It's a human issue. In fact, anyone can end up targeted."
They said it took two years to get the bill passed in the Texas legislature. The women said District 26 state senator Jose Menéndez was instrumental in helping them forward the bill. They ran into other lawmakers who were encouraged by their idea but didn't follow through with the support.
"I think people at first didn't take us seriously. Sharon approached somebody and he said, 'it's hard. It's difficult to pass a bill,'” Wind said.
"There were challenges, no doubt, but the beauty of all of this, I'm looking at it half full, is that we had 100% bipartisan support in the house and in the senate,” said Greenwald.
Texas is now the 12th state in the country to have mandated Holocaust education. Public schools in Texas will have one week dedicated to lessons on this major event in history. The women said teachers in Texas were only required to teach World War II events and minimal facts about the Holocaust before the bill. Barry, who is a teacher, said she has included Holocaust studies in her classroom for the past 16 years. She said the education on tolerance and empathy is imperative for students to learn.
"How to treat people well, civil rights, human rights, the conflicts that led up to what created the Holocaust, and so that kids are aware of their surroundings and what's going on in the world today," she said.
The women plan to write a book about their efforts to pass SB 1828. It’s going to be called “Four Women in a Car: How to Pass a Bill.”
“The first time we drove up to Austin, we were all excited but we were also nervous! ‘Cause we've never done anything like this before and I think Sharon said, 'This is crazy! Who are we? We are four ladies in a car. What are we doing?'” said Ratner with a laugh. "We've kind of taken on that moniker that we're four ladies in a car that actually got a bill passed."
There will be a brunch with Senator Menéndez and the four women on June 30 to celebrate the bill. It will be held at Agudas Achim 16550 Huebner Road, San Antonio. To RSVP call (210) 479-2689.
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