Monday, May 9, 2016


Rabbi Mark Cooper
Jewish leaders plan to meet with South Orange Middle School Principal Lynn Irby today to discuss the alleged anti-semitic messages being shared among some students and allegations of offensive comments, calling such activities "deplorable" and "troublesome."

"I don't think any of us want to pre-judge, or jump to conclusions, but we have the possibility to be vigilant and determined and attentive when we have some reason to think there is something to explore or question," said Rabbi Mark Cooper of Oheb Shalom, one of several local Jewish clergy who will meet today. "We want to discuss what we know so far and what the principal thinks of the situation and how we can play an educational and illuminating role."

At issue is the report Thursday that several students had been found to have alleged anti-semitic images on their phones, at least one from an Instagram post that reportedly included swastikas or other offensive image with stars of David.

Rabbi Jesse Olitsky
Superintendent John Ramos issued a statement Friday on the images and vowed to investigate and launch efforts to promote diversity and better tolerance of faith and backgrounds.  

Rabbi Jesse Olitsky of Congregation Beth El said he reached out to Cooper and other local Jewish leaders in the area as soon as he heard about the allegations.

"The minute it broke, I heard about it," Olitsky told "I was reached by a parent of a child who was troubled by these events and got the other rabbis in town in touch and we will be meeting with members of the school district."

Cooper added, "It's scary and troublesome, but I appreciate the immediate reaction of the school district. We are working diligently to discuss next steps to ensure our children are taught about the acceptance and tolerance that are a key component of who we are in our two towns."

The leaders also agreed such hateful views are the exception, not the rule in South Orange and Maplewood.

"I think the behavior is deplorable," said Rabbi Yeheskel Lebovic of Congregation Ahavath Zion. "However, it is not a reflection of the issues that crop up in my immediate surrounding community."

Cooper and Olitsky agreed.

"It is certainly the exception in my time here," Olitsky said, while Cooper added, "It is not common."

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