A rabbi is offering support to pupils and parents after a primary school teacher ‘joked’ about sending misbehaving Jewish children ‘to the gas chambers’.
Jonny Hughes says the upsetting comment made at Newberries Primary School in Radlett, Hertfordshire, shows the importance of ‘never letting the horror of the holocaust be forgotten’.
He says the Nazi regime’s genocide is ‘not just a Jewish thing’ but a ‘crime against humanity’ and says there is an ‘urgent need for education’ on it in the UK.
Speaking to Metro.co.uk, he said: ‘Some of the pupils and their parents are members of my synagogue, I’ve got a pastoral duty of care if any of them are troubled by it I’m always happy to offer help.
‘One of the parents got in touch with my wife about it who told me about it in the first instance.
‘My first reaction was that it was clearly a shocking and inappropriate comment to make to Jewish children, or to any children for that matter, because gas chambers weren’t just a punishment for Jewish people.
‘People don’t necessarily know what that historical time was like and what the Holocaust was and what happened in places like Auschwitz.’
Nearly a third of residents of the commuter village of Radlett identify as Jewish, as do 11 of the 28 children who were in the classroom when the teacher made her remarks on Thursday last week.
She was challenged by a 10-year-old girl before telling pupils she was only joking and asking them not to tell anyone.
A spokesperson said the school is undertaking a full investigation and confirmed the agency teacher was dismissed on Friday and will not be returning.
Despite educational initiatives across the country, Rabbi Hughes says too many people still don’t know enough about the Holocaust and why it is such an important piece of history to so many.
He led a heritage trip to Auschwitz in Poland where his group saw the stains left behind by lethal gas used at the extermination camp.
Despite feeling appalled by teacher’s comments, he said he also felt a ‘sense of gratitude’ to live in a country where such atrocities are not taking place.
The father-of-four runs an outreach project where volunteers go to speak at non-Jewish schools, particularly those with a small Jewish population.
Last year he brought an 89-year-old Holocaust survivor to Eton College where students gave him a standing ovation for sharing his story.
In a message to upset pupils and parents, Rabbi Hughes urged them ‘not to live in fear’ and to ‘use this as an opportunity to be more vocal about the Holocaust’.
The rabbi at Radlett United Synagogue said the incident should serve as a reminder to make others aware of what happened in a bid to stop such an atrocity happening again.
He added: ‘The Holocaust is part of all of our stories, it’s not just a Jewish thing. People need to understand that it’s a crime against humanity’.
‘We have a responsibility to try and prevent that happening again.
‘Holocaust survivors aren’t getting any younger, they’re a dying species and unfortunately we don’t have them around for too much longer to tell their first hand accounts.’
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