What Shoah survivor Mark Schonwetter, a Livingston resident, found as he traveled around the region to share his story, is that funds are scare for purchasing educational materials, bringing in speakers, and subsidizing field trips. Holocaust education may be mandated in New Jersey (and 11 other states nationwide), but there is no funding attached to the law.
Schonwetter frequently shares his story of how he, his mother, and sister survived by hiding in the forests as well as in the homes of righteous Polish families. Schonwetter is often accompanied by family members.
“I was at a school in Bergen County that wanted to buy a classroom set of books and had to go to the local [synagogue] Sisterhood and get a donation since there was no money in the budget for it, and it was less than $500,” said Ann S. Arnold of Norwood, one of Schonwetter’s daughters, in an email conversation with NJJN. “That is when we realized that there is not enough money to expand or enrich what they are currently doing in states where it is mandated. And in states where it is not mandated, there is no motivation or means to implement this type of education.”
So Arnold and sister Isabella S. Fiske of Livingston established a fund in their father’s honor to provide grants for this kind of enrichment. The goal of the Mark Schonwetter Holocaust Education Foundation, launched in August 2019, is to expand and support Holocaust education, so that students can learn from the past.
The New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education provides extensive curricular material and resources, organizes trips, offers assistance and advice to districts, and convenes Holocaust education conferences; while it does not provide any funding for Holocaust education, most of its programs and resources are free. It is funded by the State of New Jersey.
Recognizing the financial restraints involved in Holocaust education, the New Jersey Department of Education (DOE) has begun raising awareness of the Schonwetter Foundation. In a memo shared with NJJN, and recently sent to all school districts, charter schools, and statewide education associations, the DOE announced the availability of grants through the foundation.
For more information visit mshefoundation.org.