Oregon Lawmakers Require Schools to Teach about the Holocaust: Fourteen-Year-Old Helped Make it Happen

Jim Denison | Denison Forum on Truth and Culture | Friday, May 31, 2019
Oregon Lawmakers Require Schools to Teach about the Holocaust: Fourteen-Year-Old Helped Make it Happen

Oregon Lawmakers Require Schools to Teach about the Holocaust: Fourteen-Year-Old Helped Make it Happen


Alter Wiener was imprisoned in five different concentration camps during the Holocaust. Most of his family was killed, including his father. He weighed eighty pounds when he was liberated in 1945. Wiener moved to the US after the war and eventually made his home in Oregon.

High school freshman Claire Sarnowski first met Wiener at one of his talks about the Holocaust when she was a fourth-grader. The two became friends. According to Claire, it was Wiener’s lifelong dream to confront anti-Semitism by implementing mandatory curriculum standards for teaching students about the Holocaust. 

She reached out to a state senator, Rob Wagner, who then co-sponsored a bill requiring such instruction. Wiener and Claire testified at a hearing last September. 

“Learning about the Holocaust is not just a chapter in recent history, but a derived lesson how to be more tolerant, more loving and that hatred is, eventually, self-destructive,” Wiener told lawmakers. “Remember, be better, rather than bitter.”

Wiener died last December. The Oregon Senate passed Wagner’s legislation last March; the House passed the bill unanimously last week. If Gov. Kate Brown signs it, Oregon will begin providing such instruction in the 2020–2021 school year. 

The world will be better because a fourteen-year-old did what she could to make it so. 

The solution is solutions 

David Brooks recently cited his New York Times colleague David Bornstein, who points out that much of American journalism is based on a “mistaken theory of change.” The theory: “The world will get better when we show where things have gone wrong.” As a result, Brooks notes, much of what journalists do is “expose error, cover problems and identify conflict.” 

Here’s the problem: “We leave people feeling disempowered and depressed. People who consume a lot of media of this sort sink into this toxic vortex—alienated from people they don’t know, fearful about the future. They are less mobilized to take action, not more.” 

The solution, according to Brooks and Bornstein, is to point to solutions, to show people what they can do in practical terms to make a difference with the massive problems we face. They’re right: it’s hard to try to move the cultural needle if you don’t think you can. 

“Pro-life” is more than “pro-birth” 

Claire Sarnowski reminds us that when we do what we can, we inspire others to do what they can. Let’s apply this lesson to the most urgent moral problem of our day: legalized abortion. 

When we do what we can, we inspire others to do what they can.

In yesterday’s Daily Article, I quoted my son, Ryan, who notes: if we must choose between life and quality of life, we should choose life. I added: “From this perspective, a pregnant woman sacrifices her quality of life for nine months so her child can live for seventy-eight years (the average life expectancy in America).” 

Admittedly, I am a man hoping to encourage women to make a choice I don’t have to face. As the father of two sons, I witnessed the challenges of pregnancy and childbirth my wife experienced. Add to that the burden, for those considering abortion, of bearing a child the mother did not want and does not believe she has the resources to raise. 

As a result, those of us who are “pro-life” need to be much more than “pro-birth.” We must do all we can to help women make the courageous choice to give their unborn children life. If each of us does what we can, we will inspire others to do what they can. 

And the world will be better, one life at a time. 

Three life-giving questions 

Please consider three questions today. 

One: Would you pray regularly about whether God wants you to adopt a child? 

According to Barna, 5 percent of practicing Christians have adopted, more than twice the general American population. However, there are more than eight million children living in orphanages around the world and nearly 500,000 children in America’s foster care system. 

Add the nearly 900,000 children who were aborted in the US in 2017—what if their mothers had chosen adoption for their children? 

Two: If God does not lead you to adopt a child, would you help support those who do? 

Finances can be a significant obstacle for many couples who wish to adopt. What if churches created funds to offset these costs for their members and others in their community? What if church members “adopted” couples who want to adopt, partnering with them to give them the support they need? 

Three: How will you help women choose life over abortion? 

Many communities across our nation have pro-life ministries that provide counseling and resources for pregnant women. They deserve our intercession, volunteer engagement, and financial support. Churches and families can also work with schools and pro-life ministries to help pregnant students. 

I know a couple who helped a teenager choose life for her child. They supported her through college and adopted her child as their own. Every life the mother and her child touch is an extension of this couple’s compassion and love. 

“His steadfast love endures forever” 

God wants us to love every human as he does, from conception into eternity. 

Abortion grieves the heart of God. His word promises that, for each of us, “his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 136:26). He wants us to love every human as he does, from conception into eternity. 

On the issue of life for the preborn, when you stand before the Lord one day (2 Corinthians 5:10), will he say you did all you could?

NOTE: I am excited about the response we’ve had to our YouTube series, “Biblical Insight to Tough Questions.” If you haven’t checked it out yet, please do. 

Our question this week is: Why does God want to be worshiped?

I hope that you will view the video, as well as the others in the series, and share them with family and friends. May this content bless you today.

For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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Publication Date: May 31, 2019

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