‘A rising swell of anti-Semitism:’ Religious leaders react to controversial Baraboo photo

‘A rising swell of anti-Semitism:’ Religious leaders react to controversial Baraboo photo

Religious leaders across Wisconsin are responding to a photo that appears to show Baraboo High School students giving a Nazi salute.

A joint statement issued overnight from the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Jewish Federation of Madison, the Wisconsin Jewish Conference and several other Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations across the state says they were alarmed by what they see as a display of anti-Semitism.

“Though the incident apparently took place last May, it reflects a rising swell of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry,” the leaders said in the statement.

“We are particularly concerned with the prevalence of bigotry within schools; more than 25 percent of all the recorded anti-Semitic incidents in Wisconsin last year took place among students or on campus. We have witnessed numerous egregious incidents targeting African-Americans, Latinos and other minority groups.”

Baraboo School Superintendent Dr. Lori Mueller sent a letter to parents condemning the photo and saying hate has no home in the Baraboo School District. In their statement, the religious leaders say they appreciate the district’s response and would like to work with them to prevent any incidents in the future.

The photo of students posted to #BarabooProud is not reflective of the educational values and beliefs of the School District of Baraboo. The District will pursue any and all available and appropriate actions, including legal, to address.

— Lori M. Mueller (@LoriMMueller) November 12, 2018

“Acts of hate begin with hateful expressions,” said the statement, “The values that hold us together must be taught and reinforced, lest we see the continued rise of hate and its consequences.”

Speaking at a Baraboo School Board meeting Monday night, board president Kevin Vodak said he was “shamed, appalled and angered” by the photo.

Students claimed the photographer told them to make the pose. The photographer told Madison 365 he remembers telling the students give him a high five and wave to their parents.

Get your weather forecast from people who actually live in your community. We update with short, easy-to-use video forecasts you can watch on your phone every day. Download the iOS or Android app here.