Tags Posts tagged with "Anti-Semitism"


'The Hangman and his Wife'

By Leah S. Dunaief

Leah Dunaief

Driving along a residential street in what seemed from doorbell videos to be a white Prius, a man tossed a plastic bag on each lawn as he moved along. It might have been a newspaper delivery, but it wasn’t. It was a package of hateful flyers whose words were directed against Jews. The bags contained rice or pebbles to weigh them down and keep them from blowing away in the wind.

Police have been investigating the hate messages delivered to homes in Rockville Centre, Oceanside and Long Beach in Nassau County and have blamed an anti-Jewish group for the activity, which has also occurred in other cities in the country. Whether these groups are aligned through the internet has yet to be determined. But we do know that the internet has carried hateful messages throughout the world, a far cry from the original idea that digital connectivity could be only a positive platform for revealing despots’ brutality in far corners of the globe.

We now know the internet can be a powerful tool to radicalize otherwise ordinary people who might be susceptible to the hateful messages. But how do ordinary people become radicalized?

A book was just published that attempts to deal historically with that subject by focusing on Reinhard Heydrich, who became the head of the SD (the intelligence service) and the Gestapo as well as an architect of the Final Solution for the Third Reich. “The Hangman and His Wife,” by Nancy Dougherty, tells of a man without ideological roots, who was not a fervent believer and only joined the Nazi Party in 1931, two years after his future wife, Lina. Yet he began what the senior New York Times book reviewer, Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, who wrote the forward to the book, described this way.

“One searches in vain for a rational explanation of Heydrich’s descent into evil. No single biological fragment satisfies.”

According to the book’s author, Heydrich evolved from a musically gifted, intelligent and lonely little boy into a monstrous, hyper-rational technocrat with a photographic memory and unmatched organizational abilities. How he was perceived may have been a starting point. He had “striking Aryan looks,” and for Heinrich Himmler, who first interviewed him, and who “was weak-chinned and squinted from behind thick glasses … a physically unimposing” figure, Heydrich fit the Nazi ideal. “For all their focus on Nordic physical perfection, the Nazi leaders were a bunch of misfits … Goering was fat and jowly; Goebbels was clubfooted.” Hitler himself did not match the paragon. Here was this tall, blond candidate for head of the SS, who would be a poster child of Aryan perfection in his new uniform. He must have loved that.

Further, a close relative had a Semitic-sounding last name, and “he was shadowed by rumors that there was Jewish blood in his family and mocked during his nine years in the navy; one former roommate attested that ‘everyone more or less took Heinrich for a Jew,’” according to author Dougherty.

And this from another bunkmate: “there is no doubt that ambition was his characteristic peculiarity … On all occasions, he wanted to be outstanding — in the service, in front of his superiors, with the comrades, in sportsmanship and in bars.” Put that together with “his Luciferian coldness, amorality and insatiable greed for power,” according to Dougherty, and he became head of the Gestapo until he died in his Mercedes convertible from an assassin’s grenade on May 27, 1942. He received a full-dress state funeral from Hitler.

So do those personal qualities plus opportunity explain the emergence of a hate monger? Could any of these bag-tossers today become deeply evil and potentially homicidal? Or are they merely practicing freedom of speech? Do they just wish to stand out and be seen? Is capacity for malignant behavior what Freud called the “death instinct?” Or, as the book reviewer, Daphne Merkin, suggests, is there an inherent perverse glamour in evil?

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing several expletives (which have been removed from the photo), a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name. Photo from Robin Siefert

Not long after Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert spoke to the school board about an anti-Semitic note left on her 9-year-old daughter’s desk March 23 at Joseph A. Edgar Intermediate School, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) picked up the phone.

Zeldin, one of two Jewish Republicans in Congress, has 10-year-old twin daughters and reached out to Siefert as soon as he got wind of her situation, saying, “It hit very close to home.”

Rocky Point mother Robin Siefert is upset nothing was done after her 9-year-old daughter found a note on her desk containing hate speech. Photo by Kevin Redding

“I wanted to see if there was anything I could do to assist,” Zeldin, a regular at the school’s annual Veterans Day assembly, said after his call with Siefert. “I could tell I was talking to a very loving mother passionately advocating for her daughter, and trying to be strong through a challenge that negatively impacted a young, innocent child.”

He said he felt it was important the issue be combated aggressively at its source, saying someone who draws a swastika may be inclined to do it again, or more, in the future.

“There can’t really be a tolerance for it, or it’s only going to grow,” he said.

Siefert, who will be meeting with the board again in executive session May 16, said of Zeldin’s call, “It was just very nice to know my congressman cared about the situation … I have a lot of gratitude. I still can’t believe this happened to my child, but [she’s] starting to get a little better.”

The note in question, written by a classmate of Siefert’s daughter, included three obscenities, a swastika and Adolf Hitler’s name.

Siefert argued during a board meeting April 19 that not enough was done at the administrative level to comfort her daughter, inform the parents of the incident or find the student responsible for the note.

According to Rocky Point school district superintendent, Michael Ring, a thorough investigation has been conducted since the March 23 incident occurred, and there’s been transparency between school and parents.

“The police were contacted by the district regarding the matter and information provided thereon,” Ring wrote in an email. “Parents of all students in the class were contacted by the teacher at the time of the incident. Counselors have gone into the classroom to speak about tolerance, acceptance and respect. None of this was done in response to Mrs. Siefert speaking at the [board of education] meeting. All of this was put into place after and as a result of the incident, which the school and district took very seriously.”

Conversely, Siefert said, “This is all because I went in front of the board and said what I said. All these things happened after I spoke.”

Ring noted the school has continued to employ all its existing and ongoing character education and anti-bullying initiatives, including Six Pillars of Character and Social Skills/Friendship Groups and Caring Connections.

He said as recent as May 9, officers in the Suffolk County Police Department conducted an anti-bullying presentation to all grades at Joseph A. Edgar.

U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin reached out to a Rocky Point mom over an anti-Semitic note her daughter received. File photo

“I’m glad they’re being proactive now,” said Siefert, who claims she, not the school, was the one who filed a police report after the incident. “But I’d be much happier if the kid who did this to my daughter was put in counseling and punished appropriately.”

Zeldin agreed. According to his staff, the district’s efforts to find the student responsible were outlined, but ultimately the district, as well as police, believe “there is not enough evidence to take action.”

It will, however, “continue to follow proper protocol and work with the family on this case.”

“In alignment with our anti-harassment and code of conduct policies, proven instances of bullying are treated extremely seriously and age-appropriate discipline is put in place in response to such incidents,” Ring wrote. “This is a continuing investigation.”

On April 24, Linda Towlen, principal at Joseph A. Edgar, sent a letter to parents of students in a fifth-grade class informing them of an April 21 incident where small swastikas were found on a bathroom sign-out sheet.

According to the letter, “a thorough investigation has been undertaken to determine the source of these unacceptable symbols” and “as is our protocol … the Suffolk County Police were notified and a report filed.”

After this most recent incident, the school implemented the Second Step program in the classroom that deals with bullying and teasing.

The Commack School District is investigating reports of students from its high school spotted wearing offensive T-shirts once again, administrators said.

The district said on its website that pictures surfaced on social media from an off-campus house party during spring break last week showing students sporting anti-Semitic T-shirts. It was the second incident of its sort over the last several months, adding onto a September occurrence when students posed for photos wearing T-shirts that spelled the word “rape.”

“Our attorneys have advised us that given the fact that this incident took place off campus, during a recess, and during an event that was not school-sponsored, the school is limited in its ability to address this matter,” the district said on its website. “However, the district is taking all necessary steps to investigate and will impose discipline related to this where legally permissible.”

The names of the students were not disclosed, as the district is not legally permitted to do so.

Back in September, the district disciplined five high school students after pictures of them wearing inappropriate T-shirts surfaced on social media. A statement on the district’s website at the time outlined the incident, which occurred during the last period of classes on Thursday, Sept. 18, when all Commack High School seniors assembled on the bleachers of the varsity field to take the annual senior photo. Soon after that photo was taken, another picture was posted on Twitter of five smiling male students in T-shirts spelling out “rape,” with a sixth pretending to be bound by the wrists.

Moving ahead, the district said it would continue to provide programs to reinforce student sensitivity of others.

“The district would like to state that the actions of these students are not representative of the student body at Commack High School, and is committed to the district’s mission statement to foster a caring community of learners. We do not condone or permit any form of discrimination, bullying, or hateful messaging,” the statement said. “The district will also make counseling available to any student involved in or affected by this incident. The welfare of our students is always our paramount concern.”