Students tour Museum of Jewish Heritage to learn empathy in effort to fight anti-Semitism

LOWER MANHATTAN (WABC) -- Students from Brooklyn toured the Museum of Jewish Heritage as part of a push by the Department of Education to cut down on anti-Semitism.

The DOE is having 8th and 10th-graders from Williamsburg, Borough Park and Crown Heights take field trips to the museum to create a sense of inclusion.

The move comes after the city has seen an uptick in anti-Semitic crimes. And those three neighborhoods in Brooklyn all have strong Orthodox Jewish populations.

For many of the 8th-graders from PS 84 in Williamsburg who toured the museum Wednesday, this was the first time they learned about the Holocaust.

"The history we tell about this institution is not just what hate did 80 years ago but what hate can do here and now in our own communities, remember that please, as you see the exhibition," said museum president Jack Kliger.

According to the NYPD, there were 234 anti-Semitic crimes reported in 2019, that is a 20 percent increase from the year before. And many of those incidents involved a swastika.

"Today you're going to understand what that swastika is and why it's a hate ideology and why when Jews and others see it, it creates a lot of fear in our communities," said Deborah Lauter with the NYC Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes.

All NYC students are welcome to visit the museum for free with their families through August.

"I learned a lot," said student Lexi Ortega. "It gave me a lot of emotions, sad at how they treated them, I couldn't imagine going through what they did."

And that's the empathy factor that can make a difference in a divided world.

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