LAKEWOOD, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — There’s a costume controversy in New Jersey surrounding the Jewish holiday of Purim.
Children usually dress up as historical characters to celebrate the holiday, but a group in Lakewood was seen in blackface, wearing afro wigs and Black Lives Matter hoodies, CBS2’s Meg Baker reported Tuesday.
Heather McKinnon posted pictures that her daughter took of children in Lakewood on Friday.
“She first sent me the picture of the child with the African dashiki on with the painted black face. My mouth just dropped,” McKinnon said.
Blackface has a long, disturbing history. In the 1830s, white actors in minstrel shows would paint their faces black with burnt cork or greasepaint. Today, it is considered extremely offensive.
McKinnon said she also saw the kids dressed in Black Lives Matter shirts and afro wigs.
“I’m not blaming the children, but the parents, they want respect and I don’t feel like they’re showing other minorities or, you know, religions respect,” McKinnon said.
Michael Inzelbuch is general counsel for the Lakewood School District. He said children were dressed up for the Jewish holiday Purim, which is a celebration of survival.
“The Jews were facing extermination by Haman … the bad guy if you will in the story, and miraculously everything we say … turned around and that’s the reason for the mask and things,” Inzelbuch said.
He said Lakewood has a double-edged racism problem. The city is diverse — a mix of Latino, Black, and Hasidic residents.
“I have gone to games where I hear all kinds of words shouted out,” Inzelbuch said. “I’ve had pennies thrown at me. But guess what? This is unacceptable.”
“It’s offensive. If I were to do that to the Orthodox community, they will see it as offensive, too,” Rush said.
He hopes this is a learning experience.
“No kid grows up with hate. They have to be introduced to it,” Rush said.
The NAACP is planning a Zoom conference with the mayor and Jewish community leaders to come up with a plan to educate children and their families about why the incident was so wrong.
CBS2’s Meg Baker contributed to this report