January 27 marks the International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day the United Nations designated to honor the liberation of Auschwitz. While Vermonters have spent the day commemorating the millions of victims who lost their lives 77 years ago, two students from Bristol are taking it a step further, not only educating their community but testifying before lawmakers to make Holocaust education mandatory in Vermont schools.
15-year-olds Emma and Eliza Doucet of Mt. Abraham Union High School were determined to make a change in their community and across Vermont by teaching their peers and families about Jewish history and culture.
“Growing up, I remember being shocked when nobody knew what I was talking about when I mentioned Chanukah, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur,” said Emma.
The two sisters remember the time someone spray painted a swastika at their synagogue in Middlesex, the place where they had their bat-mitzvah, a sacred Jewish tradition.
“I could put a word to it — antisemitism,” said Emma. “I first learned the word then.”
On Thursday, the twins gathered their community together to share their identity and were joined by third generation Holocaust survivors.
“One of the biggest contributers to anti-semitism is Holocaust denial and it’s become increasingly more widespread,” said Zach Pollkoff of Charlotte. “But these are my grandparents, and this their story and I heard it from them and their own mouths.”
Eliza and Emma also spoke before Vermont Senators to enact Bill S.189 and ensure there is Holocaust education in schools.
Debora Steinerman, President and Co-Founder of the VT Holocaust Memorial said, “A curriculum or standards is really all that we’re hoping for so that teachers know how to teach this and give it the appropriate amount of time in the classroom.”
The twins say they hope their advocacy gives Vermonters a new perspective and the responsibility to acknowledge and remember.
“We must learn about the past in order to preserve and protect the future.”