In Duxbury, the recent revelation that its high school football team had long incorporated the word “Auschwitz,” and other Jewish terms in its playbook – such as “rabbi” and “dreidel” – could only be seen by many as a profoundly insulting and painful exhibition of ignorance. That the plays were known and approved by coaches – who work as educators in Duxbury schools – seems inconceivable, and represents a staggering display of irresponsibility and a harrowing lack of common respect toward humanity.
Auschwitz was the most notorious Nazi killing center in the 20th century – where 1 million Jews, including 200,000 children, were murdered and then burned in crematoria. While there are no graves to honor the victims – including tens of thousands of non-Jews – it is the largest Jewish cemetery in the world.
In Duxbury, it took 10 days before the public learned about the team’s use of “Auschwitz” in the March 12 game, and another two days before the town fired the football coach. Meanwhile, the town’s school superintendent announced that it would hire a private firm to conduct an independent investigation. Two of the team’s football games were canceled. A Holocaust program was taught at the high school, and some of the players met with a grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, a local rabbi and a Jewish state senator.
It was supposed to be a learning experience in a town where many have complained of a non-welcoming culture. Late last month, selectmen reaffirmed Duxbury’s official commitment to inclusion and equity. But just this week, school leaders seemed eager to move past the whole event. It announced that the football season would resume this Friday. And in a statement by a public relations firm hired by Duxbury Public Schools, a spokesman told the Journal that the town had yet to determine if any of the investigative report would be made public.
In its rush to move forward and resume the football season, one must ask: What kind of message does this send to Jewish families in the town? What message does this send to Jewish students in Duxbury? And what message does this send to the current football team?
Many towns would seize this moment as an opportunity to grow. Many communities would understand that the pain caused by this experience necessitates an immediate review of the culture that led to it. This is a time when education should come before sports. Football should not be played again this year in Duxbury and its games should be forfeited. This is a time when introspection and transparency is required. That should be a public process, and it should not take place on a football field.