“You Killed Jesus” Catholic Students Chant at Jewish Basketball Rivals

“A soft answer turneth away wrath; but a grievous word stirreth up anger.” Proverbs 15:1 (The Israel Bible™)

Good, clean, sporting fun turned ugly over the weekend as one team’s somewhat inappropriate jeers were met with anti-Semitic slurs in Boston. According to the Washington Post, at the division title basketball game Friday night between the all-boys Catholic Memorial School and the public Newton North High School, which has a sizeable Jewish population, fans of CMS chanted, “You killed Jesus” to the opposing team and its supporters.

The unpleasant events began when Newton North fans began teasing CM for being an all-boys school, calling out, “Sausage fest!” The Catholic fans fired back repeatedly, “You killed Jesus, you killed Jesus!” according to witnesses who asked not to be identified. Some who were Jewish told the paper they found the chants alarming.

One witness, a child of Holocaust survivors, was particularly troubled. She grew up in Skokie, Illinois, where in the 1970s local officials lost a court battle to prevent neo-Nazis from marching through the predominantly Jewish neighborhood. “I just can’t believe it,” she said of Friday night’s events, “I just can’t believe it.”

CM staff were quick to respond to their students’ behavior. In a statement released Saturday, CM president Peter F. Folan wrote, “CM faculty and staff acted immediately to stop the behavior. Administrators from both schools and representatives from the MIAA [Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association] discussed the incident. At the conclusion of the game, CM students were reprimanded and each student personally apologized to the Principal of Newton North High School and shook his hand before leaving the arena.”

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Noting that the school has also been on the receiving end of hateful comments, he vowed, “we will work diligently within our own community and with other schools to end this abhorrent behavior. Catholic Memorial School believes deeply that intolerance, of any kind, is unacceptable. We apologize for the actions of our students and we will continue to strenuously address this issue within our community.”

The Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director, Robert Trestan, responded to the incident. He said he had been in touch with parties on both sides and that he took the matter very seriously.

“We are very concerned why some fans thought this chant was appropriate for a high school basketball game,” Trestan said in a statement. “Hate speech has no place in the stands of any sporting event. We are grateful for the quick intervention by school officials and hope they use this as a teachable moment.”

The Bible notes repeatedly the importance of watching one’s speech, pointing out in Proverbs 18 that “death and life are in the power of the tongue”.

In 1965, in an historic rejection of anti-Semitism, the Catholic Church issued the Nostra Aetate declaration. While noting that in his own time, some Jews called for Jesus to be killed, the collective Jewish people cannot be held responsible for his death.

CM ultimately won Friday night’s game 77-73, allowing them to advance to the EMass Final, scheduled for Monday.