Around the Hamptons: Easthampton councilor makes case for resolution against antisemitism; Opioid Awareness Day events; auditions for play

By Maddie Fabian

Staff Writer

Published: 08-28-2023 10:40 AM

EASTHAMPTON — In the face of ongoing antisemitic incidents and as upcoming Jewish holidays approach, At-Large City Councilor Owen Zaret is continuing to call on officials, faith leaders and community members to support his resolution against antisemitism.

On Aug. 14, Police Chief Robert Aliberti forwarded a community alert on antisemitism to Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and City Council President Homar Gomez. 

The alert, issued by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism, said that a small antisemitic online group has been organizing across the country since July 21.

According to the alert, the group has primarily targeted synagogues with live video streaming of their services, where trolls have called in bomb threats and reported false crime to evoke an aggressive emergency response.

The group has not targeted any Massachusetts communities, but has targeted at least 25 synagogues around the U.S., including institutions in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

“I see this as an opportunity to kind of recenter on this, as a call to our non-Jewish friends and allies,” said Zaret. “With Jewish holidays coming up in a few weeks, I think it’s another valuable time to talk about this.”

The resolution, which was first proposed to City Council  in May, denounces antisemitism and seeks to educate residents about antisemitism through school curriculum and public events. It also urges the city to recognize Holocaust Remembrance Day.

“Both as a private person and a public figure, I’ve experienced a variety of antisemitism both overt and covert,” said Zaret. “Because we don’t have a really visible Jewish population in Easthampton, people just don’t realize that this is going on.”

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Zaret worked closely with the Jewish Federation of Western Massachusetts and the Anti-Defamation League, along with other local stakeholders, to draft the resolution.

Zaret said he is waiting to bring the resolution to a vote until he gains more support from community members and organizations, particularly faith organizations.

Overdose Awareness Day

EASTHAMPTON — In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day, Easthampton will hold a candlelight vigil on Monday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Millside Park, 2 Ferry St.

Hosted by the city’s health department, Learn To Cope West, and the Drug Addiction and Recovery Team, the event aims to raise awareness and reduce stigmas around overdose and drug-related death.

A vigil will remember those who died of drug overdose, as well as those with permanent injury, and will recognize the grief felt by friends and families. It will include music, guest speakers, and a concluding candle lighting ceremony.

Resource tables will provide information on grief support, recovery services, and health and wellness. Free Narcan will also be available to reverse opioid overdose.

Luminary bags will be offered on the night of the vigil and will be displayed at Millside Park.

Those wishing to pick up luminary bags and/or drop off canned goods in advance of the vigil can do so at Learn To Cope West, 116 Pleasant St. in Easthampton. Canned goods will be donated to the Easthampton Community Center.

Auditions for Easthampton Theater Company

EASTHAMPTON — Easthampton Theater Company announced auditions for its production of Harvey Fierstein’s Torch Song.

The play follows the life of Arnold Beckoff, a torch song-singing Jewish drag queen living in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s.

The production is a two-act 2018 broadway revival based on Torch Song Trilogy, originally published in 1978.

Auditions will be held at St. Philips Church Parish Hall on Sept. 19 and 20 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., with callbacks on Sept. 27. Sign-ups are required. Actors must be 18 years or older at the time of rehearsals, which start in early November.

More information can be found at easthamptontheater.com.

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