Guest Column: What If It Happened in Laguna?

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By Denny Freidenrich

Don’t kid yourself. Last week’s anti-Semitic turmoil in Newport, Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa could have happened here in Laguna. If you need a briefing on what transpired, here is my Reader’s Digest version:

A bunch of teens from Newport Harbor, Corona del Mar and Costa Mesa high schools were photographed partying Saturday night, March 2. They were seen arranging red plastic cups in the shape of a swastika, and then giving the Nazi salute. Within minutes of their antics airing on Facebook, Instagram and other social media, students, parents and the media were publicly denouncing what happened.

By Monday, March 4, the story had gone national. The Washington Post, USA TODAY and other news outlets were reporting what happened. The blow back was so swift that, by Monday evening, just 48 hours after the party, 500 people gathered in Newport to talk about it.

(Ironically, the same day the O.C. Register reported the story on the front page of the paper, it also ran a story on the front page of the Local Section highlighting the fact that Anne Frank’s stepsister, Eva Schloss, would be giving a lecture two days later at Chapman College in Orange.)

Like I said, ironic, no? Seizing on the opportunity, the 89-year-old Schloss met privately late last week with some of the students who attended the aforementioned party. Here’s what the New York Times reported:

“Ms. Schloss, who survived the Nazi concentration camps, found out just what those teenagers were thinking. The answer, it turns out, is that they weren’t.

“‘I think they really didn’t think about the consequences, but I believe they have learned a lesson for life,’ Ms. Schloss said. She has been on a tour of the United States for several weeks speaking out about the dangers of prejudice.”

As for me, I first learned about anti-Semitism when I was 10. My family and I were in Palm Springs when I noticed a woman at the pool with numbers tattooed on her wrist. When I asked my parents about it, they told me the story of the Holocaust. That was 60 years ago, but I never have forgotten that day.

Last week, I was again reminded how cruel people can be. What happened at that March 2 party truly is shocking but not surprising. Clearly, anti-Semitism lurks just beneath the surface. To this point, the Daily Pilot published a story on Tuesday that Newport Harbor High School was vandalized with Nazi posters the weekend of March 9. My question is: When will this end?Let’s hope the lessons learned in Newport/CdM/Costa Mesa will translate to many communities, not just here in Orange County, but nationwide. By definition, this would include Laguna.

Denny Freidenrich first moved to Laguna Beach in 1970. He is the author of more than 1,200 commentaries and letters to the editor. 

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  1. Thank you for your thoughtful piece on the ugly incident in Newport. That kind of behavior and ignorance/malice happens anywhere and everywhere – it seems that no community is an exception. It cannot be brushed off to kids being kids, not meaning it, or just plain ignorance. Schools, houses of religion and most especially parents need to address anti-semitism.


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