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Solidarity Rally With OC Jews Planned Today in Response to Swastika Party

Swig Heil. Illustration by Michael Ziobrowski

Newport Mesa Unified School District students and community organizations are coming together this afternoon in a display of unity following a party last weekend where youth posed for pictures doing a Hitler salute over a beer pong swastika [1]. The hour-long rally starting at 4 p.m. is going to be held at Tewinkle Park in Costa Mesa, the same city where the now-infamous party happened on Saturday.

Rally goers are being asked to wear blue in a show of solidarity. Newport Harbor High School students did the same on Monday after the Associated Student Body put out a call on Instagram for the first school day after the controversy.

“It was appalling and heartbreaking to see how comfortable my peers were in participating in acts of hate,” says Bella Brannon, an OC Jewish high school student who helped organize today’s event. “I wanted to get a group together to show support for the Jewish Community and show that those students were in the minority, and that there is more solidarity against hate in Orange County, than in support of anti-semitism.”

The solidarity rally, indeed, counts a number of supportive community organizations like the Anti-Defamation League, Council on American-Islamic Relations,  Orange County Human Relations as well as many local Jewish temples and Indivisible groups.

Newport Harbor High School. Photo by Gabriel San Roman

Following the rally, there will be a brief intermission to allow Orthodox Jews to return home before sunset. Afterward, closing remarks from a number of speakers will be followed by the Shabbat service, Judaism’s day of rest observance. A vigil concludes the solidarity action at 6 p.m.

In response to the viral photos, the district organized a pair of community meetings at Newport Harbor and Corona del Mar high schools this week. Other Newport-Mesa school sites, like Estancia and Costa Mesa high schools, also reportedly had students who attended the party. Parents and students, including a few of the party goers, also had the opportunity to hear from Eva Schloss yesterday [2], a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp and stepsister to well-known Holocaust victim Anne Frank, who visited Newport Harbor while in town for a speaking tour.

A parent of one of the party goers who wished to remain anonymous, recently sent the Weekly a letter about the fallout from the controversy. “These children made a huge mistake,” it reads. “I and other parents have spent many hours with them this week–while they learned more about the Jewish community (of which some are members), [and] were privileged enough to have an audience with Eva Schloss.” The parent continued on, commending OC’s Jewish community for being “wonderful in their forgiveness” and showing a “willingness to educate and help them see why their actions have caused such outrage.”

Rabbi Stephen Einstein, who helped found the Congregation B’nai Tzedek in Fountain Valley before retiring a few years ago, continues to be outspoken against antisemitism and had this to say about today’s action, “It’s time for all of us, all good people, to stand together against this kind of hate!”