A public high school in New York has fired its varsity girls' basketball coach after players on its team uttered antisemitic slurs during a game against a Jewish day school.
As reported by New York Jewish Week, a student has also been dismissed from the team at Roosevelt High School in Yonkers following the incident during a game Thursday against the Leffell School, a Jewish school in nearby Hartsdale. The game was stopped in the third quarter, with Leffelll players escorted off the court by security personnel. Roosevelt forfeited the game.
According to Jackie Hajdenberg's report for NY Jewish Week, 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 antisemitic displays during athletic events, Hajdenberg reported.
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 Leffell injuries. She added that they shouted “Free Palestine” and hurled antisemitic slurs at the Leffell players.
According to Jewish News Syndicate, citing the New York City Public Schools Alliance, a Roosevelt player told a Leffell player, “I support Hamas, you f**king 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 in the student newspaper, as reported by NY Jewish Week. “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.
“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 Saturday on social media, 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.”
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, as reported by NY Jewish Week. “Importantly, I would also like to commend the response of my colleagues in the administration of the other school involved.”