New Jersey school hires law firm to investigate ‘antisemitic’ yearbook that swapped Jewish students’ picture

New Jersey school hires law firm to investigate ‘antisemitic’ yearbook that swapped Jewish students’ picture

A New Jersey school high school has hired a law firm to investigate why both the names and a photo of members of a Jewish student group were left out its 2024 yearbook, in an incident local leaders called “blatant” antisemitism.

The investigation into East Brunswick Public Schools by Brisman Law began on Friday.

“I’m confident the independent counsel investigation will reveal the truth,” superintendent Victor Valeski told ABC News. “They’ve been given complete authority to investigate whatever they need to investigate.”

Community members were shocked on Tuesday when hundreds of high school yearbooks were distributed, only with the names of members of the Jewish Student Union blank, and their photo replaced with an image depicting apparently Muslim students.

The yearbooks were condemned by local leaders, as well as leaders in the Jewish and Muslim communities.

Valeski, in a statement on June 5, said he was “devastated and frustrated” that the yearbook took away from an “inclusive school environment for all EB students.”

“Above all, I personally, along with the entire East Brunswick Board of Education, sincerely apologize for the hurt, pain and anguish this event has caused our Jewish students, their families and the impact this continues to have on the entire EB community,” he said.

“I want to offer sincere apologies to our Muslim students and families, as well,” he added. “I am aware that the picture placed in the yearbook has caused pain for our Muslim students and for that I am deeply sorry.”

East Brunswick mayor Brad Cohen described the yearbook incident as a “blatant anti-semitic act”.

“Hate has no place in East Brunswick and Anti-Semitism will not be tolerated,” he wrote in a statement this week.

"Unfortunately, this has been a year in which antisemitic acts have grown exponentially, and our Jewish teens in public schools have been as inundated as the college campuses we see regularly on the news," Devora Simon, national director of JSU, and Rabbi Reuven Lebovitz, director of New Jersey JSU, said in a statment to local news outlet My Central Jersey.

The New Jersey office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations said the yearbook incident had prompted a deluge of hateful online comments against Muslim students whose photos were used in the yearbook edit without their knowledge.

“It is crucial that school officials ensure their investigation is transparent, fair and thorough so those responsible are held accountable,” CAIR-NJ interim communications manager Aya Elamroussi said. “This incident has triggered heinous backlash against some Muslim students who had no knowledge on their photo being misused.”

The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict has prompted a surge of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents on school campuses across the US.