The question really isn’t whether football players knew what Auschwitz was. The school teaches the Holocaust as part of social studies, and one of the most popular electives is a course called Holocaust and Human Behavior.
The question is, how can we as parents raise our children to speak out in the face of something clearly wrong and hurtful to others? It is not an easy task, whether a child is the perpetrator or the victim. It takes courage, something I was missing when a high school classmate whispered “K-ke” to me during history class. I never told anyone about it. My husband Pavlik, the son of a Holocaust survivor, and I want our only child, who is 13, to not only stand up for himself if his religion is the target, but also understand the importance of doing the same. for the others.
Since the calls for the game became public, parents in Duxbury and others have emailed the New England Anti-Defamation League to report that they had heard Auschwitz for the first time on the court there. two seasons ago. Other parents told me that the audibles, including the words “rabbi” and “dreidel,” were used for eight years.
“If the goal is to teach children to stand up for themselves and others and to have the confidence to do so, they need to be in an environment where their role models are the example,” says Robert Trestan, director of ‘ADL New England. “Everyone who came in contact with this team has remained silent.”
Duxbury is a football obsessed town with a beloved coach. The peer pressure to say nothing was probably immense, says Rabbi Howard Cohen, who has led the Shirat Hayam congregation in Duxbury for seven years.
“I don’t apologize the boys for this. Evil is wrong. Nobody got up, ”Cohen says. “It takes a lot of inner confidence, a lot of self-confidence and a certain amount of chutzpah to call people.”
In Auschwitz, over a million Jews and others were murdered by the Nazis. Every April, the nearly 6 million Jews and others killed in the Holocaust are remembered. This year, Holocaust Remembrance Day is Thursday.
Some parents in Duxbury say they struggle to help their children develop the skills they need to speak out against injustices. After the audibles were announced, Kate Reynolds founded an anti-hate group Stand Up Duxbury and recruited others to hold signs with her on the town green to show her support for the Jewish community. She takes her daughters aged 3 and 8 with her.
“How can we expect our children to be able to do the right thing or stand up for what is right if we adults are not doing things right?” Said Reynolds.
Starting young is essential. Learning for Justice, part of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., Trains teachers and provides a guide on how to teach children to express themselves. Parents, like teachers, can give children four steps to take: “interrupt,” “ask questions,” “educate” and “echo,” says Monita Bell, editor of Learning for Justice. When a child hears someone attacking someone else’s identity, interrupt. “Right now you’re saying, ‘Wait, what? What did you say? Bell advises. Then interrogate by asking the speaker what he or she meant. Third, educate with words like, “I don’t like this. It’s not funny to me. Finally, emphasize why the offending statement is a problem.
Out of necessity, as a black parent, Bell has already taught her 9-year-old daughter these lessons and told her about identity injustices.
“More often than not, they’re going to go through something like this at school,” Bell says. “We need to have these conversations. We do not have the privilege of not doing this.
The first lesson for kids should start at home, says Laura Tavares, Director of the Organizational Learning and Thought Leadership Program at Facing History and Ourselves. The Brookline, Massachusetts-based organization created a curriculum on the Holocaust and other genocides in Grades 7-12, a curriculum used in 20,749 private and public schools. Parents should start, says Tavares, by modeling attention and respect for differences, including religious ones. When driving around town, for example, point to a menorah and talk about it with appreciation.
“The best choice is not the most graphic or the most shocking choice,” says Tavares. “It’s the story that brings the human experience home. If you just show pictures of dead bodies in a crematorium, it doesn’t really show you the impact on the Jewish community and other victims.
Children should also understand the damage caused by silence. In Duxbury, the Jewish community is suffering. “I had nightmares,” Marci Goldberg Bracken said during a video conference healing vigil last week led by Cohen. “My grandmother is an Auschwitz survivor, so that’s my identity. Auschwitz is my identity. She is also the mother of a fifth pupil from Duxbury. “I just want to cover my son and he never goes through anything like this.”
Bracken says she talks with her son about what it means to stand up for others and urges him to seek her out if he doesn’t know what to do.
As parents, my husband and I had similar discussions with our son. We also gradually taught Simon about the Holocaust, starting at the age of 8. My husband read her a children’s book about an Auschwitz survivor, “The Number on My Grandfather’s Arm,” and used it as an entryway to tell the story of Sophie, The Paternal Grandmother of Simon. Sophie, a teenager, was imprisoned in the Vilna ghetto from 1941 to 1943. She and two of her three siblings survived. Her parents and younger brother were killed.
After the Duxbury incident, we asked Simon, a seventh grader, if he knew what Auschwitz was. He wasn’t sure. We told him about Auschwitz, and then, to teach a more in-depth lesson, we watched the film “Schindler’s List” as a family. We encouraged him to ask us to pause the movie for any questions. Facing the Story has a discussion guide that parents can use.
Sometimes Simon turned his head away from the most graphic scenes in the film, but from our conversations afterwards we know he learned the courage of Oskar Schindler, a German industrialist, who saved more than 1,100 Jews from be sent to Auschwitz. At the end of the film, we learn that Schindler was honored for his actions in the Avenue of the Righteous in Yad Vashem, the Israeli Holocaust memorial.
“My mother also appointed one of her rescuers and a tree is planted there in her memory,” my husband, Pavlik, told Simon. Later he took out a family album and showed Simon the letter Sophie had written in 1977 to Yad Vashem about Bronislaw Krzyzanowski, a Polish Catholic.
“I can say unequivocally that I owe my life to Mr. Krzyzanowski and his family,” she wrote. As the Nazis surrounded the ghetto with the intention of killing all the Jews, she writes how she “managed to escape through an underground sewer channel” because Krzyzanowski, an engineer, helped plan the route . She emerged in the middle of town at night, shortly before curfew. She needed a place to hide. Two family friends rejected her, saying they couldn’t risk their lives. But the Krzyzanowskis, whom she knew indirectly through a cousin, took her in.
“They were indeed a most extraordinary family, with incredible and rare generosity, courage and dedication,” she wrote. They saved her, two of her siblings and three of her cousins.
This is not just the anti-Semitic play appeal of a football team. Do we want our children to choose a path to Avenue des Justes? Or do we want them to remain silent?