CIF semifinal game marred by ethnic taunts from both Shalhevet’s and visitor’s fans

Firehawk girls’ loss in hard-fought game eclipsed by rumors, though most in Shalhevet survey saw no racism or antisemitism at all


BP Photo by Evan Beller

CROWD: Fans from both schools roared in support of their teams at the girls CIF semifinal game Feb. 18. Above, Buena Park fans filled the northern section of the bleachers as the Firehawks’ No. 25 Talia Tibi dribbled away from a Coyote defender.


When the Shalhevet girls basketball team lost to the Buena Park Coyotes Feb. 18 in the Shalhevet gym, the drama didn’t end with the final buzzer. Instead, reports of anti-semitic and racist behavior began to spread, after a brief scuffle during the fans’ exit onto Fairfax evolved into complaints and accusations about things that had happened during the game.

Observations by Boiling Point staff, interviews with Shalhevet officials and students, and anonymous descriptions submitted in a Schoology survey of 51 people who were there suggest that a hard-fought game led to insults relating to race and religion coming from fans on both sides. 

The Coyotes beat the Firehawks 59-55 to advance to the CIF Southern Section Division 4AA Championship, coming back in the fourth quarter after being down by seven points at the end of the third. 

Shalhevet senior Noa Talasazan said a group of people were saying “Kanye West” and “I love Kanye West” to her and the other Shalhevet students she was sitting with during the game, referencing West’s highly publicized Oct. 8 Tweet that he planned to “go death con 3 on Jewish people.” 

“It was supposed to be a fun, interesting game, but instead it just became so violently verbal,” said Noa, who said she was sitting on the stage with around six other Shalhevet students and arguing with five Buena Park fans nearby. 

She said that after the game those same fans came up to her and said “Kanye West” while pointing at their Yeezy Slide shoes, part of Adidas’s Kanye line, discontinued since the singer’s antisemitic Tweets. She did not hear any racism at the game toward Buena Park. 

“I was with a group of students that were arguing back and forth,” said Noa. “Every time that they would talk to us or start talking down to us, we would just be like it’s just a basketball game. We are not interested in fighting with you. Why turn it into something so bad?”

Antisemitism is antisemitism, and it’s terrible and it needs to be addressed. And it needs to be rooted out, and that needs to be its own focus.

— Rabbi David Block, Head of School

But Shalhevet students, both in interviews and in written responses in the anonymous survey, described racist comments coming from the Shalhevet stands.  The most common report was of Firehawk fans calling out “fried chicken” or “chicken sandwich,” along with unflattering references to players’ appearance.

“During the game there was a lot of racist rhetoric and chants being called out from the Shalhevet student section,” said Firehawk senior Molly Menashe. “And then after the game I heard a few Jewish kids who did not go to Shalhevet shouting at the other team outside, ‘You’re just jealous we make more money than you,’ and things along those lines.”

She said she saw no anti-semitism during the game but did see Palestinian flags outside on people’s phones. She blamed the Shalhevet side for what happened.

“I think as the host of this, it was our job to do hachnasat orchim”  Molly said, referring to the Jewish value of hospitality or welcoming the stranger, “and to make the other team feel welcome. And I think that we did a very poor job of that, and I think that we should hold ourselves responsible and accountable for what role we did play in instigating and fueling tension and exacerbating whatever was going on.”

English teacher Mr. Dylan Ross discussed the game with his students in class on Feb. 21.  

“From what I heard from students, they expressed that it wasn’t as big of a deal as some other people were making it out to seem, regarding antisemitism being directed at our students,” said Mr. Ross, who was not at the game.

We should hold ourselves responsible and accountable for what role we did play in instigating and fueling tension and exacerbating whatever was going on.

— Molly Menashe, Firehawk senior


“They did mention that … there definitely was some instance of antisemitic comments,” he said. “But likewise there were also racist and other discriminatory comments that were being given to the other team by, and once again this is like second- or even third-hand information really, but by Shalhevet students.” 

The Boiling Point’s poll was administered anonymously through Google Forms. Among respondents, 21.6%  said they themselves had personally either seen or heard anti-semitism at or after the game.

And 17.6% of respondents said they personally had heard or witnessed racism toward the team or fans from Buena Park by Shalhevet students or fans. 

The Boiling Point has been unable to speak with anyone at Buena Park High School to learn their view of what happened next. Principal Sonje Berg postponed an interview with the Boiling Point scheduled for Feb. 25 until later this week. Coyote Girls Basketball Coach DeAnthony Wiley declined to comment. 

Referring to reports of behavior on both sides, Head of School Rabbi David Block said he wasn’t sure there had been racist behavior by Shalhevet students, but said that the Shalhevet community also needs to be reminded about how to be respectful at basketball games.

“I’m still trying to figure it out,” said Rabbi Block. “I don’t know the extent of it. But if our students said things that were inappropriate, in any form, certainly if there was anything racial about it, there was even just not speaking nicely, I think it is inappropriate and important and not something that is aligned with the values of our community.”

Still, he said, antisemitism needed to be “its own focus.”

“Antisemitism is antisemitism, and it’s terrible and it needs to be addressed,” Rabbi Block said. “And it needs to be rooted out, and that needs to be its own focus. The spotlight needs to be on that, for those antisemitic remarks, and for their rhetoric and for the symbols. That needs to be dealt with.”


The stands in the gym were full as the Coyotes staged a 25-point quarter to beat the Firehawks in the fourth. Shalhevet fans filled the two Hawks Nest areas at the south and southeast end of the gym. Buena Park fans filled the north half of the east side. A mix of fans filled most of the seats on the stage.

As people left through the school’s main driveway at around 9:30 p.m., Boiling Point staff saw a Shalhevet security guard trip and fall into a member of the Buena Park basketball team as he was rushing toward the sidewalk to investigate a report of a commotion.

MEETING: Shalhevet security guard Sean C., at left in black, and Buena Park parents met in Rabbi Block’s office to resolve a “misunderstanding” about a girl who was pushed while Mr. C. was running to check on a report of an issue on Fairfax after the game Feb. 18. (BP Photo by Joshua Gamson)

The guard, Sean C. (who did not want his name to be used), told the Boiling Point that he found no commotion. But the situation escalated in the driveway as the mother of the girl yelled at him.

A man standing behind the Buena Park mother then searched for a Palestinian flag on his phone and lifted it up in the air in front of Shalhevet fans. Mr. C says he did not see the Palestinian flag, and resolved the dispute with the parents of the girl on his own.

But meanwhile, people on both sides started yelling, causing Chief Academic Officer Ms. Malka Popper to call Shalhevet fans and students back into the gym while those Buena Park fans who were already outside continued to their cars to go home.

Ms. Popper told the Boiling Point that security had asked her to bring Shalhevet students back inside. Fans stayed in the gym for approximately 10 minutes and were dismissed without incident, with Rabbi Block telling them to walk to their cars in groups. 

In a photograph taken that night by Boiling Point staff, Mr. C and other Buena Park fans were seen walking into Rabbi Block’s office.  

“That was us resolving that misunderstanding,” Mr. C. said, “and I had a very positive outcome and I think that’s all that needed to happen was for us to have the platform to be able to have a civil dialogue and explain the misunderstandings and it went very well.”


According to Boiling Point reporting and staff observations, what happened as fans left was a continuation of taunting and baiting during the game by and toward both schools, as witnessed by about 20% of people who responded to the Boiling Point survey, which was posted on Schoology and in grade-wide group chats the day after the game. 

The survey received responses from 51 people, all of whom said they had attended the game.  A strong majority – 40 people, roughly 80 percent – said they’d seen no such behavior at all. Rabbi Block and Dean of Admission and Student Life Dr. Jonny Ravanshanas have also said they saw no antisemitism.

Survey respondents listed a range of racist behavior by Firehawk fans, in addition to antisemitic actions by Coyotes fans. 

In this report, all anonymous descriptions in the survey have been confirmed by at least two other people, either who separately wrote the same thing in their survey responses, or corroborated it in interviews, or are Boiling Point staff.

Along with references to fried chicken, some fans yelled “gorilla!” whenever a certain Coyotes  player got close to them.

PACKED: Shalhevet fans overflowed the Hawks Nest area at the Southern part of the gym to support the Firehawks in the girls CIF semifinal. (BP Photo by Evan Beller)

One respondent to the Boiling Point survey described having heard the thoughts of a Buena Park student as she left. As she drove off, the Buena Park girl was very upset and was mumbling something like, “These white-ass Jews need f-ing security to escort them because they think we’re gonna f—-  ‘em up cause we’re Black,” the girl said, according to the survey respondent.

An article on the website of the Jewish Journal quoted two anonymous Shalhevet students as saying Buena Park fans showed pictures of swastikas during Shalhevet free-throws. 

No Boiling Point staff member at the game, student or faculty interviewed after the game saw this, nor was it mentioned by any of the 51 people who responded to the Boiling Point survey. Neither did any member of the basketball team interviewed, except one.

I think that the quote in the Jewish Journal article that says something along the lines of ‘three of them were walking toward me and I felt scared’ is inherently racist.

— Anonymous respondent to Boiling Point survey

Senior starter Talia Tibi said she did. Talia said that during a free throw she saw somebody was holding a picture of a swastika on their phone. She said that she could not recall when during the game she saw it, but that the person was seated on the stage. 

The Jewish Journal article, which has received more than 2,300 “likes” on Instagram as of Feb. 27, also quoted someone as saying that she felt scared when three Buena students were walking toward her. 

I think that the quote in the Jewish Journal article that says something along the lines of ‘three of them were walking toward me and I felt scared’ is inherently racist,” said an anonymous Shalhevet fan who responded to the Boiling Point’s survey. “If we were responsible for fueling whatever happened, it seems utterly unfair that we are controlling and painting a one-sided narrative.”


Rabbi Block said communications between Shalhevet and Buena Park officials at the administrative level had been respectful.

“It’s important to clarify that no Buena Park players, coaches, or administration were involved in antisemitic behavior of any kind,” wrote Rabbi Block in a Feb. 23 email to the Shalhevet community titled “Update on Recent Events.” 

“On the contrary,” he wrote, “the way our student-athletes and coaches (on both sides) interacted with each other brought honor to their respective schools and to the league. Additionally, there was no overt antisemitic chanting or hateful signage during the game. Had we seen anything at the time, we absolutely would have stopped it.”

The focus of my email was to my community, and therefore that was referring to what we had experienced. But now when other things come out, I just want to point out, racism is also abhorrent and disgusting and needs to be uprooted as well.

— Rabbi David Block, Head of School

Still, Rabbi Block announced that school officials are in communication with the LAPD about what happened and have filed a report. 

“We’ve launched a full investigation and have filed an official police report with the LAPD,” Rabbi Block wrote in an email to the school community on Feb. 23.  “I have been in regular touch with Captain Monico of the LAPD Wilshire Division, the ADL, CSI (the Federation’s Community Security Initiative), and with the Simon Wiesenthal Center.” 

Asked why his email did not mention racist behavior from the Shalhevet side, Rabbi Block said it was a separate issue, and that his obligation was to the Shalhevet community for what it had experienced.  

“The focus of my email was to my community, and therefore that was referring to what we had experienced,” Rabbi Block said. “But now when other things come out, I just want to point out, racism is also abhorrent and disgusting and needs to be uprooted as well.”

He added that different kinds of behavior should not “offset” one another.

“We can’t look at it as, ‘Oh, there was antisemitism absolutely, but you know there may have been people from the Shalhevet community that also said inappropriate things and therefore you know what – they cancel each other out,’” Rabbi Block said. “Either to say it wasn’t that bad, or you can’t be upset about the antisemitism because there were people who said inappropriate things on our end – it cannot be looked at like that. These are not offsetting penalties.”

He said if reports come out reporting racism from the Shalhevet fans then he will deal with that separately and educate the community. 

Shalhevet leaders offered counseling and other attention to anyone who had experienced anti-semitism. 

“We are in the process of arranging for our security team to meet with our students, we are planning situational awareness training, and we are creating spaces in which students who experienced anything can meet with our Counselors and Mashgichim Ruchaniim and process it all,” wrote Rabbi Block in an email to the Shalhevet community Monday morning.

To say it wasn’t that bad, or you can’t be upset about the antisemitism because there were people who said inappropriate things on our end – it cannot be looked at like that. These are not offsetting penalties.

— Rabbi David Block, Head of School

On Tuesday. Feb. 21, the first school day after the game due to the Presidents Day holiday, an optional lunch meeting was announced for students to talk about their feelings.  As far as the Boiling Point could tell, no one attended.

That same morning,  three officers from the LAPD were at Shalhevet interviewing students about what they experienced at the game. According to Boiling Point staff interviewed, students were asked to tell them what had happened from their perspective as well as how they felt about it. 

Rabbi Block said he hoped to bring the Shalhevet and Buena Park communities closer to move past the rhetoric at the game, and that he was discussing with Principal Berg the possibility of the two communities meeting in some form. He did not say when or how.

“Where there is, you know, feelings of hate towards the Jewish community of antisemitism, that obviously needs to be rooted out, and I know that we as partners with the community at large to help us with that,” said Rabbi Block in an interview on Feb. 24. “And I really look forward to learning and growing with that community. And I hope to bring our communities closer. 

“Who knows, you know we might face them in the state finals,” he said. “Even if not, I think that we’re two very strong communities that ought to have a lot of respect for one another, regardless of religion, regardless of race, regardless of anything.”

Boiling Point staff members Evan Beller, Olivia Fishman, Tehilla Fishman, Joshua Gamson, Ezra Helfand, Tali Liebenthal, Avi Litvak, Tomomi Shaw, Eli Weiss and Amalia Zucker contributed to this article. 

This story won First Prize in both News and Sports Writing categories in the 2024 Gold Circle Awards of the Columbia Scholastic Press Association; Honorable Mention in three categories — News Story; Digital News Story; and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion News Story in the 2023 Story of the Year competition of the National Scholastic Press Association; Honorable Mention in News Writing in the 2023 Story of the Year competition; Honorable Mention in Sports Writing in the NSPA 2023 Spring Clips and Clicks competition.