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Updated guidelines for combating anti-Semitism in schools have been presented to Italy’s Minister of Public Education Patrizio Bianchi, the Pagine Ebraiche newspaper reported.

“I am grateful to the minister for his sensitivity, on these issues,” said Milena Santerini, Italy‘s national coordinator for combating anti-Semitism.

Bianchi threw his support behind the initiative.

“It is also significant that the new phase of the strategy presented to the government in recent months started in schools, an area where future is most thought about and built,” Bianchi said, speaking at the presentation of the guidelines event that also included speeches by Italian Jewish leaders.

The guidelines were drafted with contributions from a group of experts in order to help Italian teachers to “face the old and new prejudices that weaken coexistence at school and in society.”

The new material begins with a reference to the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, and explains the different forms that contemporary anti-Semitism takes, including classical anti-Semitism, neo-Nazi Jew hatred, Holocaust denial and the “new anti-Semitism” of attacking Israel.

The hope is that study units about Jewish history and culture will be created, as this area of teaching has been long neglected in Italy, as the guidelines point out. They note that “the social and cultural contribution given over time by Jews in Europe, their living conditions, the presence and intertwining of populations in the various regions of Italy” is something that need to be taught in schools.

The stated objective is that fighting against the rise in anti-Semitism will involve all of society, and that not doing anything is unacceptable.

“Due to its historical, political, religious, and cultural specificities [compared to] other forms of discrimination, it represents an essential challenge in the general interest,” said Santerini, writing in the introduction to the new guidelines.

She added that combating anti-Semitism needs to involve “all members of the school community: pupils and students, teachers, families, staff and managers.”

“There is a strong need to take up the challenge of memory and knowledge of the Holocaust,” Bianchi said.

He explained that the guidelines are “an important step for a common commitment, a new teaching tool aimed above all at the world of teachers and students.”

The goal is “cultivating young people’s awareness so that on the theme of anti-Semitism the whole society would assimilate the values that the Holocaust invites us not to forget: peace, equality of all human beings, and respect for the dignity of persons and the values of civil coexistence.”

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