We were one of three local synagogues vandalized in a single week; swastikas were painted in Pawtucket R.I., and closer by in Andover. Another swastika appeared on an athletic facility at one of the high schools in Cranston, R.I., later the same week. This follows widely reported anti-Semitic incidents in Newton, Swampscott and Georgetown.
For years now, there has been a dramatic rise in such occurrences across the country and across the world.
Reading about these acts of bigotry is always upsetting; when they hit home; especially our spiritual home, the ache, the anger, the questions are magnified.
The initial reaction by each of us, the Rabbi of Temple B’nai Abraham and its president, was similar: not if it were ever to happen here, but when.
This is not the first time that TBA was desecrated; in the fall of 1989 a large swastika was painted on the front of our building. We are reminded of rocks thrown through our windows as well.
Our members’ response to this act has been varied; a few attributed this simply to adolescent vandalism which should be painted over and forgotten; others feel that it was as hateful and vile as much worse words and images; others, and we believe the majority, felt that while it was an act that reeks more of sheer ignorance than blind hate, our response should be one of condemnation combined with the opportunity to address the broader issue of anti-Semitism and religious and racial intolerance.
We have heard parents of some of our children report hate speech directed at them in our schools. It seems clear to us that more needs to be done; paint on a wall is a symptom of something much deeper, much more base.
Our national political climate played out before us 24/7 with wall to wall TV coverage; social media commentary and “Twitter wars” exchanged by those who might someday lead us, seems to have contributed to this culture of hate.
Acts of anti-Semitism or racial bigotry or gay-bashing or trans-bashing are happening in the schools and in our communities and it’s affecting all of us.
On Thursday, June 2 at 7 p.m., Temple B’nai Abraham was scheduled to host a community “conversation” facilitated by Robert Trestan, the New England Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office.
This will allow our congregation members, community leaders and others to gather together to attempt to understand and place in context the events of recent days so that we can better appreciate what we can do to help create a culture of understanding.
The events of the past few days have shown us something else; the outpouring of support from our friends and neighbors, Christian and Jewish clergy as well as our civic leaders including Mayor Cahill and Police Chief Lelecheur.
Some of the strongest responses have come from Christian clergy and church members with whom we engage in interfaith relationship-building. Pastor Kent Harrop – who co-leads various programs with Rabbi Adler – and members of the First Baptist Church are taking this vandalism personally. They were particularly moved when we both said that we were not surprised it happened. That is not the reality that they live with, and it is upsetting and unacceptable.
As an appointed member of the newly established Beverly Human Rights Committee, Rabbi Adler is hopeful that this event will help focus a larger Beverly-wide response around hate and intolerance. Vigils are not enough. This is a time to build relationships, educate, and move forward together.
In the aftermath of the Shoah Jews have always said “Never Again.”
Decades, generations of people and first hand memories have passed but we must not let history repeat itself.