Boston Jews rally after spate of attacks in area
BOSTON (JTA) – Days after a series of violent acts stunned Greater Boston and threatened its Jewish community, residents are shaken but resolute, vowing to continue to be proud of their Jewish identity.
The latest incident happened on Thursday, when Rabbi Chabad Shlomo Noginski was stabbed eight times outside Shaloh House, a Jewish school and synagogue in Brighton, where he teaches.
Less than a week earlier, on June 26, in Winthrop, a seaside town just north of Boston, a white supremacist who harbored virulent racist and anti-Semitic views murdered Air Force veteran Ramona Cooper, 60, and Retired State Soldier David Green, 68, both African American. The shooting took place near two synagogues and is being investigated as a hate crime.
Both episodes of violence took place during a period of high alert in the region following a June 24 pro-Palestinian protest outside the New England regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League in Boston, during which a non-Jewish writer from the Zionist website CAMERA was, according to the video, spat out and called a Nazi by the protesters. The local Jewish Journal-Massachusetts wrote in an editorial that the ADL encounter and the double murder were both “high profile cases of anti-Semitism and hate.”
All three incidents worried local and national Jewish groups, but it was the attack on Noginski that proved to be the tipping point for many Jewish Bostonians. With just a few hours’ notice, hundreds of people gathered in Brighton on Friday morning for a rally in support of Noginski, drawing a wide range of Greater Boston’s Jewish community, its allies and dozens of elected leaders, police officers. and officials.
âOur community feels vulnerable,â Marc Baker, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, said at the rally. âAnd we feel angry, wondering if we can be safe in our own country and in our own cities. “
Organized by Shaloh House, CJP, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston and the New England branch of the ADL, the rally was held in front of the school and synagogue where Noginski was attacked. The Russian-born rabbi, an Israeli citizen and father of 12, was released from the hospital on Friday.
Police apprehended the alleged assailant, Khaled Awad, who is being held without bail until a hearing scheduled for July 8. Awad’s former friends and roommates, including a Jewish roommate, described him as “violent” and “very anti-Semitic.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is investigating both the stabbing and the shooting. She launched a civil rights investigation to determine whether Noginski’s stabbing was a hate crime.
Rollins also sought to alert the Jewish community to the anti-Semitic tendencies of Winthrop shooter Nathan Allen, 28, noting that his personal writings revealed racist and anti-Semitic views, including designs of swastikas, and that he may be seeking -being to target Jews in addition to blacks. Allen had no criminal record and was killed by police at the scene.
“There is no symbol more powerful and hateful than a swastika,” Rollins told the Jewish Telegraph Agency. âWhen we saw this in the writings, with his own hand he said who he was. I know it’s scary to hear, but I feel obligated to tell people that there are individuals who hate and want to hurt [them]. “
Details like these shocked the local Jewish community. Winthrop resident Denise Mahoney, a member of the non-denominational Tifereth Israel temple, had attended school with Green, one of the victims, and remained friends in their close-knit town. News of her murder had been “devastating”, she said.
But participants at Friday’s rally sought to project a resilient face.
âThe Jewish community is angry, but the Jewish community is united,â JCRC Boston executive director Jeremy Burton told the crowd. âWe demand that we have the right to live. The right to walk in the street. To be visible or not, to live our life as Jews, fully and without fear. “
His message was reinforced by Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House.
âWe’re not going to sit idly by,â Rodkin said. “We will make sure to send a strong message: Evil has no place in America.”
Rodkin asked the participants to commit eight acts of kindness, representing the eight stab wounds inflicted on Noginski.
Noginski himself told media on Sunday: âIf people want to see a miracle, they should watch me. “
Speaking in Hebrew with a translator, Noginski described his heartbreaking ordeal in more detail, the Boston Globe reported. He said the armed assailant tried to force him into the school van, causing Noginski to fear kidnapping. At an opportune moment, Noginski said, he ran across the street to drive the abuser away from the school, where the children were in summer camp.
In recovery, the rabbi said he is redoubling his efforts to bring kindness and light to the world, teaching and helping more people. “And it will help me heal and help the whole environment around me,” he told reporters.
More than a quarter of Greater Boston’s roughly 248,000 Jewish households live in Brighton and the adjoining communities of Brookline and Newton, according to the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish Population Study conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies of Brandeis University.
âYesterday’s attack injured the rabbi and shook our community,â said acting Boston Mayor Kim Janey. “An attack on a member of [our] community is an attack on all of us.
The attack drew Noginski’s support and condemnation against anti-Semitism from many leaders, including Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and Boston Cardinal SÃ©an Patrick O’Malley.
Nina Baron, a 26-year-old Bostonian, was devastated by the rabbi’s attack and accompanied her father to the rally. Growing up in a suburb, she didn’t have many concerns about anti-Semitism, she told JTA at the rally.
âThis time in America, it’s different for all marginalized groups. But as a Jew I really feel different from what I used to do, âshe said.
In the Winthrop case, where there were no Jewish casualties, Robert Trestan, director of the New England ADL, said he agreed with Rollins that sharing details of the anti-Semitic tendencies of the shooter was important. âWhat we learn from the investigation can help prevent future attacks,â Trestan told JTA.
Trestan, who saw some of the writings, said they made him “shudder a little, to see the written words of someone who killed two people and was probably willing to kill more for no reason other than the hatred that was in his directing.His handwriting confirms his motive.
While the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Massachusetts and across New England declined in 2020, the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents against American Jews across the country remain historically high, according to the ‘ADL.
Rollins took the anti-Semitic angle of this incident very seriously, according to Josh Schreiber, the rabbinical intern at Tifereth Israel.
âShe could have easily downplayed that,â he said.
Many Tifereth Israel devotees attended a vigil in support of the families of the victims, where Schreiber delivered the opening speech.
âOne of the strongest responses through a Jewish lens is that we are part of the community at large,â he said. Schreiber told JTA that the synagogue will receive a grant from the CJP to strengthen security.
Mahoney was alarmed when she learned from her son, a transit police officer, that the shooting was fueled by racism and anti-Semitism.
But she will ignore her son’s suggestion to put his two Star of David necklaces in his shirt to hide his Jewish identity, as some Jews in America have said they are considering doing.
âI am not going to allow hatred of someone to change my behavior,â she said. âIt would allow his hatred to win. “