Testimony on SB727 on Holocaust and genocide studies

(Pictured: Rabbi Jon Spira-Savett of Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua testifies on SB727.)

Legislative updates:

  • March 3: The committee voted 5-0 Ought To Pass on SB727.
  • March 12: The Senate voted unanimously to pass SB727.
  • May 29: The content of this bill is now added to HB1135 as Amendment #1259. The Senate Transportation Committee will hold a public hearing on Zoom.

The text of SB727 can be found online here. This testimony was given at the Senate hearing on Tuesday, March 3, 2020.

Dear Members of the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce Development:

The New Hampshire Council of Churches is an ecumenical Christian body of nine diverse denominations: American Baptist, Greek Orthodox, Episcopal, Evangelical Lutheran, Society of Friends (Quaker), Presbyterian Church (USA), United Church of Christ, United Methodist and Unitarian Universalist. All together, these denominations comprise nearly 400 congregations in the Granite State.

As the Executive Director of the Council, I stand with the Jewish Federation of New Hampshire in urging you to support SB727. My urging is based on the beliefs and actions of the Council and its member denominations and our local congregations, for specifically these three reasons:

First, our member denominations oppose antisemitism, genocide and the Holocaust. This opposition takes various forms, including legislatively-approved position statements, endorsements of the Christian anti-Nazi document the Theological Declaration of Barmen and the repeated, spoken words of bishops and others holding an official teaching capacity.

Second, the NH Council of Churches hosted in 2019 and will again host this year teaching on the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the Lutheran pastor who led Christian resistance to Nazi rule. Bonhoeffer was killed at the Flossenbürg death camp on April 9, 1945. The Council has invited speakers to educate church members on Bonhoeffer’s witness and the legacy of Christian resistance to the Holocaust. The Council also hopes to educate our state’s churches on the dangers of Christian complicity and silence in the face of antisemitism.

Thirdly and finally, I urge support of SB727 because of the current witness of New Hampshire’s churches. For many years, churches of all kinds have attended and supported the Holocaust memorial programs led by local synagogues. They have received with sadness the increasingly frequent reports of threats directed at their neighbor synagogues. They have expressed grief and solidarity during shared vigils following the Tree of Life synagogue murders and other antisemitic hate crimes.

With these three supports from our member denominations, from the state Council of Churches and from our local congregations, there is a foundation for Holocaust and genocide education already happening in New Hampshire. As good as this is, this needed education cannot be limited to our faith communities. I urge your support for SB727 which can bring this education into broader venues and prevent future silence and complicity in the face of such evils.

With gratitude and hope,

Rev. Jason Wells, Executive Director