Speak-out at Pulaski Park in Northampton to take stand against anti-Semitic incidents

Last modified: Tuesday, February 24, 2015

NORTHAMPTON — Local members of the Jewish community and a network of diverse organizations will gather in Pulaski Park at 6:30 p.m. Saturday to speak out against hate and bigotry in response to recent anti-Semitic acts in the area, according to Jennifer Levi, a Beit Ahavah Reform Synagogue member and organizer of the event.

The “Speak Out Against Hate and Bigotry and For Love and Peace Event” is hosted by the Beit Ahavah Reform Synagogue, Congregation B’nai Israel, the Pioneer Valley Progressive Muslims and other local organizations.

Levi said the diversity of the organizations reflects the importance of unifying as a community against hatred and bigotry regardless of race or religious affiliation.

“Vandalism not only destroys property but makes a public statement against an entire group of people,” Levi said. “Any community could be the target of such hatred, that’s why it’s important for all members to stand in support of each other.”

The event comes in response to the burning of an Israeli flag in front of the Congregation B’nai Israel last August and vandalism incidents in which two juveniles scrawled anti-Semitic and racist remarks along Sherman Avenue in January. Northampton police and the Northwestern district attorney’s office determined that the actions did not justify the two juveniles being charged with a hate crime.

“I don’t believe there’s been enough of a public statement condemning these acts of racism and hatred,” Levi said. “We hope this event will unify our statement that we are not the type of community that condones this type of bigotry.”

The event will begin with a traditional Jewish Havdalah celebration followed by a series of songs and talks addressing the importance of educating against hatred. Local clergy members will lead the event, but everyone who attends will be encouraged to speak up, according to Levi.

Attendees are asked to bring a candle, comment, song or poem, but are especially asked “to bring your humanity,” according to a statement issued by the organizing groups.

Rabbi Justin David of Congregation B’nai Israel, the synagogue targeted in the August flag-burning, is expected to lead a public discussion about love, racism and bigotry, Levi said. David could not be reached for comment.

Levi said she hopes the event will draw members of Northampton’s government to Pulaski Park so they can witness community reaction.

“Too many incidents of anti-Semitism and racism in our backyards ... have gone ignored. It’s time for us, as a community, to all come together and say that it’s not OK to target anyone. We are stronger together than we are divided,” Levi said a statement about Saturday’s event.


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