“Perhaps it is a joke. But then I guess the punchline would be: genocide,” high school student Jamaica Ponder wrote on her blog, calling out her classmates for playing a drinking game she called racist, insensitive and indefensible.
The game was “Jews vs. Nazis beer pong” — shooting ping-pong balls into cups of beer that have been arranged into the shape of a swastika on one side and a Star of David on the other. The team of “Jews” gets an “Anne Frank” cup that they can hide anywhere in the room; the team of “Nazis” has the power to “Auschwitz” one of their opponents, forcing him to sit out, according to rules of the game posted online.
A photograph posted to Snapchat shows seven teens playing the game in a basement in Princeton, N.J., pouring Coors Light into a swastika made out of white cups and a Star of David made out of red cups. The photo came to light when Ponder, a Princeton High School student, posted it to her blog on Wednesday.
“I know I’m not the only one who saw this Snapchat story. Yet here I am, the only one saying anything about it. I am unsure as to what’s worse: the static silence from my peers, or the fact that this happened in the first place,” Ponder wrote. “Putting the picture on social media means that someone was proud enough of the game to want to show it off. Meaning that they must be trapped in the delusional mindset that making a drinking game based off of the Holocaust is cool. Or funny. Or anything besides insane. Because that’s what this is: insanity.”
Local news site Planet Princeton followed Ponder’s blog post with a report the next day. The publicity helped spark a response from Princeton Public Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane.
“I am deeply upset that some of our students chose to engage in a drinking game with clearly anti-Semitic overtones and to broadcast their behavior over social media,” Cochrane said in a statement, adding that schools officials are talking to the students involved, and their families.
Cochrane said that while neither underage drinking nor bigotry are new problems, “they do not have to be ongoing ones.”
“As a community we all have a role in teaching our children to make good decisions, to be legally responsible, and to be respectful members of a diverse society,” he said. “An incident such as this one, forces us to take a hard look at our efforts in educating our children in the values that may be most important to their success in life.”
In a further statement Friday evening, Cochrane declined to say whether students would be disciplined, citing confidentiality rules:
We are responding to this incident as educators. Any disciplinary discussions in this case remain confidential, as they always do. We are counseling the individual students affected by what happened. We are meeting with faculty and with student leaders. We are planning for a possible school-wide discussion. We are considering offering specific programs for students, parents and staff; and we are examining those points in our curriculum where we can enhance students’ understanding of key issues such as alcohol use, social media and tolerance of different faiths and cultures. We are also seeking assistance from other organizations and individuals. We spoke several times yesterday with the Rabbi at the Princeton Jewish Center, and he met with our high school principal today. Holocaust education is already part of our K-12 curriculum and, indeed, we have a Holocaust survivor coming to speak at our middle school later this month. The issues of underage drinking, misuse of social media, and of bias and intolerance are not new or unique to Princeton. We have been — and will continue to — address them honestly and forthrightly.