TENAFLY — Mayor Mark Zinna and several Jewish organizations defended a fifth grader whose project about Hitler’s “accomplishments” caused furor but blamed the administration for poor judgement in its response.

Dressed as the Nazi dictator, the student told her class at the Maugham Elementary School that "my greatest accomplishment was uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me," later adding "I was pretty great wasn't I?"

A handwritten paragraph entitled "Accomplishments," as shared to social media by community members over the weekend, was posted on a hallway display.

After vowing to review the entire project, Superintendent Shauna DeMarco said on Wednesday that the assignment was meant to take on "social norms and historical figures who personify good and evil." She noted the student's teacher is Jewish.

"Given that the lesson was specifically issued within the context of social justice, it is unfair to judge any student or teacher in this matter," DeMarco said.

A joint statement signed by Zinna, Council President Lauren Dayton and several Jewish groups said the girl and her family "have unfortunately been subject to much ridicule and harm, which they do not deserve."

"We are confident that this family had no intention of harming or offending anyone and should not be blamed or held responsible for the events at the school," according to the statement also signed by the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, the Israeli-American Council, Kaplen JCC on the Palisades, Kehillat Kesher/Community Synagogue of Tenafly and Englewood, Temple Emanu-El of Closter and Temple Sinai of Bergen County

"This situation was caused by a series of poor and inexcusable judgment decisions by the school and district administrations. This warrants further action and discussion, which we intend to pursue vigorously. Furthermore, their failure to provide clear communication or a thorough explanation to the community has only inflamed the situation. It is our expectation that future communication will be complete and transparent."

They blamed social media for blowing up the situation and urged the community to deescalate.

"We look forward to coming together as a community to begin the healing process through education, communication, and ownership," the statement said.

Display by a Tenafly 5th grader about Hitler's "accomplishments"
Display by a Tenafly 5th grader about Hitler's "accomplishments" (Israeli American Council - IAC New Jersey)

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ

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