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Local Government Officials Reacts to High School Antisemitic Incident

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January 8, 2024

The incident involving the girls basketball teams from Roosevelt High School in Yonkers and the Leffell School in Harsdae elicited broad condemnation from local politicians and even drew a comment from Governor Hochul, Here’s a sampling of public statements from local officials:

From Greenburgh Town Supervisor Paul feiner:

TO THE NEW YORK STATE BOARD OF REGENTS

According to published reports, high school girls on a basketball team from The Leffell School in the Hartsdale section of Greenburgh were subject to express antisemitism this week from a few students of a neighboring town team (Roosevelt High School, Yonkers).  A Hartsdale girl was called a “f-king Jew”.  There was hostility, rough plays leading to injuries and additional antisemitic slurs.  Reportedly, security guards were needed to escort the Hartsdale team safely off the court.  Published reports of the incident are found in, among others, the New York Post and on Westchester News 12.   No one should be subject to abuse and hate on the grounds of any school district in New York State because of their religion.

As history has taught us, silence from good people, particularly silence from leaders, can lead to horrendous consequences.

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I also call on the New York State Board of Regents to investigate this incident, report whether the action of the Yonkers School District and the high school were sufficient  and in keeping with the Regent’s standards, to develop guidelines for Codes of Conduct required by the New York State’s Education Law, and to develop guidelines for school districts and schools as to appropriate public responses and disciplinary actions for behavior on school grounds which subjects anyone to abuse and hate for one’s religion or  ethnicity. Among other things:

Was the incident that occurred handled appropriately?

Was any student discipline imposed strong enough?

What action steps should all school districts in New York State take to reduce the possibility of these kind of hateful incidents taking place in the future?

The Board of Regents may wish to consult with the Anti-Defamation League, the state Human Rights Commissions and other groups, and religious leaders in strengthening guidelines and requirements.

A link to two news reports about the incidents can be found below.

https://nypost.com/2024/01/06/metro/ny-girls-basketball-game-called-off-after-disgusting-antisemitism/?utm_campaign=iphone_nyp&utm_source=mail_app

FROM THE GREENBURGH TOWN COUNCIL:

During a girls’ basketball game last Thursday night, players from the Leffell School in Hartsdale were on the receiving end of antisemitic remarks from a member of the Yonkers team where the game was being played.  This unfortunate and unprovoked incident precipitated an early end to the game.

Sadly, the rise in antisemitism has been dramatic in the last several years – especially since the unprovoked October 7th attack by the terrorist group Hamas on innocent Israeli citizens.  Further, the rise in hate incidents towards all minority groups in the United States has risen alarmingly since 2016, especially among young people.

We are advised that the principals from both schools are in communication and plans are underway to work with the students, with the assistance of various agencies, to help them to better understand the nature of all prejudices and to learn how to move beyond them.

As we approach the annual celebration of Martin Luther King, we are mindful that we must learn from each other and must double down on repudiating all expressions of hate and intolerance.

 

From Westchester County Executive George Latimer:

In the wake of the troubling incident during Thursday night’s high school girls’ basketball game between The Leffell School and Roosevelt High School Early College Studies, Westchester County Executive George Latimer has invited Section 1 leaders, coaches and players to participate in an Education Round Table. This initiative, organized in collaboration with the Westchester County Human Rights Commission and the Westchester County Youth Bureau, aims to facilitate open dialogue, promote understanding and provide education on how to engage with fellow players with respect and dignity.

Latimer said: “We believe in the power of sports to not only entertain but also to educate and inspire. By creating a dialogue, we hope to establish a platform for sharing knowledge and promoting the development of athletes both on and off the court.”

In addition, the County is organizing a training session for Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation & Conservation staff working at the Westchester County Center during the Section 1 Tournament. This training is designed to ensure that all staff, patrons and players are treated with the utmost respect and dignity, fostering a positive and inclusive atmosphere.

Latimer said: “Hate speech has no place in Westchester County and will not be tolerated. High school sports are meant for enjoyment, camaraderie and good sportsmanship. The recent incident goes against the spirit of fair play and unity that these games are intended to foster. I am now calling on all members of the community to come together and condemn such behavior, emphasizing that unity is paramount, especially in challenging times.”

 

From MaryJane Shimsky, Representing the 92nd Assembly District, which includes the Leffell School:

The allegations of antisemitic acts made against members of The Leffell School’s girls varsity basketball team last Thursday are deeply disturbing. I call on the New York State Board of Regents, the Yonkers school district, and the City of Yonkers to investigate the incident and its immediate response. Should their investigations confirm what has been reported, I fully expect school authorities to take all appropriate actions to prevent such conduct in the future.

No less important, this is a timely reminder that we must never fail to educate students, school administrators, and the community at large about the evils of antisemitism and all forms of bigotry. Acts of hate are very often fueled by ignorance, which is why it is especially troubling to see such a report coming from a school setting. However, it also means that we are in a special position to work with these young people to address this issue at its root, promote greater mutual understanding, and banish hate from our communities.

I am very pleased to see that the two school administrations are working together and with their students to address this incident both swiftly and thoughtfully.

Westchester County Board of Legislators:

Members of The Westchester County Board of Legislators are deeply disturbed by the recent reports of antisemitic behavior directed at the Leffell School’s girl basketball team by members of Yonkers Roosevelt High School’s girl basketball team. Antisemitism and bigotry in all its forms are never acceptable. We applaud the actions taken to date by both schools, and we support County Executive Latimer’s call for an investigation by the County’s Human Rights Commission. The Board reiterates its commitment to Westchester County’s diversity and to our youth; we will not tolerate hate in any form.

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