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Published Thursday, April 21, 2016

I am a Rabbi and I was There

I write to correct one small error in your editorial, “The Outrage Was There, but Newton Struck Out” (Journal, April 14). The rabbinic community was not entirely absent from the Newton community gathering on April 7. I was, in fact, in attendance and was scheduled to speak. The mayor and other organizers were informed in advance that I had a teaching obligation and would have to leave at 7 p.m. Unfortunately, the early part of the program ran longer than anticipated and I had to depart before addressing the community.

There has been much heat around this event. For my part, I believe that its conception was ill-designed, and contributed to the unfortunate, but somewhat understandable outbursts of frustration from members of the audience. The recent spate of anti-Semitic graffiti incidents are disturbing and must be confronted. At the same time, it is clear that other forms of prejudice, intolerance and hate are percolating within our community. These too, must be confronted. Our leaders in Newton must help this community, with the support of organizations like the ADL and the faith leaders of Newton’s many houses of worship, confront the anti-Semitism, as well as the other expressions of intolerance and hatred must likewise be confronted.  

I am disappointed I was not able to remain long enough to speak on April 7 as my comments would have been different from those I did hear while in the hall. I did later watch the video of the entire event. I am disappointed that the ADL and clergy were not consulted about the design of the evening’s gathering. I am also disappointed that members of our broader community felt it was acceptable to shout down or otherwise challenge other members of the Newton community who rose to express their regrets about the anti-Semitic acts, as well as share their own children’s experiences of other forms of intolerance.

We are better than what was on display at City Hall on April 7. It is my hope and prayer that we will move forward with greater forethought. It is also my firm commitment to do my part in helping our community confront anti-Semitism, as well as other hateful trends in our community and beyond.  

Rabbi Eric S. Gurvis, Temple Shalom of Newton

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