Glowing softly amid the wave of candle lights, hundreds of progressive Jews, interfaith allies, and others gathered in a circle next to the Boston Holocaust Memorial on November 1, holding Shiva in remembrance of the murders of the 11 Jewish elders at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, two black people in at a Kroger in Louisville, and three Palestinian teens in Gaza Strip.
The vigilant yet peaceful rally was led by members of the Boston Workmen’s Circle Center for Jewish Culture & Social Justice, ifNotNowBoston, Jewish Voice for Peace – Boston, and Moishe Kavod House. It was also cosponsored by Mijente Boston, Free Siham, Muslim Justice League, Mass Jobs with Justice, and 1for3.org.
In a continuous stream of speeches, speakers from Jewish organizations shared their pain and called for solidarity against anti-semitism, white supremacy and all manifestations of hate.
Nadav David, a member of Moishe Kavod House, an organization of Jewish youth committed to combining Jewish practice with local social justice, said that the safety of the Jewish community lied in its united relationships with all minority groups instead of “an isolation or in relying on policing.”
LIza Behrendt, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace, a national grassroots organization inspired by Jewish tradition to dedicate to human rights and peace, extended David’s sentiments by noting that antisemitism should be fought in the “broad movement against racism, Israeli oppression of Palestinians, and attacks on immigrants and Black people.”
Ariel Branz, a member of IfNotNow Boston, an organization advocating to the American Jewish Community to support the freedom and dignity of all Israelis’ and Palestinians, identified the administration as not only an unreliable source for safety but also an oppressor, claiming that its attacks on the Jewish community “are linked to their attacks on people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and disabled people.” In the background, people held signs saying ‘‘Trump/Pence Must Go,’ Together Against White Supremacy,’ and ‘We will build the World with Love.’
Speakers of the Muslim and Palestinian community responded by sharing their condolences and calling for action as well. Shannon Al-Wakeel, a member of the Muslim Justice League, broke into tears while comforting grieving families by saying “we stand with you… and we will protect you in any way we can.”
Nidal Al-Azraq, a member of 1for3 and a Palestinian, noted that the Muslim Community raised 150,000$ for the Jewish community in solidarity. He pointed out that “we need to trust each other, and love one another,” and called for the crowd to “say no to racism, anti refugee sentiment, and other forms of oppression.” The crowd responded in a resounding ‘no.’
In between speeches, poems and songs were recited. As the host read the poem “We Remember Them” by Sylvan Kamens & Rabbi Jack Riemer, the multitude finished each stanza by echoing “we will remember them.” Overpowering the police sirens in the distance, the chorus and crowd sang Zog nit keyn mol (זאָג ניט קיין מאָל, Never Say), a song written by Hirsh Gilck, who was an inmate of the Vilna Ghetto in Lithuania.
Maddy Popkin, cultural worker and member of the Boston Workmen’s Circle Center for Jewish Culture and Social Justice, reminded the crowd that the song was sung in front of the Holocaust memorial for a reason. “We’ve seen this fascism before,” she said. “But, never again for anyone, anymore.”
Immigrant groups and members of the LGBTQ-I movement, shared their condolences and brought up the plight of other minorities. Free Siham, an organization founded to reconnect Siham and his mother Naseem, who were separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for the past twelve months, called for the support of the family. “We’re not free until we are all free,” said the spokesperson.
Mateo Emanuel Alejandro Cox, a transgender activist with a disability, passionately called for all people to take action. “With bricks we can build the walls that divide, or a longer table” Cox said. “I learned from my Jewish faith to pray as if everything depended on God, act as if it everything depended on you.”
Leora Abelson, a Rabbi in the Boston Area, closed the event with her speech and a prayer, aspiring for a world where “no one is put in cages… free from greed and extraction… a world of reciprocity.” Besere Velt Chorus of the Boston Workmen Circle led the group in a final song.
Members of the crowd lingered for an hour after the event, sharing their thoughts and tending to one another. Lowell Hayenes (80) noted that the “killings at the synagogue of Pittsburg, a community of love, were horrific. The White supremacist who did it was misguided, but this happens all the time. We have stand against it.”
For many, the murders are a continuation of a living past. Melissa Schapero (33), a Jew, tells the story of her grandmother, who emigrated from Germany age 14 in 1938 while her parents and older brother were killed in the Holocaust. “This is not only within human memory, family memory. It’s not ancient history it’s still history,” said Schapero. “I want to help the community breathe, as the core component of Judaism is community. Protecting refugees is a world duty for us Jews.”
Rolando Lopez (28), a co-leader of New Roots AME (Emanuel African Methodist) Church, stood together as a representative of his church. The New Roots AME is a partner church of the Charleston Church, where nine people were killed by shooter Dylann Roof in 2015. “This tragedy comes very close our hearts,” Lopez said. “Any person that makes a person think that I need to express myself by killing other people is sick. We need to be able to address that sickness, hopefully with love and peace as the method, because if we use violence it comes back to us.”
Although Lopez stands vigilant against the crimes committed, he extends a word of reminder. “When, Jesus said love your enemies and he took it literally. He meant it,” Lopez says. “What’s difficult about the Christian commitment is that it challenges you to think of love to the person that you would hate.”