Basketball coach fired at NY school where players shouted antisemitic slurs at Jewish opponents
AntisemitismA player has been dismissed from the team

Basketball coach fired at NY school where players shouted antisemitic slurs at Jewish opponents

Players on Roosevelt’s team were unusually aggressive during the game, leading to injuries on Leffell’s squad.

(Photo by HeungSoon via Pixabay)
(Photo by HeungSoon via Pixabay)

(New York Jewish Week) — A public high school in New York has fired its varsity girl’s basketball coach after players on its team uttered antisemitic slurs during a game against a Jewish day school.

A student has also been dismissed from the team at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers following the incident during a game against the Leffell School, a Jewish school in nearby Hartsdale, on Thursday.

Yonkers Public Schools and the city’s mayor, Mike Spano, announced the penalties in a statement Sunday in which they said they “sincerely apologize” and called the antisemitic epithets “painful and offensive.” They said an investigation is underway, noting that additional players may be disciplined and that the district would embark on counseling and training in response to the incident.

“Collectively, we do not and will not tolerate hate speech of any kind from our students and community,” the statement said. “The antisemitic rhetoric reportedly made against the student athletes of The Leffell School are abhorrent, inappropriate and not in line with the values we set forth for our young people.”

The incident comes as Jewish high schoolers in the New York area and beyond have grappled with reports of rising antisemitism since Hamas’ invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 and the subsequent war in Gaza. School districts, parents groups and local officials have taken steps to address what they describe as a hostile atmosphere for Jewish students. In the months prior to Oct. 7, multiple high schools had seen displays of antisemitism on the athletic field.

The atmosphere at Thursday’s game grew hostile early, according to Robin Bosworth, a member of Leffell’s team. Bosworth, a senior, wrote in the student newspaper that players on Roosevelt’s team were unusually aggressive during the game, leading to injuries on Leffell’s squad. She added that they shouted “Free Palestine” and hurled antisemitic slurs at the Leffell players.

A letter from the town supervisor in Greenburgh, New York, to New York’s top education authorities, calling for changes to student-athlete discipline rules, said one Roosevelt player called a Leffell player a “f—ing Jew.”

“Attacking a team because of their school’s religious association is never acceptable, but especially due to the current war in Israel and the world’s rise in antisemitism, this felt extremely personal to me and many members of my team,” Bosworth wrote. “I have played a sport every athletic season throughout my high school career, and I have never experienced this kind of hatred directed at one of my teams before.”

Bosworth wrote that Leffell’s team decided to end the game early. Roosevelt has forfeited the match, according to the New York Post. Neither the player from Roosevelt High School nor the coach who were dismissed have been identified by the school as of Monday morning. The school did not return the New York Jewish Week’s request for comment.

“Antisemitism at any level is unacceptable, as is racism of any sort. It’s even more disturbing when it occurs among our young people,” Spano posted on social media on Saturday, adding that he will convene a discussion of the incident among local educational, civic and religious leaders.

In an email sent to the Leffell community Friday afternoon, head of school Michael Kay wrote that Roosevelt High School’s athletic director contacted the Leffell School’s director of athletics to apologize and assure them both that any followup would be “swift and appropriate.” Kay also spoke with Roosevelt’s principal about the players or school leadership meeting in person.

He wrote that he was “incredibly proud” of how Leffell’s players dealt with the incident.

“The players conducted themselves with midot (ethical values) and grace, and they thoughtfully processed and debriefed the incident,” Kay wrote. “Importantly, I would also like to commend the response of my colleagues in the administration of the other school involved.”

An activist group of Jewish parents in New York City called attention to the incident, saying that it offered further evidence that city officials to take a stronger stance against antisemitism in local schools. The Yonkers school, like Leffell located in Westchester County north of New York City, is not part of the city school system. PJC

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