Times of Huntington-Northport

Suffolk County residents can call 311 to report an antisemitic incident. File photo from Steve Bellone’s Flickr page

By Sabrina Artusa

Just last week, schools across the North Shore — including Smithtown East, Commack and Port Jefferson high schools — all reported antisemitic language in their buildings.

‘It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior.’

— Renée Silver

Last week, swastikas were found in the boys bathroom at Commack High School and on a desk at Smithtown High School East. This is the second swastika reported at Commack this month — racist graffiti was also found on the bathroom stalls.

Two swastikas were also found on a desk at Smithtown East.

“This news is greatly upsetting, but it is important for our school community to be made aware of such incidents and work collaboratively to oppose hate whenever it occurs,” Smithtown Central School District Superintendent Mark Secaur wrote in a letter.

Jordan Cox, superintendent of the Commack School District, wrote in a letter to families, “Once the responsible individual is found, I am committed to pursuing legal action to the fullest extent,” adding, “Given the current conflict in the Middle East and the many families in our community who are hurting, it is a travesty that something like this occurred.”

Cox plans to take students to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., and invited Holocaust survivors to speak to the students. Survivor Renée Silver, 92, told News 12 that she hopes “giving a little background” will help teach the students the harm of their actions.

“It’s such a cruel way of being made to feel better or superior,” Silver said.

In Port Jefferson high school, a swastika was found on a desk alongside the Star of David and the word “fight.” The Star of David can be a source of pride for many Jewish people or as a connection to their shared culture and past. It can also be seen as a symbol of support for Israel.

Police reports were filed for each of the incidents at the three high schools, and the county Hate Crimes Unit is involved.

Antisemitism and racist language are spreading at both high schools and middle schools across Long Island. Three swastikas were found in a bathroom at South Woods Middle School in Syosset. A swastika and antisemitic language was written on a whiteboard at the Harry B. Thompson Middle School, also in Syosset. A student was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor. 

These incidents occur alongside the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, which began on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked the Israeli towns neighboring Gaza. Over 11,000 Palestinians and about 1,200 Israelis have died, according to reports.

Antisemitism in Long Island schools mirrors a broader national trend. Since Oct. 7, incendiary language regarding the conflict has increased on social media. 

In addition, antisemitism and other hate crimes across the United States, including college campuses, have left students feeling scared and unsafe. The Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism recorded nearly a 400% increase in antisemitic incidents for the same Oct. 7-23 period from last year.

President Joe Biden (D) has addressed the uptick in antisemitism in the U.S., particularly on college campuses. “We can’t stand by and stand silent when this happens,” he said. “We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism. We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine condemns the Clean Slate Act, which Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law last week. Photo by Raymond Janis

A new state law has public officials from Suffolk County up in arms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signed the Clean Slate Act on Thursday, Nov. 16, which allows certain criminal records to be sealed years after an individual is sentenced or released from incarceration. The law automatically seals certain criminal records after a required waiting period — three years after conviction or release from jail for a misdemeanor and eight years after conviction or release from prison for a felony — if the criminal has maintained a clean record, is no longer on probation or parole and has no other pending charges.

The legislation still provides access to sealed records “for certain necessary and relevant purposes,” such as law enforcement, licensing or employment for industries requiring a background check, employment in jobs interacting with children, the elderly or other vulnerable groups and application for a gun, commercial driver’s license and public housing.

The state Assembly passed the bill in June 83-64, with the Senate also upvoting the measure 38-25. In a signing ceremony, Hochul referred to the bill as a means for creating jobs and deterring recidivism among convicted felons.

“My number one job as the New York State governor is to keep people safe,” she said. “And I believe that the best anti-crime tool we have is a job.”

She added, “When people have steady work, they’re less likely to commit crimes and less likely to be homeless.”

New York becomes the 12th state to enact Clean State legislation, according to the governor’s website.

Homegrown opposition

State and local officials joined first responders and crime advocates outside the Suffolk County Police Benevolent Association headquarters in Brentwood on Friday morning, Nov. 17, blasting the measure as out of touch with the needs of residents.

Suffolk County Executive-elect Ed Romaine (R) acknowledged that there are cases in which records should be sealed but suggested these matters should be considered on a case-by-case basis and determined through the court system instead of the legislative process.

“I think it should be up to the judges,” he said. “I don’t think [sealing criminal records] should be automatic. I think this bill is not the right thing to do, and I think it does weaken the criminal justice system.”

New York State Sen. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) reiterated Romaine’s sentiments: “A clean slate, carte blanche for everyone — that’s just plain dangerous.”

State Assemblyman Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said that while he believes in second chances for convicted criminals, the bill exempts only a “small list” of criminal offenders.

“It doesn’t take into account nearly all the types of egregious crimes that impact so many victims, their families and our entire community,” he said. “Manslaughter, armed robbery, terrorism offenses, hate crimes … these are cases where there’s been due process, where there’s been convictions and sentencing.”

The state assemblyman added, “In these kinds of very troubling times, employers, employees, victims, families, neighbors and community members … all have the right to know.”

State Assemblyman Ed Flood (R-Port Jefferson) said the bill would exacerbate the conditions of the opioid epidemic, expunging the criminal records of drug dealers who continue trafficking opioids throughout the county. He said financial criminals, such as Ponzi schemers and elder scammers, receive similar protections under the new law.

“People are entitled to a second chance, but it shouldn’t be us legislators doing this,” he said. “It should be through the judicial system.”

To learn more about the Clean Slate Act, please visit assembly.state.ny.us/cleanslate.

We start with an adrenaline-packed adventure at Cedar Beach in Mount Sinai. Discover the excitement of a fearless group braving the frigid waters for a valuable cause.

Then, catch the heat as tensions rise between the Brookhaven Town Board and the municipality’s cable service provider. We’ve got the latest on the town’s television showdown.

Later, take a trip through history with our sportswriter, Bill Landon, as he reflects on the JFK assassination’s foggy memories, marking its 60th anniversary this week.

And as Thanksgiving approaches, join us in a call to action. We’re rallying our readers and listeners to support local mom and pops on National Small Business Saturday.

Tune in to The Pressroom Afterhour: Keeping it Local with TBR for a special Thanksgiving edition.

Visit tbrnewsmedia.com to read these stories and more. Follow us on:

Participants can create a Nautical Trinket Dish on Thursday, January 11. Photo courtesy of The Whaling Museum

The Whaling Museum & Education Center in Cold Spring Harbor will present Crafts & Cocktails, an exciting new adult series beginning this December and continuing monthly on Thursday evenings. 

The Whaling Museum invites adults to get creative and learn new skills while enjoying thoughtfully selected cocktails to enhance each monthly program. This new series will incorporate crafts for adults that celebrate history, science, and the sea. Each month, the museum education team chooses a craft that highlights a link to the museum, either from a historical or scientific angle. Cocktails are selected to further immerse participants in the theme of the evening. 

“Just as we find ourselves drawn to the sea today, artists and artisans throughout human history have found inspiration in the watery parts of the world.  Through educator-led instruction and artifact exploration, participants will have the opportunity to explore the fascinating origins of sea-inspired crafts, while engaging their creativity and learning new skills. Our carefully curated accompanying cocktails will further bring the past to life as we celebrate Long Island’s maritime heritage,” said Brenna McCormick-Thompson, Curator of Education at The Whaling Museum.

Felted Whale ornament

The debut session stars an adorable, felted whale ornament and mulled wine to get in the spirit. It will take place on December 7, 2023. Participants work with wool and a needle to craft a whale ornament with fins, eyes, a tail, and a loop for hanging. Mulled wine will be served. The full program description is as follows: 

Felted Whale Ornaments and Mulled Wine: Join the staff for this festive felting workshop as we explore the history of wool crafting!  Discover how whalers carved knitting needles and sewing tools out of whalebone for their wives and loved ones and see examples from our collection.  Design and create a needle-felted whale ornament to take home. Sip a festive mulled wine cocktail as you work and learn about the origins of this traditional drink.

Nautical Trinket Dish

The January session will take place on January 11, 2024. Participants will decoupage shells with a sample of patterns to choose from and use paints to decorate it as a fanciful trinket dish. Sample dishes will be shared for design ideas. Champagne will be served as the cocktail for the evening. The full program description is as follows:

Nautical Trinket Dish: This January the museum will be celebrating one of life’s most iconic duos — oysters and champagne! Explore the fundamental role oysters have played in the history of New York and discover current efforts to bring these bivalves back to Long Island Sound. Then, dive into the surprising history of champagne and enjoy a glass of bubbly while designing a unique seashell trinket tray.

Watercolor Wonders

The February session takes place on February 8 2023. Participants will receive watercolor paper and paint with instructions for different watercolor techniques to use in their design. The cocktail will be a “layered” vodka drink. The full program description is as follows:

Watercolor Wonders: Explore the science of water through the world’s oldest kind of painting — watercolor!  Discover how both sailors and painters learned to exploit the unique properties of water for their own purposes.  Harness the power of physics to engineer a colorful layered cocktail to enjoy while you experiment with a variety of fundamental watercolor techniques. Create a nautical watercolor painting to take home.

The final session in the museum’s winter series will take place on March 7, 2024. Participants decorate a planter with sea shells and plant a succulent to take home. Rum will be served as the cocktail of the evening in honor of the sailors that used to drink grog while out at sea. The full program description is as follows: 

Seashell Succulent Planter

Seashell Succulent Planter: Whales, dolphins, starfish….not the sea creatures, but the PLANTS! Join us to explore the incredible world of succulents.  For sailors out at sea, every drop of water was precious, but these hardy plants thrive in dry conditions – in fact, too much water often leads to their demise!  Learn about the health benefits and easy care for these houseplants and decorate a terracotta pot with seashells to plant your very own sea creature succulent cutting.  Unlike those sailors, we won’t leave you high and dry!  Sip a rum cocktail while you work in homage to the grog sailors used to drink.

“Adults will appreciate the dedicated attention to detail museum educators have made when crafting each session to encapsulate educational themes with adult enjoyment. Each evening is a perfect opportunity for friends, partners or family members to gather and spend time in a relaxed and unique environment. They’ll go home with something to remember the evening by in addition to a new skill,” added Gina Van Bell, Assistant Director at The Whaling Museum.

The Whaling Museum is located at 301 Main Street in Cold Spring Harbor. Each Craft & Cocktails session is approximately 1.5 hours long at begins at 6:30 p.m. Admission is $30 per participant and $20 for Museum Members.  Registration is online at cshwhalingmuseum.org/craftsandcocktails. For further information, call 631-367-3418.

Photo from Vanderbilt Museum

Join the Suffolk County Vanderbilt Museum, 180 Little Neck Road, Centerport for their annual tree lighting on Saturday, Nov. 25 at 6:30 p.m. This year the tree will be placed near the main entrance on the lawn in front of the ancient columns that overlook Northport Bay. Complimentary sweet treats, hot cocoa and mulled cider will be served and there will be a special visit from Santa and other surprises!

This year’s tree was donated by Lois Luhrs of St. James. “It was about three feet high when we planted it in 1993,” she said, “and it grew a couple feet each year.” When Vanderbilt staff members cut it down, the tree was 60 feet high. It was trimmed to 30 feet for installation on the estate grounds.

Elizabeth Wayland-Morgan, Executive Director of the Vanderbilt, said, “We’re very grateful to Lois Luhrs for donating this magnificent tree for the museum’s holiday festivities. It will add a bit of magic to the estate.”

Special thanks to Teachers Federal Credit Union for their contribution toward the event.

The Vanderbilt is collaborating with Long Island Cares on its annual Holiday Food Drive. The Museum will have a Long Island Cares collection bin stationed near the tree for anyone who wants to donate. After this event, the bin will be in the lobby of the Reichert Planetarium through Sunday, December 3

In addition, the Vanderbilt is collaborating with BAE Systems, which funds some Vanderbilt Museum programs, on its annual Holiday Toy Drive for the Family Service League. Visitors may donate new, unwrapped toys in a collection bin in the Reichert Planetarium lobby through December 10.

Admission to the tree lighting is free. Capacity is limited to 400. Registration is required by visiting www.vanderbiltmuseum.org or click here.

Cold Spring Harbor Central School District inducts 63 student-artists, the largest number in the district’s history, into the National Art Honor Society. Photo courtesy CSHCSD

This year, the Cold Spring Harbor Central School District’s annual National Art Honor Society induction ceremony was especially significant. Sixty-three exceptionally talented student-artists represented the district’s largest number of students achieving this honor. 

The annual National Art Honor Society induction ceremony was held on Nov. 1 in the Cold Spring Harbor Jr./Sr. High School Performing Arts Center. The stage was adorned with student artwork and the NAHS executive board performed the candle lighting ceremony for the inductees. Art Department Chair, Christine Oswald, along with co-adviser, Laura Cirino and fellow art teachers welcomed family members on behalf of the district’s Art Department. 

“I am always impressed by the extraordinary talent demonstrated by these young artists,” Superintendent of Schools Jill Gierasch said. “To have the largest number of students inducted into the National Art Honor Society in our district’s history is truly a remarkable achievement.”

To add to the festivities, a special videotaped message was played for the students from 2013 CSH alumna Hannah Fagin, who is now an artist and educator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. Families in attendance were also captivated to view a video of world-renowned artist Domingo Zapata, who taught and painted alongside AP art students in September. Zapata is only one of seven living artists featured in the Louvre and in 2019 completed a 30,000-square-foot mural in Time Square, making it the second largest mural ever painted in the world.

Each inductee signed the NAHS book and recited the official pledge: “I will in my life, to the best of my ability through my talents in art, help to create a more beautiful world for myself, for humankind and for all living things,” as they officially became members.

President John F. Kennedy's motorcade in Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Photo by Victor Hugo King/Public domain
By Bill Landon

On Nov. 22, 1963, I was a 7-year-old who had convinced my mother that I didn’t feel well enough to go to school that day. It was the Friday before Thanksgiving.

Not long after lunch, the TV began interrupting the regularly scheduled programs with news of a shooting in Dallas. No matter what channel I turned to — there were only 12 back then — it was the same. President John F. Kennedy (D) had been shot.

Later in the afternoon, my mother was talking with many people on the phone. As a 7-year-old, I didn’t understand what was happening other than my mother growing more hysterical as the day wore on. I faintly remember my older sister coming home from school early, but I still didn’t understand what was happening.

There was a palpable fog that hung over us that would just get worse two days later when we watched Dallas nightclub owner Jack Ruby shoot and kill Lee Harvey Oswald, the alleged assassin, on live television.

I don’t remember anything about our traditional Thanksgiving dinner that year, but I remember the fog lasting for weeks.

Bill Landon is a sportswriter and photographer for TBR News Media.

Three Harborfields High School students Jackson Ferrara (trombone, HS Instrumental Jazz), Peter Hoss (tenor saxophone, HS Instrumental Jazz) and Hartley Semmes (trumpet, HS Instrumental Jazz) are selected for SCMEA All-County Jazz ensembles. Photo courtesy HCSD

Three Harborfields High School students have been selected for SCMEA All-County Jazz ensembles: Jackson Ferrara (trombone, HS Instrumental Jazz), Peter Hoss (tenor saxophone, HS Instrumental Jazz) and Hartley Semmes (trumpet, HS Instrumental Jazz).

An extremely select band, the SCMEA All-County HS Instrumental Jazz group requires an audition for acceptance. Fewer than 20 students in grades 10-12 from across Suffolk are chosen to participate. 

“These young musicians are extremely dedicated to their pursuit of excellence in this area,” Harborfields High School Jazz Band director Dan Bilawsky said. “Their selection is a well-deserved reward for their high-level commitment and hard work.”

Voting booths at Rocky Point High School. File photo by Kyle Barr

By Carolyn Sackstein

I am a consumer of news.

In addition to writing for TBR News Media, I read, watch and listen to various news formats. The troubling reports of harassment and intimidation of poll workers across this country have both saddened and angered me.

I have long believed that citizens must actively engage in the democratic process. I get a thrill each time I vote. And so, it became incumbent upon me to do more than just vote and donate to organizations that promote the election process.

My journey to do more started in September when I participated in a League of Women Voters of Suffolk County event in Patchogue. After learning that there was a shortage of election workers, I was determined to do my part.

After the event, during which I handed out voter registration forms and voter information literature, I drove to the Suffolk County Board of Elections at 700 Yaphank Ave. in Yaphank. I was greeted by a friendly and professional staff, who assisted me in signing up for a position as an election inspector.

They verified that I met the requirements. The staff asked which of the yearly training dates I would prefer to attend. I was then informed that I would receive a letter confirming the date, place and time of my training.

Training occurred at Brookhaven Town Hall and was conducted by a SCBOE employee. Each trainee received a detailed booklet. The three-hour class covered matters of election law. The procedures for opening and closing the election site were quite detailed.

Yes, there was a test at the end of the class. Each prospective election inspector was required to pass the test before being certified and sworn in with an oath of office. Election inspectors are compensated for required training sessions and when they work on early-voting days and on Election Day at an assigned polling site. Before leaving, we were told to expect a letter in October that would inform us to report to our assigned site at 5 a.m. on Election Day.

On Tuesday, Nov. 7, I walked into my assigned polling site at 4:57 a.m. It was only five minutes from my house. An experienced co-worker greeted me. As the three other workers arrived, we began the setup process. We were fortunate in that our location served only one election district. Other sites may have multiple election districts. 

Our first voter arrived seconds after 6 a.m. The remainder of the day passed as a continuous stream of voters moved through the signature verification process and received their ballots. Our experienced coordinator helped those who needed assistance with a variety of issues.

Four people did not show up to work. As a result of being short-handed, we did not have any “breaks.” We watched for a lull in the line so we could go to the restroom. Rarely was the line backed up, and never by more than about seven people.

Next year, the demand for poll workers will be greater due to an expected larger turnout.

The main complaint was from people who did not recall getting instructions on their polling location and arrived at the wrong place. We verified their polling site and, if needed, provided directions. 

The voting public was courteous, and many thanked us for our efforts. One voter overheard our coordinator mention to a co-worker that he had not eaten all day. The voter returned with a dozen donuts to be shared. His appreciation and kindness made the long day worthwhile.

Polls closed at 9 p.m. We packed up and secured all equipment and ballots. Our day ended at 11 p.m.

As a first-timer, I had been a bit anxious. I was blessed with patient, helpful and supportive co-workers. My primary takeaway? Becoming an election inspector was worthwhile, fulfilling and deeply satisfying. I felt safe.

I encourage everyone who qualifies to become an election inspector. It is a singularly edifying and enriching experience. To lend a helping hand for the betterment of our democracy, please visit www.elections.ny.gov/becomepollworker.html.

The writer is a reporter for TBR News Media.