A New Jersey high school student discovered recently that some of her classmates were playing a social media drinking “game” called “Jews vs. Nazis.” It featured images of students pouring beer into plastic cups arranged in the shapes of a swastika and the Star of David at the ends of a Ping-Pong table. Beer cans formed a wall in the middle.
Jamaica Ponder, a 17-year-old African-American junior at Princeton High School, was horrified by what she saw. “I didn’t understand how people who go to my school, which I consider to be open and accepting, could engage in such heinous activity. I knew these kids. We go to the same parties; we’re in the same leadership groups. I was appalled.”
Ponder was so outraged that she publicized an expose of the game, denouncing it as “racist” and “insane.” The subsequent uproar engulfed her circle of friends, their parents, her school and its administrators, and was quickly picked up by the news media, where she attained instant celebrity amid the controversy.
While the anti-Semitic game and its players were widely condemned, Ponder’s decision to post photos of the participants was not universally approved. The school and police are investigating, and the outcome could seriously damage the academic prospects of the students involved.
The students at Princeton High are said to be split. Many are angry at her for shaming their friends. That’s understandable. And whether she realized it at the time or not, it’s one of the risks inherent in taking a moral stand. If they were her friends before this, they aren’t any more.
The critics may also have a point, though — that Ponder could have blurred their faces or gone quietly to school authorities rather than publicizing the incident as she did.
But Ponder is an unrepentant whistleblower. She doesn’t think the participants deserve gentle treatment.
“Putting the picture on social media means that someone was proud enough of the game to want to show it off,” she wrote. “Meaning that they must be trapped in the delusional mindset that making a drinking game based off of the Holocaust is cool. Or funny. Or anything besides insane. Because that’s what this is: insanity.”
Her straightforward denunciation of this despicable behavior is praiseworthy. Confronted by such heinous activity, she could not tolerate it in her own school, in her own social circle. She countenanced no excuses, no rationalizations.
We leave it to the proper authorities to determine how to discipline the students who participated in the game.
What is particularly concerning is the actions of some of the Jewish students at the school. According to Ponder, some of the young people at the game were Jewish, though they only helped set up and were not themselves players.
How any Jewish person of high school age could willingly have anything to do with such an activity, which so trivializes the unspeakable suffering of our people in the Holocaust, is beyond comprehension.
How is it possible that all the books and documentaries, museums and school curricula on the Holocaust have not made an impression on them? How could they remain so insensitive? Where is their Jewish identity? Where is their humanity?
In her comments, Ponder declared: “I’m not even Jewish and I’m still offended.”
They must ask themselves the question:
How come they are Jewish and they are still not offended?
We can only hope that the strong condemnations of the game will cause them to rethink their participation even as accessories, and in general about what it means to be a Jew.