School responds to anti-Semitic chant at basketball game

byMark Labbe Pilot Staff

BRAINTREE -- Students from Catholic Memorial School in Roxbury were not in the stands at the TD Garden to watch their team take on Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in the basketball semi-finals March 15.

The school asked students not to attend to illustrate the seriousness of an anti-Semitic chant by Catholic Memorial fans at a game between Catholic Memorial and Newton North High School played at Newton South High School March 11.

According to reports by those in attendance, the Catholic Memorial fans chanted "You killed Jesus, you killed Jesus" to the opposing school, which has a large Jewish population.

The anti-Semitic chants were apparently made in retaliation to Newton North's chants of "where are your girls?" and a crude reference to Catholic Memorial being an all-boys school.

Catholic Memorial issued a statement immediately following the incident, saying the school is "deeply disturbed by the behavior of a group of student spectators who made an unacceptable chant Friday night."

The schools said "CM faculty and staff acted immediately to stop the behavior," and at the conclusion of the game the students were reprimanded and told to offer individual apologies to Newton North principal Mark Aronson before leaving the arena.

The incident occurred a day after Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley spoke at Temple Emanuel in Newton to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate, the Second Vatican Council document that acknowledges the unity of all people, especially the bond between Jewish and Christian people.

A statement issued from the Archdiocese of Boston condemned the "unacceptable" behavior, and offered hopes that the Catholic Memorial student body can learn from the experience.

"We stand ready to assist Catholic Memorial in providing the student body with the awareness education that is needed to ensure that there is no recurrence of these actions or attitudes," it read.

New England Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Robert O. Trestan applauded the quick actions of the administrations of Newton North and Catholic Memorial to address the issue while also offering hope that it will be a "teachable moment for all of those involved."

He called the behavior "ugly," and wrote that "Hate speech has no place in the stands of any sporting event."

On March 14, Catholic Memorial noted it is taking steps to ensure that the incident will become a way to educate its students on intolerance.

"We will use this incident as a teaching opportunity to help students understand the gravity of the actions of student fans, the hurt they have caused to Newton North High School, the residents of Newton, the broader Jewish community and their school," the school wrote.

The school held a series of assemblies and an open forum for students on Monday to discuss what happened. In addition, it has reached out to the ADL "to seek assistance with identifying resources for educating (its) students about Anti-Semitism."

Catholic Memorial president Peter Folan said March 14, "We will also strengthen and enhance our curriculum to better educate our students on the subjects of intolerance and bigotry."

"Student behavior and leadership responsibilities will be included as part of a revised curriculum. These next steps will be made with a great deal of deliberation, thought and input from the Jewish community and the Archdiocese of Boston," he continued.