Editor’s Note: The Duxbury High School football coach was fired after school officials investigated the team’s use of anti-Semitic language on the field, which reportedly included using “Auschwitz” as the code name for a play.
I recently had the opportunity to meet with members of the Duxbury High School football team. We had a great conversation, and I wanted to share a few reflections.
I spoke to the students about what being Jewish means to me. I told them how my Jewish faith helped me get through the loss of my sister Joni, who passed away at the age of 42 and left behind two young daughters. I also talked about the joy of being Jewish and about how I was looking forward to celebrating Passover with my family that night.
I spoke to the students about the history of anti-Semitism. I let them know that I’ve been called painful names. I explained that Jewish people have faced centuries of discrimination and persecution, and I noted how the Nazis tapped into this prejudice.
I spoke to the students about the Holocaust. This was not an easy discussion, but it was important.
I showed how people like me were rounded up, sent to concentration camps, experimented on, and murdered. I showed images of children -- the same age as my children -- at Auschwitz. I played videos from survivors talking about their experiences.
Why did I do this? Why does it matter to talk about the Holocaust, 75 years later?
Auschwitz survivor Elie Wiesel offered one answer:
“My good friends, we never try to tell the tale to make people weep. It’s too easy. We didn’t want pity. If we decided to tell the tale, it is because we wanted the world to be a better world -- just a better world. And learn and remember.”
Wiesel added, “What is our role? We must become the messengers. Messengers.”
When people forget about or make light of genocide, history repeats itself. It happened in Rwanda, and it happened in Bosnia. We need to speak out and become the messengers.
Words have consequences, and what you do matters. It matters when you use the word “Auschwitz.” It matters when you have the courage to step up, right a wrong and not be a bystander.
This is about the message you send to friends, neighbors and the broader community.
There is a term in Judaism known as t’shuvah, which means “return” or “repentance.” I sincerely hope we will move forward, and move forward stronger than before.
I believe that we can use the incident in Duxbury as a crucial learning opportunity.
It is on all of us to fight for a better world. We all can be messengers.
Sen. Barry Finegold