Hundreds of people came together in Natick on Sunday morning to stand against antisemitism after a swastika was discovered late Thursday night at the entrance to Boden Lane Bridge, near the West Natick MBTA commuter rail station, according to officials.
The Natick Police Department is investigating the vandalism as a hate crime, according to a statement released Friday by the Town of Natick.
“Natick unequivocally opposes all acts of hate, prejudice, intolerance or discrimination against all peoples,” Select Board Chair Bruce Evans said in the statement. “These moments serve as a harsh reminder that we must stand vigilant as a community and continue to make progress via greater education and community outreach.”
A local woman, who is not Jewish, responded to the graffiti by covering the swastika with a multicolored flower drawn in sidewalk chalk, along with the message, “Hate has no place here,” according to a Facebook post from the Chabad Center of Natick, a synagogue near the site of the vandalism.
The antisemitic symbol is part of an alarming trend of attacks on Jewish people in Massachusetts, which saw a a 41 percent increase in antisemitic incidents from 2021 to 2022. For the Jewish community in Natick, the act of hate was jarring and hurtful, but presented an opportunity to spread love and healing, according to Rabbi Levi Fogelman of the Chabad Center of Natick.
“We have to condemn evil — there’s no question about that,” Fogelman said in an interview. “But we also have to take it one step further. We have to add more positivity, and add extra light to transform any negativity into something that’s motivating us and channeling us to make the world a better place. That’s our message.”
To spread that message, Fogelman organized a march Sunday morning that brought hundreds of Natick community members together at the bridge to peacefully walk to the Chabad Center.
According to Fogelman, the demonstrators gathered at the Chabad Center to hear from Natick Police Chief James Hicks, as well as members of the Select Board.
For Fogelman, the goal of Sunday morning’s demonstration was to push for peace.
“One of our main ideas is, in general, to move forward, and to double our efforts in good things,” Fogelman said. “That itself makes negativity dissipate when you shed light. ... So what we did was we met at the bridge, and we sort of reclaimed the bridge as a positive place.”
Many of the demonstrators sang spirited Jewish songs as they marched, according to Fogelman, and a sense of positivity was in the air.
Fogelman said he was pleased to see so many people showing love and support, and expressed appreciation to local residents for standing with the Jewish community.
“We have a wonderful community, the Natick community, and everybody came out — Jews, non-Jews — everyone really wanted to share their support.”