I am the father of the senior whose yearbook quote submission created what has become a firestorm and I need to clear the air at the risk of reigniting it.
First, on behalf of my family, I want to express my sincerest apology to members of the Jewish community who were offended by the quote and what it represents. I get it. I have Jewish blood in my family and understand the horrors of the Holocaust and what it represents to the Jewish community. His quote, “I would miss six million dollars” when interpreted literally, means nothing. But, when tied to a callous joke, it resonates into a powerful and anti- Semitic diatribe. When my son realized this, he tried,on numerous occasions; to get it pulled from the yearbook and even submitted another quote, to no avail.
On the day of graduation, we were informed by the High School Administration and the Superintendent at the time, Dr. Paul Fried, that a certain group of parents did not want my son to attend the graduation ceremony. My son and wife met with Dr. Fried to discuss the matter and seek some resolution. Consequently, my son was allowed to participate in graduation. We asked Dr. Fried for a face-to-face meeting with those offended in order for my son to speak personally with them and apologize, Fried’s advice was to let it die down and it will go away. In the meantime he apologized to all those who said they were offended on the Senior Facebook page and to others via text. Most accepted his apology and a few even gave him credit for getting in front of it.
What should have been a teachable moment for a 17-year-old as he matures and finds his way in life, has evolved into something much darker. Hate-filled personal attacks and threats have been directed not only at my son but at his siblings, my wife and myself. Most are not coming from teenagers, but from the so-called adults in the community.
Has the moral line been drawn so that apologies and remorse are not accepted? Instead, talk of making him an example and destroying this young man and his reputation permeate the discourse.
We have tried, unsuccessfully to talk with those whom we know are orchestrating this campaign. Therefore, I’m left with no choice but to appeal, in an open letter to the editor, and ask for a stop to the vitriolic atmosphere being created.
Everyone, ask yourselves as you look back to your youth: Did you ever do anything you regret? Did you ever say an unkind word? Or, tell an inappropriate joke? I know I did, and thankfully I lived in a community that was more compassionate, a bit more tolerant, and kept youthful transgressions in context.
When I saw the path chosen by the families of the victims of the tragic church shootings in South Carolina who forgave the killer of their loved ones, I saw a courageous example being set for society and humanity.
Maybe we need to follow the teachings of the Torah which explicitly forbids taking revenge or to bear grudges (Leviticus 19:18). It also commands us, “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (ibid. 19:17). We would all be better served to accept my son’s and our family’s apology and begin a civil dialogue where better understanding can be found.
Editor's Note: Our policy is to not publish anonymous Letters to the Editor; however, this letter was published to respect the privacy of the family because the student was a minor.