Robotics tournament judge made anti-Semitic remark in front of students, caught on video

The volunteer judge who made the comment at a FIRST Lego League qualifying competition will no longer be welcome at FIRST events, the organization said.

Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
SUBSCRIBE
By Elisha Fieldstadt

A judge at a robotics tournament at a Long Island, New York, school over the weekend was caught on video making an anti-Semitic remark in front of students.

In a presentation during the qualifying competition for the FIRST Lego League at Mineola High School, a student referenced a building owned by the Hebrew Community of New York, according to the video.

A female competition judge can be heard saying "Goddamn Jews," quietly in response. Another judge appears to nod in agreement.

Yan Vilensky was recording the event on his phone because his son was competing in it, along with students from all over Long Island, according to NBC New York.

"It’s disgusting what was said," Vilensky said. "I did not say anything in the room because the kids were competing in the room, and I didn’t want to affect outcome of competition," he added.

Michael Nagler, the superintendent of Mineola Public Schools, said in a statement that the district "vehemently denounces the comments made during the event."

He said that while the school hosts the tournament, "the judges are all volunteers that are trained and vetted through FIRST, and have nothing to do with Mineola schools. They may or may not be teachers and they come from all over the tri-state area."

"This past weekend, over 1,200 students and families had a wonderful time in 'coopertition.' It is a shame that the hateful comments of one person will taint this very worthwhile and critical organization," Nagler's statement said.

FIRST Lego League is a collaboration between FIRST (For Inspiration & Recognition of Science & Technology) and the Lego Group, which calls itself "the most accessible, guided, global robotics competition."

A statement from FIRST said the remark caught on video "is disgraceful and has no place in society, let alone at a youth school event."

The volunteer who made the comment "will no longer be welcomed back as a volunteer in any capacity for any future FIRST events," the statement said. "We work hard to ensure an environment of respect and equity and comments such as this will never be tolerated."