Three minors were close to arrest on Wednesday after a Jan. 30 scuffle at the Campgaw Mountain ski area in Mahwah that is being investigated as a hate crime.
The ski team of the Solomon Schechter School of Westchester was at the mountain for a meet last Monday, when three teenaged snowboarders, all minors, confronted two Schechter team members, according to Captain Kevin Hartnett of the Bergen County Police Department. According to the police report, one of the teenagers yelled at the students, "Get out of here, you Jews. Go home, kikes!" One of the Schechter students was punched in the face and in the chest.
According to an official at the school, the students are 1′ and 13.
Hartnett said that two of the assailants had been identified, one is 13 and the other is 15, and that they "had a pretty good idea" about the identity of the third assailant. No arrests were made at the scene, police were not called, and the victim did not require medical attention. But one of the Schechter students filed a complaint with police the following day. Hartnett said that they had been waiting to make any arrests until one of the victims returned from out of town following a family death.
The assailants would most likely be charged with simple assault which would not carry jail time for a juvenile, but if found guilty an assailant could face a fine and a community service requirement.
Hartnett said that the mountain is usually very safe and that the only incidents there generally involve petty theft of snowboards or skis.
"This is the first time we have heard of an incident like this very site specific to the ski hill, " said Etzion Neuer, New Jersey regional director of the Anti-Defamation League. "But some of the questions that come out of this are how well equipped is the staff of the ski hill to deal with an incident like this. We know at the county level it is being looked at."
The staff at the mountain, he said, most likely treated the incident like a fight, rather than as an anti-Semitic incident, because of general tension between snowboarders and skiers.
Though Neuer said that he is not worried about the ski hill, there has been a disturbing rise in the number of anti-Semitic incidents among young people in New Jersey.
"One thing that we have noticed, without a doubt, is that there seems to be an increase in the comfort level of young people in expressing some form of hate or extremism," he said. "It forces us to ask the question, ‘Are we doing enough to get through to these kids?’"
The incidents occur mostly at school and range from swastikas drawn on desks to vandalism of personal property, said Neuer. In ‘004, according to the ADL’s ‘005 hate crimes audit, New Jersey saw the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents that it has since the organization started tracking such events ‘0 years ago.
The day after the altercation, representatives from the school sent a letter regarding the incident to the parents of the student body and met with students in small groups to discuss the event, according to Schechter spokesperson Sheila Yossem.
"There was an incident, and it is being investigated through legal channels," she said. "It’s an opportunity to learn about intolerance and how to deal with it. It was an educational moment, and the school took advantage of it."