ADL Calls for Taunton School Committee Member to Apologize for Nazi-style Taunt and Salute
Update: The school committeeman, Alfred Baptista, susequently apologized to his colleagues on the committee, to ADL and to the community for his actions. "The words I used were inappropriate and thoughtless, but were not meant to be a racial or ethnic slur in any way," he said in a statement.
Boston, MA, July 23, 2007 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today called on Taunton School Committeeman Alfred Baptista to apologize for his Nazi-style taunt and salute directed at a Jewish colleague.
According to eyewitness complaints as well as reports in both The Taunton Gazette and The Enterprise, during a July 18 meeting with school board's nursing subcommittee Baptista stated, "Yes, heil Hitler. Sieg heil" in response to a comment by Barry Cooperstein, the (Jewish) chair of the subcommittee. While uttering the remark, Baptista also reportedly raised his arm in a manner suggestive of a Nazi salute.
In a letter to Baptista, James L. Rudolph, ADL New England Regional Board Chair, and Andrew H. Tarsy, Regional Director, said: "The use of Holocaust imagery during a public meeting in this context demeans the memory of the six million Jews and others who died at the hands of the Nazis. Comments like this are indicative of a misunderstanding of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi regime and are deeply offensive.
"We believe that you owe Mr. Cooperstein, the Jewish community, and the people of Taunton an apology for your remarks and gestures made during this meeting," the ADL leaders said.
Taunton Mayor Charles Crowley also called for an apology. Crowley, who attended the meeting, told The Enterprise, "the comments were outrageous." The mayor added: "The choice of words was so offensive to Mr. Cooperstein, as a member of the committee and a member of the Jewish faith. It was offensive to every person of Taunton."
A July 19 Taunton Gazette editorial called for Baptista to step down, calling the remarks "racist" and adding: "no one in the district, in the city, in the county, in the state or in the nation should tolerate it."
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.