Social media exploded last night, with allegations of antisemitic and racist behavior by Cheshire High School students at last night’s football game against Staples.
Images of an Israeli flag, and charges of racist chants, were shared widely. Host Cheshire defeated the visiting Wreckers in a non-league game, 42-14.
This morning, Westport Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice promised to investigate fully, and take action if necessary. At the same time, he urged caution and no rush to judgment, until all the facts are clear.
“Late last night I was made aware of a number of social media posts alleging antisemitic and racist actions and comments directed towards Staples players and students during the Staples/Cheshire High School football game in Cheshire. I want to assure the community that any allegations such as these are taken with the utmost seriousness.
“I’d like to share some of the steps we’ve already taken. I received a message from the Cheshire Superintendent at 11:40pm last night, and he assured me that the district and Cheshire law enforcement are investigating this matter. We will continue to communicate until we have reached a resolution.
“I have spoken to Stafford Thomas, Staples principal, and Marty Lisevick, Staples athletic director, and they will speak with each and every Staples student or adult who has factual information about this matter. “First Selectman Jim Marpe and I spoke this morning, and it is confirmed that our police chief, Foti Koskinas, will be in contact with the Cheshire police chief.
“Perhaps most helpful in addressing this matter is the instant support that I received from the Director of the Connecticut Regional Office of the Anti-Defamation League, Steve Ginsburg. Steve has already spoken with me and Chief Koskinas, and to representatives from Cheshire, including their superintendent and police chief. We are all committed to cooperating, investigating, and addressing this matter.
“This incident was brought to light by some damning images and posts on social media. Given the volatility of social media, I caution all members of the community to take a measured approach in addressing matters such as these. It is necessary for the school administrations, and police departments when necessary, to gather facts before taking punitive action. If we confirm acts of anti-Semitism or race-based hate, we will assertively act. If there are misunderstandings, we will work together to learn from these events.
“Our school administration will continue its investigation and follow up at the end of the day on Monday. If you were present at the game and have information of any acts of antisemitism or race-based hate, please contact the Staples administration.”
Staples Tuition Grants’ annual awards ceremony is one of the high school’s premier events.
Last year’s was particularly impressive. The organization — founded in 1943, with a $100 grant from the PTA — awarded $350,000 in need-based scholarships, to 129 students. Nearly half are seniors who graduate this month; the rest are Staples grads, currently in college.
The grants — ranging from $500 to $5,000 — will help them attend a total of 77 institutions, in 24 states.
Guest speakers included longtime STG donor Dick Fincher, and past recipient/current educator, EMT and Westport Local Press publisher Jaime Bairaktaris.
But — as always — the “stars” were the students. To learn more about Staples Tuition Grants, and donate, click here.
Speaking of teenagers: Westport Farmers’ Market‘s 5th annual Young Shoots Photography Contest opens soon. And you can be even younger than 13 to enter.
There are 3 age categories: 8-10 years old, 11-14 and 15-18. Any photo taken at one of the Thursday Farmers’ Markets is eligible. Judging is by a panel of local artists, and the public.
The contest runs from a week from today (June 10) through July 18. Winners — who earn cash prizes, special swag and membership to local art organizations — will be celebrated at Gilbertie’s Herbs & Garden Center, with catering by Sugar & Olives. Click here to submit photos.
“Starstem” by Calista Finkelstein placed 1st in the 2016 contest, in the 8-10 category.
What does it mean to be Asian American? That’s the title of a conversation next Thursday (June 10, 7 p.m.) Presented by the Westport Library, TEAM Westport and AAPI Westport, there’s limited seating at the library. But everyone around the world can tune in virtually.
Professors Erika Lee and Jason Chang are the guests. The discussion will be moderated by Westporter Heather Lee. They’ll explore Asian American life through a wide historic lens, as well as the current wave of anti-Asian discrimination and physical attacks, and AAPI communities uniting with others to create an inclusive and equitable society.
To register for in-person seating at the Westport Library, click here. To register for the Zoom link, click here.
A scene from Westport’s Asian-American rally, outside the Library.
An event last night at Mancini Salon honored owner Carla Morales. The staff surprised her with a party, thanking her for all she did to get them through the pandemic year. She kept all her employees on, under difficult circumstances — and kept them and their patrons safe. The salon reopened exactly a year ago.
Congratulations, Carla. Here’s wishing you and Mancini a great summer! (Hat tip: Patti Brill)
Westport Country Playhouse’s popular Script in Hand play reading series continues with “The Savannah Disputation.” The comedy — filmed on the Playhouse stage — will be broadcast virtually. It premieres June 14 at 7 p.m., and streams on demand from June 15 through 20.
In “Savannah Disputation,” Mary and Margaret are feisty Catholic sisters living in Georgia, who forget about Southern hospitality when a young Pentecostal missionary knocks at their front door to shake up their beliefs. The women call in their local priest for backup, in this entertaining examination of what it means to truly believe.
The recent national surge in anti-Semitic acts — including the New York area — has rattled many local Jews.
Then there was one right here in Westport.
A congregant of Beit Chaverim — born in Israel, but a longtime Westporter — arrived home to find eggs splattered on her front door.
In his sermon last weekend, Beit Chaverim’s Rabbi Greg Wall told his Post Road West congregation that the only way to fight what’s happening is to be more visible.
“Keep your yarmulke on,” he said. “If you’re intimidated, the anti-Semites win.”
Rabbi Greg Wall
Noting the importance of community involvement, he adds, “Anti-Semitism is a communal issue. As Jews, we have stood with any group that’s been denied their rights — other religions, ethnicities, sexual orientations. Now we need them to stand publicly with us.”
Victims of domestic violence have so much to deal with. Getting basic supplies for their young children should not be one of them.
Now through Sunday (April 25), Westport’s Domestic Violence Task Force is collecting supplies. Needed items include car seats in new or like-new condition (tags attached, to check expiration date), strollers, diapers, wipes, lotions and baby wash, and new bottles.
To arrange contactless pickup, email co-chair Jillian Cabana: email@example.com.
Saturday is the big day: CLASP Homes’ “Un-Scavenger Hunt.” (“Un?” It runs all day, at your convenience. It’s not a race.
There are tons of clues, covering Westport trivia, history, art, pop culture and more. You answer by posting photos, videos, texts and GPS check-ins on the app. Bonus points are given for creativity, ingenuity and humor (costumes, props, songs, pets … you get the idea).
Prizes include sunset cruises; a private tour and wine-and-cheese reception at Dragone Classic Motorcars with George Dragone; Broadway tickets and more.
There are separate prizes for students in grade 12 and below (including cash). And a special prize for the organization that registers the most teams.
The Un-Scavenger Hunt raises funds for CLASP. For nearly 40 years they’ve provided care, support and inspiration to adults with autism and developmental disabilities.
Click here for tickets. Click here for the Goosechase app, which will be used. You can practice on it too, until the event goes live.
We may pretend it’s not happening. But people — even in Westport — make Holocaust “jokes,” and talk insensitively about Jewish traditions and lives. I’d guess teenager in Westport has heard something.
In response, ADL Connecticut is organizing a virtual “Fairfield County Teen Leadership Summit on Anti-Semitism.” It’s Tuesday, April 27 (7 to 8:15 p.m., Zoom).
A teen panel will share personal stories. Attendees will learn skills to stand up to anti-Semitism, be resilient and become empowered as school leaders. Click here to register. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Westport Library’s next “Andrew Wilk Presents” examines anti-Semitism.
The event — a screening and conversation with filmmaker Andrew Goldberg and CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota — is set for next month.
On March 10 and 11, the Library offers Goldberg’s film “Viral: Anti-Semitism in 4 Mutations.” At 7 p.m. on the 11th, Goldberg will discuss the film with Camerota — anchor of the “New Day” morning show — and take questions from the virtual audience.
Camerota lives in Westport. Goldberg recently moved here. To register, and for more information, click here.
Looking for a summer camp for your kids? Something along the lines of, say, Recycled/Upcycling Art, Nature in Art, Engineering and Art, Chemistry and Art, Movement and Art?
Those are some of the weekly themes at Camp MoCA, a new summer day camp for youngsters ages 3 to 13. It runs June 7 to August 27; 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily, rain or shine. Certified educators and art instructors are in charge.
An early registration discount of $100 per week is available through May 1. Campers can sign up for one or multiple weeks. Click here for details.
And finally … on this day in 1791, Congress passed a law admitting the state of Vermont to the Union, effective March 4. It had existed for 14 years as an independent republic.
Many Westporters love Vermont. Among them: Jon Gailmor. The 1966 Staples High School graduate has lived there for decades. He runs music-writing workshops in schools, writes and performs all over, and has eveb been named an official “state treasure.”
Jon’s “Long Ago Lady” is a love song to his adopted state. It’s a beautiful tribute, to a wonderful place.
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Tonight at 5 p.m., on Jesup Green, we will come together to define who we are as a community, in a struggling country.
Anti-Semitic incidents have been increasing in America at an alarming rate. The Anti-Defamation League says that in 2017, anti-Semitic incidents jumped 57% over the previous year, and 2018 showed the third-highest rate of incidents on record. This year is faring no better.
Westport — as we know from last week — is not immune.
The discovery of a swastika, carved into a bathroom wall, has challenged our community. The question is how we deal with that challenge.
We need to focus not on “who?” but “how?” How did the plague of hatred in this struggling nation manage to puncture our town? Whether the perpetrator was a white nationalist (unlikely), or looking for attention (more likely), the ball is in our court.
And all Westporters are on that court, whether we want to be there or not. Our response matters.
According to Steve Ginsburg, director of ADL Connecticut — and a Westport resident — “The measure of that school, or that community, is not what happened there, but how they respond to it, and what they did to try to prepare people and prevent it from happening.”
True to that statement, Westport schools have handled the incident swiftly and expertly, with the collaboration of the Westport Police, the ADL, and the support of our elected officials.
Education is always the key. But education should not be limited to school grounds and school hours.
How much do you know about your child’s understanding of the symbol of a swastika? How do they feel when they see one? Afraid? Numb? And are there other forms of intolerance — to race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity — occurring in our kids’ lives? How can we help?
Tonight at 5 on Jesup Green, we come together as a community to learn from those who know how to begin answering these questions.
By this effort — not the hate crime — we will be measured.
(Speakers include Ginsburg; Lauren Francese, K-6 social coordinator, Westport Public Schools; Rev. John Morehouse, Unitarian Church of Westport, and Conor Pfeifer, Triangle Community Center. For more information, click here.)
To no one’s surprise, the story about the #WhiteLivesMatter flyers found in Westport has moved beyond our borders.
But even the most glass-is-half-empty among us might be surprised at the virulence that’s lurking in cyberspace.
Ar15.com — a gun-lovers’ site — reprinted a Stamford Advocate article about the incident. It elicited only a few comments. One reader suggested Westport needed “more section 8 housing” to increase our diversity. Another said simply, “boo hoo faggots.”
That’s nothing, compared to DailySlave.com. Click on this gruesomely racist, anti-Semitic, anti-just-about-everything site only if you have a strong stomach.
The site — whose motto is “Fighting Against Total Enslavement” — titled its piece “White Hating Marxist Retards Cry About ‘#White Lives Matter’ Flyers.”
No, it’s not satire.
Here are just a few of the anonymous comments:
Westport needs a huge infusion of Burn this Bitch Down Burntitmore and Fergadishu blue gummed Jungle Bunnies. Let’s start a campaign to Diversify Westport! Show them what they’re missing.
The old saying -THERE IS NO BLACK POWER>>>>>>JEWISH POWER >>>>ILLEGAL ALIEN POWER …. only white weakness…
Westport is located in Fairfield County, which is the wealthiest county in the Empire and includes or included residents like Paul Newman, Henry Kissenger, William F. Buckley, David Letterman and Kathi Lee “the Jewess” Gifford. But it also includes one of the shittiest ghetto cities in the Empire as well…Bridgeport. The jews and White liberals have been trying to get Bridgeport removed from their otherwise extremely affluent county for decades. They were also unsuccessful in keeping Interstate 95 from going right through the middle of their upscale little bedroom communities. GOOD.
Other anti-Semitic comments attacked Westport’s selectmen, and claimed “the only negro I ever saw in that town was old Otis who ran the dry cleaner shop (dumb as a bag of rocks but mostly harmless).”
A “cartoon” posted on the Daily Slave website.
I debated with myself for quite a while about the wisdom of posting this piece. Would giving these sites publicity further embolden them, or provide some kind of credence? Am I playing right into their hateful hands?
But ignoring the fact that these websites — and their readers — exist is dangerous too.
Commenters on those sites accuse Westporters of burying our heads in the sand about the real world.
Jarret Liotta is a writer. His essays and articles have appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Connecticut Magazine. He recently completed his 1st novel.
He’s a blogger, with an incisive voice and view of the world.
He calls himself a strong advocate for free speech.
But — on the heels of an incident in Fairfield last December, when 3 masked men carrying Nazi flags and shouting obscenities tried to disrupt a public Menorah lighting — Liotta has also become a strong advocate for legislation banning the public display of the Nazi flag.
The Staples graduate has written an op-ed piece for the Minuteman. He’s spoken with Jim Himes.
Now he’s trying to drum up broad-based support.
As a writer and thinking American, I understand the value of free speech better than anyone. At the same time, we as a society have determined that some things stretch beyond reasonable bounds of appropriateness.
We don’t allow the public display of pornography on American streets. Why then should we tolerate the public display of a Nazi flag? It’s a terribly potent international icon, in a class by itself for what it represents. To me, it’s a gross aberration that an intelligent society such as our should allow it, especially in 2010.
Regarding free speech, Liotta does not understand how it deserves constitutional protection any more than a written death threat.
The events of 9/11 have prompted much less tolerance in the area of threats, regardless of the validity behind them. Displaying a Nazi flag has an implicit threat, based on its intense history. They don’t allow it to be displayed publicly in Germany, its country of origin. Now, in the 21st century, in our civilized country, I see no good reason to still allow it here.
As a writer, Liotta says, he spends most of his time observing.
But when I learned about that grotesque event in Fairfield last December, I was frightened, shocked and sickened. I think it takes some emotional passion to get one active for a cause, but I also really saw a weird illogic there — that these mutants were actually allowed to display a Nazi flag in a public park like that. It just felt like some kind of strange mistake that somehow got overlooked — like somehow as we moved into the 21st century, someone forgot to repair this little bit of broken civil law.
Now I just feel compelled to try and help right that wrong.
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