By Stacey Dresner
Westport – After Antisemitic chants marred a boy’s lacrosse game last week between Staples High School and Fairfield College Preparatory School.
During the May 30 game at Staples, the public high school in Westport, and Fairfield Prep, an all-boys Jesuit preparatory school on the campus of Fairfield University, members of a Fairfield Prep fan group called the Bomb Squad, allegedly shouted antisemitic chants at Staples players, one-third of whom are Jewish.
Those in attendance at the game heard the fans yell “Happy Chanukah” and sing “The Dreidel Song,” when Jewish players on the Staples team scored.
“The game starts with a face-off, a jump ball on the ground, and while they are standing there waiting, you can hear from their section, ‘We have Christmas, we have Christmas.’ It’s on the tape of our game,” said Staples lacrosse coach Paul McNulty.
The Fairfield Prep fan group also held up a sign with a rendering of male genitalia, that was at one point taken away by a Fairfield Prep faculty member.
Last Friday, Robert A. Perrotta, principal of Fairfield Prep, sent home a letter to parents about the incident.
In the letter, Perotta encouraged parents to “reinforce the importance of cheering FOR the members of our teams in a manner that reflects the values taught at school and at home as opposed to cheering AGAINST our opponents.”
“There is simply no place for cheers that signal out a member of the opposing team for ridicule or boorish cheers that serve to demean the dignity of our opponents or their religious beliefs,” Perotta added. “Such behavior is clearly antithetical to our mission statement that espouses to uphold the dignity of each individual, embraces diversity, and instills a sense of social justice as a transformational means of addressing the social inequities in society.”
The letter and its description of the behavior at the lacrosse game, however, did little to mollify Staples Coach McNulty.
“It was not boorish behavior. It was antisemitism,” the coach said.
Rev. Tom Simisky, S.J., president of Fairfield Prep apparently agreed and used part of his graduation speech on Sunday, June 3, to address this “important and painful” topic.
“I will not attempt to infer motives of those involved, whether these actions were intended to be hateful, ignorant, or otherwise. The results are the same – hurtful, divisive, and insidiously harmful to all that is good in the world,” Simisky told students, faculty, and family members gathered for the ceremony.
“As the president of Fairfield Prep, I take responsibility for our collective failure. We as administrators did not provide adequate supervision at a sporting event. But this goes beyond prefecting. In the end, we failed to live out the values we profess. That such behavior could even seem like a good idea to some and that no one would intervene indicates a larger cultural issue that we must confront,” he added.
Simisky also made clear his intention to reach out to local rabbis and the Anti-Defamation League to “One, to apologize on behalf of the Fairfield Prep community; two, to seek reconciliation; and, three, to ask for their guidance and suggestions on how we might learn from this and eradicate the roots of intolerance and hate.”
He added that Fairfield Prep would continue to investigate the incident and “apply appropriate disciplinary measures” and that theology teachers would address the incident and antisemitism over the last two days of classes before exams.
As the Ledger went to press, a meeting between Fairfield Prep representatives and the Connecticut office of ADL was scheduled to take place on Tuesday, June 5.
CAP: The Fairfield Prep Boys Lacrosse Team.