A Jewish high school student said he couldn’t believe what was going on when a history teacher in a wealthy Alabama school system had classmates stand and give a stiff-armed Nazi salute during a lesson on the way symbols change.
Once he shared a video and photos of the incident on social media, Ephraim Tytell said, he received a reprimand from school administrators in Mountain Brook, a suburb of Birmingham.
The controversy comes just months after Mountain Brook’s school system responded to community complaints about a diversity program produced by the Anti-Defamation League, which combats antisemitism, by dropping the lessons. Schools had begun using the material after anti-Semitic events, including a video of a student with a swastika drawn on his body, but opponents claimed the lessons focused too heavily on race and gender and were produced by a group they considered controversial politically.
Video obtained from inside the classroom of the atrocious stunt pic.twitter.com/BmI1uKXPEo
— StopAntisemitism.org (@StopAntisemites) February 8, 2022
First reported by the Birmingham-based Southern Jewish Life, the incident last month gained traction on social media. On Tuesday, the school system issued a statement saying the video and photos shared online “are not representative of the lesson” and no one tried to teach students how to do a Nazi salute. “Understanding the sensitive nature of this subject, Mountain Brook Schools has addressed the instructional strategy used with the teacher and does not condone the modeling of this salute when a picture or video could accurately convey the same message,” the statement said.
Apparently Mountain Brook High School thinks it’s okay to promote anti-semetism through “heil hitler” demonstration. #mountainbrook @aldotcom @mountainbrook @mtnbrookhs @mtnbrookschools pic.twitter.com/GzqPa6NGN3
— LeahCamille (@LeahCamille90) February 8, 2022
Southern Jewish Life reports that Mountain Brook, the wealthiest suburb in Alabama, is over 97 percent white and has by far the largest Jewish community in the state, as other suburbs did not welcome Jews in the 1950s. Nevertheless, stories of antisemitic conduct in the schools go back decades, from fellow students giving Heil Hitler salutes to Jewish students, pitching pennies on the floor at Jewish students figuring the “cheap Jews” would eagerly pick them up, or swastikas scrawled around the schools.