The Jewish Federation of Princeton Mercer Bucks and the Board of Rabbis of Princeton Mercer Bucks issued a joint statement condemning an underage drinking game of beer pong that took an ugly turn when Princeton High School students injected the Holocaust into the competition.
“This activity demonstrates that there is still a great deal of work to do in educating people about the horrors of the Holocaust,” said the statement.
The game — which the students dubbed “Holocaust Pong” and “Alcoholocaust” — involved tossing ping-pong balls into cups of beer arranged to form a swastika on one side of the table, and a star of David on the other.
“It was a profoundly offensive incident that highlights a larger issue — trivialization of the Holocaust, Nazis, Hitler, and anti-Semitism,” said Anti-Defamation League NJ director Joshua Cohen in an April 8 phone interview. “It also underscores the critical need for Holocaust education.”
When Jamaica Ponder, a PHS fellow student who was not at the party, saw a photograph of the game that one of the players had posted on the social media site Snapchat, she condemned the incident on her personal blog.
“Well, perhaps it is a joke,” she wrote. “But then I guess the punchline would be: genocide. Pardon me if I don’t find that to be hilarious….
“Putting the picture on social media means that someone was proud enough of the game to want to show it off,” she added. “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.”
In an April 11 interview, Rabbi Jay Kornsgold of Beth El Synagogue in East Windsor told NJJN he found the incident “very upsetting,” particularly the reports that Jewish students may have been involved in playing the game. “I hope they all receive sensitivity training.”
Princeton schools superintendent Steve Cochrane said in a public statement issued April 8 that he was “deeply upset” at the incident, which “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.”
The federation statement recognized Ponder “for her courage in speaking up and alerting our community of this disturbing incident,” and concluded: “We have watched for too long as people have remained silent when such actions occur. We are grateful to all those who are working to ensure that these types of episodes do not occur in the future. We are happy to assist in any way that we can.”
(For more information about the federation’s and the community’s response to the incident, see sidebar.)
JTA contributed to this story.