Letters to the Editor: Condemn the actions, but do not condemn the teens who appeared with Nazi imagery

The Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council condemns the alleged actions of the students believed to have been from Newport Harbor and Costa Mesa high schools, but we do not condemn the students. As our news feeds filled with images of the party — the red cups arranged in the sign of hate, the swastika, the kids hands’ raised in salute — our mouths gaped and our hearts sank.

The teens may not have fully understood what act of hate they were allegedly participating in, but it does not lessen the severity of the act or the shock, pain and disappointment of those who have witnessed their photos. It is a mandate to respond with education to foster understanding within our community so that these callous acts do not turn into acts of crime.

As the Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council we believe that we must be bridges of understanding to invoke peace and justice in our community so that all members of our community feel safe and affirmed. Now, more than ever, we must call out acts of hate; we must silence Anti-Semitism and religious intolerance wherever it rears its ugly head.

It is our prayer that the students present understand the repercussions of their actions but also recognize that in naming their culpability there is forgiveness. The teens are not condemned to be the face of hate.

Instead they can join in interfaith dialogue to deeper understand this history of anti-Semitism, the scars of the Holocaust, and the deep pain inflicted by Hitler and the symbol of the swastika. We believe in God’s mercy and the hope of new beginnings, but it can only happen with reflection, understanding and a willingness to connect beyond oneself.

Further, we want to ensure that their fellow students feel safe and affirmed for who they are as people of faith or no faith. No one should feel attacked because of their religion. We commit to providing educational opportunities to lead in interfaith dialogue here in our community and invite the Newport-Mesa Unified School District to offer opportunities for religious dialogue in response to this incident and to prevent other hateful acts from occurring.

The Rev. Dr. Sarah Halverson-Cano

On behalf of the e Newport-Mesa-Irvine Interfaith Council

Costa Mesa

Social media allows hate to spread

As a former trainer for the Anti-Defamation League’s World of Difference program, I recall a memorable tenet : Bigotry, anti-Semitism and xenophobia in all its forms is not so much taught as caught. Given the viral nature of social media, the contagion of hatred is rampant. Our task is to provide an antidote to this deadly disease. Education, awareness and truthful exchanges between and among people can fortify us against this social sickness.

Ben Miles

Huntington Beach

Make this a teaching moment

It is not that we have bad kids, most are great kids. I even know one of them seen in the photos. The problem is many are ignorant; that is our fault. I grew up learning about the Holocaust and was told by my elders every Passover about how our family members from Russia and Poland were murdered by the Nazis. I remember having nightmares about the Holocaust as a little boy.

These days, we read about Holocaust deniers who try to rewrite history, saying it never happened, or say it was a creation of Hollywood. If history is not to be repeated, the greatest weapon we have is education.

I request our school district set a date aside in the next few weeks where every student in grades 7-12 is required to watch “Schindler’s List.” After the movie, get some speakers to answer questions. The number of remaining survivors is diminishing each year, so try to invite a few to give their perspective.

I also want instilled into the curriculum an ongoing education about the Holocaust. The Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles has sobering exhibits and amazing speakers who lived the Holocaust. Set up field trips. Chapman University in Orange has the Rogers Center for Holocaust Education, which hosts an annual writing contest for middle and high school students. They also conduct various events throughout the year. They are an incredible resource for the district.

Whether we like it or not, we discovered we have a serious problem. Given how the world is today, you can bank on the fact it won’t go away on its own. Time to get busy.

Barry Friedland

Costa Mesa

Remember Anne Frank in times like this

A swastika and Nazi salute are viewed by most people as pure evil. It was this very evil that killed young Anne Frank during World War II.

Denny Freidenrich

Laguna Beach

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