SWAMPSCOTT – On Thursday, according to school officials, a Swampscott High School student sent a swastika to a large group of students.
Swampscott High School Principal Dennis Kohut informed the community about the antisemitism in an email to high school students and families on Thursday, Nov. 3. In his letter, Kohut said that an unidentified student shared an offensive, antisemitic image through Airdrop that was viewed by a large number of students. “We believe that those who accepted the Airdrop file were not aware of either the sender or the contents,” he said.
“We immediately spoke with students who viewed the image, some of whom were understandably upset. We took the opportunity to unequivocally remind students that there is absolutely no place for this in our school or the community overall.”
The photo that was sent is of a sneaker with a swastika emblem. It was provided to the Journal by a parent of a student.
Kohut, the principal, said the district had notified police, and urged someone with knowledge about the incident to come forward. “While we are trying to determine the source of the image, and have notified police, there is a chance we will not be successful without someone coming forward. We urge parents to discuss this with children and urge them to contact me or a teacher if they have any information,” he said.
Swampscott School Superintendent Pamela Angelakis provided a statement about the incident, but did not respond to several questions about the district’s findings to date.
“We are all concerned and angered by an incident at Swampscott High School Thursday, in which a student electronically shared a highly offensive, antisemitic image that was viewed by a large number of students,” Angelakis said in a statement. “The high school administration took immediate steps to not only attempt to determine the origin of the image but also unequivocally remind students that there is no place for this not only in the school, but also our community as a whole. The principal followed up with a school-wide assembly Friday morning to further reinforce that message. We all can and should validate that in our own words and deeds as we try to collectively be a more welcoming, inclusive community.”
Swampscott police did not respond to multiple interview requests.
This is the first antisemitic incident in Swampscott in 2022. Last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, there was one antisemitic incident in the town.
“Reports that a swastika was texted to, and seen by, a large number of students at Swampscott High School, is a grim reminder of the impact of these antisemitic actions on a community,” ADL New England Interim Regional Director Peggy Shukur said in a statement. “As this community heals from this incident, we will continue to support educators and the community in challenging all forms of harmful language and behaviors and educating students about offensive language and its impact. It is imperative that our school environments be safe and welcoming spaces for all students to learn and thrive. ADL’s Guide to Responding to School-Based Bias Incidents is an invaluable resource for educators when responding to incidents of hate, bias and antisemitism in schools.”
“I’m appalled to say the least,” added Rabbi Yossi Lipsker, who heard the news before Shabbat began. Lipsker, who leads Chabad of the North Shore in Swampscott, knows many of the town’s Jewish teenagers. “I would be eager to participate in an interactive conversation with the students to offer them a first-hand opportunity to learn more about Jewish faith, traditions, and history.”
Rabbi Michael Ragozin, who leads Congregation Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, also denounced the antisemitic act. “The swastika is the symbol of the Nazi regime which sought to eliminate the Jewish people, intentionally and systematically murdering 6 million Jews. There is no place for airdropping this symbol of genocide, and schools must not tolerate this behavior, Ragozin said.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, a Stow family was targeted by antisemitic vandalism. According to the Stow Police Department, officers arriving on the scene discovered an antisemitic slur carved into the side of one car. They also found that tires on two cars had been slashed, and found fresh burn marks on several part of the home.
“Sadly, we live in a time when such disgusting attacks are on the rise across the country. As a Select Board and as a town we unequivocally renounce intolerance in any form,” Stow Select Board Chair Megan Birch-McMichael said.
Also last week, officers from the Stoneham Police Department were called to a resident’s home where pieces of paper cut into the shape of swastikas were found. Stoneham Police Chief James McIntyre does not believe it was a random incident.
“There is no place for this kind of hate and bigotry in our community,” McIntyre said. “Our detectives are committed to a full and thorough investigation, including any possible criminal charges against the party responsible.” Θ
Steven A. Rosenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.