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Finegold speaks with Duxbury High football players about Jewish faith after anti-Semitic incident

‘When people forget about or make light of genocide, history repeats itself,’ Finegold wrote in a letter

State Senator Barry Finegold.
State Senator Barry Finegold.John Tlumacki

State Senator Barry Finegold spoke about the Jewish faith with members of the Duxbury High School football team Saturday, nearly a week after school officials fired the team’s longtime head coach during an investigation into the team’s use of anti-Semitic language during games.

The Andover Democrat, who represents residents in his hometown, Dracut, Lawrence, and Tewksbury, posted an open letter last week inviting players to discuss the use of the terms such as “Auschwitz” as audibles, last-second play changes at the line of scrimmage, during games.

On Saturday, the senator posted a letter about his conversation with the students on his Twitter account.

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During the conversation, Finegold, who is Jewish and played football at Andover High School, discussed his experience of being labeled with slurs, as well as the history of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.

“This was not an easy discussion, but it was important,” he wrote in the letter. “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.”

Calls for an investigation into the Duxbury football program began after officials from an opposing team, Plymouth North, contacted Duxbury authorities about the use of offensive Jewish-related terms used during a March 12 game. Duxbury officials later acknowledged that the team used words such as “Auschwitz,” “rabbi,” and “dreidel.”

The town’s Board of Selectmen plans to hold a public meeting on Monday evening regarding the investigation.

Finegold said he also discussed personal matters, such as his plans to celebrate Passover later that day, and how his Jewish faith helped him get through the loss of his sister, Joni, who died at 42, leaving two young daughters.

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In his statement, he drew on a quote from Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize-winning author who was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp, to describe his reasons for talking with the students about anti-Semitism.

“If we decide to tell the tale, it is because we wanted the world to be a better world,” Finegold quoted Wiesel in the statement. “We must become the messengers.”

Finegold said he saw the Duxbury incident as a crucial learning opportunity about the consequences of words.

“When people forget about or make light of genocide, history repeats itself,” Finegold wrote. “It happened in Rwanda and it happened in Bosnia. We need to speak out and become the messengers.”



Abigail Feldman can be reached at abigail.feldman@globe.com.