Taking a stand against vile acts of bigotry – Boston Herald

Posted By on January 19, 2020

Like a metastasizing cancer, anti-Semitism has again shown its ugly head, spreading its ignorance-borne intolerance.

And its escalated from words to deeds, which has forced Jews everywhere to rethink every aspect of their daily lives.

After seeing to his daughter Avas bat mitzvah a few years ago, state Sen. Barry Finegold planned on doing the same for his younger daughter, Ella. However, this time, he had another important detail to consider: security.

Unfortunately, its become a fact of life for many in the Jewish community.

Locally, we just witnessed the latest example of this mindless, racist hatred.

That occurred on Saturday in Billerica, when a mother taking her son to a town-owned playground off Andover Road discovered a swastika sprayed on a container storing baseball equipment.

The woman, a member of the Jewish faith, contacted Rabbi Susan Abramson of Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington on what steps to take.

She went to the police and then contacted other town leaders, who along with the Billerica Interfaith Association released a joint statement Tuesday condemning the racist graffiti and offering support to the Jewish community.

Members of the Jewish faith have been targets of hateful acts in the past. In March 2014, the town of Bedford tried to come to grips with a series of anti-Semitic incidents involving elementary schoolchildren, which included a game called Jail the Jews.

Recent attacks in New York and New Jersey have heightened security concerns at synagogues and other community gathering places.

In 2018, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in this country, the third-highest total since the organization began tracking incidents 40 years ago. Of that number, 265 occurred in synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, according to the audit.

In Massachusetts, the number of reported hate crimes including crimes motivated by race, religion and ethnicity increased by almost 10% to a 10-year high in 2017. The ADL said 2018 was the second-highest year for anti-Semitic incidents in Massachusetts on record, ranking second only to 2017.

Thats why Sen. Finegold supports the Commonwealth Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which provides security enhancement funding from the state for nonprofit organizations at high risk of terrorist attack or hate crimes.

On Jan. 6, Gov. Charlie Baker held a ceremonial signing of sections of the supplemental budget for fiscal 2019, which boosts the programs available funding by $1 million.

Several area synagogues are considering applying for grants.

Congregation Agudat Achim in Leominster has already made efforts to increase security, according to President Scott Zibel. The grant program may allow the synagogue to be reimbursed for some of those costs, he said.

For Robin Frisch, president of Temple Emanuel of the Merrimack Valley in Lowell, its heartening to see the state standing against hate.

But both Frisch and Zibel said its a challenge for Jewish faith organizations to prioritize safety while remaining open and welcoming to the community. Its something Congregation Shalom in North Chelmsford has been grappling with as well, said Rabbi Shoshana Perry.

Like Finegold, Perry said she never expected to see this level of anti-Semitism in the United States during her lifetime.

While we can allocate state funds to bolster security, we cant legislate ignorance and hate out of existence.

But we can all stand up and say it wont be tolerated.

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Taking a stand against vile acts of bigotry - Boston Herald

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