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Yearbook at NJ High School Sparks Debate by Replacing Jewish Group Photo with Muslim Students

Mayor Calls Incident a Blatant Act of Antisemitism Amid Rising Tensions

A controversy has erupted in East Brunswick, New Jersey, where the local high school’s yearbook replaced the Jewish Student Union's photo with one of Muslim students and removed the names of Jewish students, leaving a significant blank space on the page. East Brunswick Mayor Brad Cohen condemned the incident as a “blatant antisemitic act.”

The 2023-2024 yearbook for East Brunswick High School featured a photo swap and name removal that has outraged the community. Mayor Cohen expressed his dismay and confirmed that new yearbooks would be ordered to correct the mistake.

“At a minimum, I have … been assured that new yearbooks will be ordered and distributed with the correct pictures and names,” Cohen stated in a Facebook post. “Hate has no place in East Brunswick and antisemitism will not be tolerated.”

An investigation into the incident has been announced, aiming to uncover how this error occurred, who is responsible, and whether it qualifies as a hate crime. Mayor Cohen posed several key questions regarding the incident:

  • How did this happen?

  • What person or persons are responsible?

  • Who are the yearbook advisers and who signed off on this page?

  • Did this act occur at the publisher's end?

  • How will perpetrators be held accountable?

  • Does this constitute a hate crime and how will this be prosecuted?

Dr. Victor Valeski, superintendent of the East Brunswick Public School System, also addressed the issue, acknowledging the error and pledging to work with the publisher to correct it. He apologized for the “disappointment it has caused” and committed to resolving the situation.

In a community update, Valeski apologized for “the hurt, pain, and anguish this event has caused our Jewish students, their families, and the impact this continues to have on the entire (East Brunswick) community.” He emphasized the school's intolerance for bias and the seriousness with which all reports of antisemitism are investigated.

This incident occurs against a backdrop of rising antisemitism in both K-12 and higher education, exacerbated by the recent Israel-Hamas conflict. Since the attack by Hamas on October 7, which resulted in over 1,200 deaths and more than 250 hostages taken, antisemitic incidents in the US have surged dramatically. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reports a 135% increase in antisemitic incidents at K-12 schools and a 321% increase on university campuses in the past year.

Overall, 2023 saw a catastrophic rise in antisemitic incidents across the US, with a 140% increase. Schools have become significant hubs of this alarming trend. Last month, the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) launched an investigation into the Berkeley Unified School District in California following complaints of “severe and persistent” antisemitism since October 7. A similar investigation was opened into the Oakland Unified School District after it hosted a controversial “teach-in” on Israel and the Middle Eastern conflict, promoting biased resources and the BDS movement against Israel.

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