Anti-Semitism at a High School Party

in Newport Goes Viral 

A Photo From Ellie T's Snapchat Story
By McKenna B. and Jackie Y.
April 23, 2019

During the first weekend of March, dozens of teenagers from Newport Harbor High School and Costa Mesa High School posted similar pictures of a party on Snapchat including red solo cups arranged in a Swastika with smiling people behind the anti-semitic symbol giving a “Heil Hitler” sign. Captions like “German rage cage” and “German engineering” accompanied the photos. Following the anti-Semitic posts, the party-goers sent obscene texts in a group chat  reading: “Phone’s gonna die...like the Jews,” and “F**k Jews, such piece of sh*ts.” The texts accumulated a couple thousand views over the couple of days post-event.

Juliane Z., ’20, a Westridge student with connections to Newport Harbor community, described her understanding of the incident and the effect it had on friends at Newport Harbor. Juliane knows three people who attended the party, one of whom is a former classmate. That individual, although they did not participate in the anti-Semitic actions and was not in the now viral picture, was expelled.

“I don’t know how effective the job [the school is] doing is, but they are taking measures. They are really taking steps to address the underlying problem of hate and intolerance which is really present [in Orange County],” noted Juliane. Juliane went on to explain how a large number of the students who attended the party and who participated showed little remorse after the fact. “They were totally fine with it. Half of them said it was a joke, and the rest didn’t think it was a joke. They fully have hate for [Jews],” Juliane explained.

Over the last several years, there has been an increase in public anti-Semitic behaviors in the United States. In 2018, the FBI noted a 37% rise in hate crimes against Jews and Jewish communities. In 2012, five Jewish students in rural New York sued their high school for discrimination as swastikas appeared across their school on desks, lockers, and bathroom stalls. They were also subjected to ethnic slurs and physical violence.

The viral nature of the incident at this Newport High School party has brought attention to the often ignored anti-Semitism across America, specifically in high schools. In 2018, a faculty member at a Christian high school in Berkeley, California noted a swastika drawn inside a Bible and a paper with “Adolf Hitler” written inside of it.

The Sunday following the party, Newport Harbor school officials announced that they would be working with police to look closer at the photos. The school’s All Student Body issued a response on Instagram, concluding with, “We will stand together with all of you as a force and voice of goodness, so that our school may continue to be the place of happiness, respect, and positivity we intend it to be.”

Eva Schloss, Anne Frank’s stepsister and childhood friend, met with the school on Thursday, speaking with around 55 Newport High students, parents, and faculty. Talking about her imprisonment for nine months at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, she hoped to educate the next generation of what anti-Semitism really means.

Although the event occurred in Newport Beach, over an hour away from Pasadena, Westridge students -- especially those who are Jewish -- were impacted.

“As a Jewish person, I feel like oppression and anti-Semitism are so fundamental to our religion -- because it happens all the time, and every generation will have another major issue,” described Rachel H., ’19, co-head of Westridge’s Jewish Affinity. Rachel emphasized the importance of recognizing that anti-Semitism is present everywhere and remembering anti-Semitic incidents happen every day, all across the world. “I think [Newport Harbor’s response] was really good. It’s the kind of response I would like to see every time this happens and not the one time it goes viral,” explained Rachel.

Due to its highly public nature, the incident in Newport has brought attention to the larger issue of hate, both implicit and explicit, in communities across the nation. “I think we need to have broader conversations about people being exposed to hatred and how it’s not actively fought against until it goes viral,” urged Rachel.