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Boston Jews rally together after streak of attacks in the area

BY PENNY SCHWARTZ 

BOSTON (JTA) – Days after a series of violent acts stunned Greater Boston and threatened its Jewish community, residents are jolted but resolute, vowing to continue taking pride in their Jewish identity.  

The latest incident occurred on Thursday, when Chabad Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was stabbed eight times outside of Shaloh House, a Jewish school and synagogue in Brighton, where he teaches. 

Less than a week prior, on June 26, in Winthrop, a seaside town just north of Boston, a white supremacist who harbored virulent racist and antisemitic views murdered Air Force veteran Ramona Cooper, 60, and retired state trooper 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 played out during a period of high alert in the area following a June 24 pro-Palestinian protest at the New England regional offices of the Anti-Defamation League in Boston, at which a non-Jewish writer for the Zionist website CAMERA was, according to video, spat at and called a Nazi by protesters. The local Jewish Journal-Massachusetts wrote in an editorial that the ADL encounter and the double murder were both “high-profile instances of antisemitism 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 only hours of advance notice, hundreds of people gathered Friday morning in Brighton for a rally in support of Noginski, drawing a wide swath of Greater Boston’s Jewish community, its allies and scores of elected leaders, police and officials.

“Our community is feeling vulnerable,” Marc Baker, president of the Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston, said at the rally. “And we are feeling angry, wondering whether we can be safe in our own country, and 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 across the street from the school and synagogue where Noginski was attacked. 

Police apprehended the alleged attacker, Khaled Awad. Former friends and college roommates of Awad’s, including a Jewish roommate, have described him as “violent” and “very antisemitic.” Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is investigating both the stabbing and the shootings. She has launched a civil rights investigation to determine if the stabbing of Noginski was a hate crime. 

Attendees at the Boston rally sought to project a resilient face. 

“The Jewish community is angry, but the Jewish community is united,” JCRC Boston’s executive director, Jeremy Burton, told the crowd. “We demand that we have the right to live. The right to walk in the street. To be visible, or not, to live our lives as Jews, fully and without fear.”

His message was reinforced by Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House. “We are not going to sit back,” Rodkin said. “We will make sure to send a strong message: Evil has no place in America.”   

The Greater Boston area has around 248,000 Jews, and more than a quarter of Jewish households live in Brighton and the contiguous communities of Brookline and Newton, according to the 2015 Greater Boston Jewish population study conducted by the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University.

“Yesterday’s attack left the rabbi injured and our community shaken,” said Boston’s acting Mayor Kim Janey. “An attack on any member of [our] community is an attack on all of us.”

The attack drew support for Noginski and condemnation against antisemitism from many leaders, including Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Boston Cardinal Séan Patrick O’Malley.

Nina Baron, a 26-year-old Bostonian, was upset by the attack on the rabbi and accompanied her father to the rally. Growing up in a suburb, she didn’t have that many concerns about antisemitism, she told JTA at the rally.

“This time in America is different for all marginalized groups. But as a Jew, I definitely feel different than I used to,” she said.

Main Photo: Hundreds gather on July 2, 2021, for a rally in Brighton, Mass., in support of Rabbi Shlomo Noginski, who was stabbed the day before in the same park across the street from his Jewish day school. (Courtesy of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston)

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