Following a series of anti-Semitic attacks in New York and elsewhere, about 200 members of local Jewish communities plan to travel there Sunday morning to join with thousands of people of all faiths to march across the Brooklyn Bridge in a display of solidarity.
“People are feeling vulnerable,” said Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Boston office, in a phone interview Saturday.
“New York has seen a huge increase in violence directed against Jews and the Jewish community, but it could easily happen here; it could easily happen everywhere,” Trestan continued. “When people are targeted for no other reason than their religion, everyone in that faith feels vulnerable.”
Sunday’s march under the slogan, “No Hate, No Fear,” was organized in response to the stabbing of five Hasidic Jews in the New York suburb of Monsey last weekend as they celebrated the seventh night of Hanukkah at the home of a rabbi.
That attack was among more than a dozen anti-Semitic attacks in New York in a three-week span, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo.
In the Boston area, local organizations have come together to spread the word about the march and recruit activists to travel to New York, including Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, JCC of Greater Boston, the Israeli-American Council, and the American Jewish Committee.
Leaders of those organizations, including Trestan, will also march, and Cardinal Sean O’Malley, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Boston, called Trestan on Saturday to offer his support for the demonstration, Trestan said.
In a statement posted to Twitter, the cardinal wrote, “We join our Jewish brothers & sisters in unity as together we stand up to anti-semitism in our society with the #NoHateNoFear solidarity march across the Brooklyn Bridge.”
Trestan said the attacks have made him, like many members of the faith, feel personally vulnerable and want to take a stand.
“I think it’s important for those of us that are traveling to New York to send a message that all of the Boston area stands in solidarity with the people that were directly impacted in New York,” Trestan said. “The real message here is that there is no fear, there is no hate, and the community is not going to be intimidated. The community is not going to run from this.”
Rena Mirkin, a former principal of Wellesley High School, said the anti-Semitic grafitti at local schools and synagogues, the arson fires last spring at Jewish centers in Arlington and Needham, and the brutal attacks on Jews in Pittsburgh and New York all have echoes of long-ago outbreaks of anti-Semitism.
“It sounds like stories our parents talked about in the ’20s and ’30s that we thought were never going to come our way again,” she said, adding later, “I’m 76. I’m not worried for me. I’m worried for my children and grandchildren.”
Mirkin and her husband canceled plans Saturday and Sunday so they could drive back from Cape Cod to their home in Chestnut Hill, where they have attended Temple Emeth for half a century, and join the caravan to New York on Sunday morning, she said.
After they learned that a group from Boston was going to the march, Mirkin said, they decided, “We must go. It’s not, ‘Can we?’ ‘Should we?’ Of course we’re going.”
Judith Sydney, a member of Boston’s Temple Israel and the immediate past president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston’s Women’s Philanthropy division, said the anti-Semitic attacks are “intolerable.” It horrifies her, she said, to think of people being afraid to express their faith publicly because it could make them a target.
“No matter who you are, you should be able to live your life freely, openly, and without fear. . . . There just can’t be a place for hate, and that’s what this march represents,” said Sydney, who plans to travel to New York with friends and meet her sister there.
She hopes the march will help show young people that, “You can be that change agent. You’re one person that can make a difference.”
Hollis Schachner, cantor at Wayland’s Temple Shir Tikva, plans to march with her 11-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son, who just studied the Holocaust at his high school. He finished watching Steven Spielberg’s epic film, “Schindler’s List,” at school Friday, Schachner said, and when he checked his phone he had a text message from her inviting him to the march.
“It connects the lessons from history that he’s learning with lessons we’re teaching our children about being upstanders for justice,” Schachner said.
In recent weeks, Schachner said, she has heard from many Christian, Muslim, and secular friends and neighbors who want to show their support for the Jewish community, and “I think this march creates a really important opportunity to say join us, stand up with us here.”
At a time when synagogues, mosques, and churches have all been targeted for mass shootings and stabbings, Trestan said, more must be done to keep people safe in places of worship.
“We need to get the issues of safety and security for faith communities at the top of the priority list,” Trestan said, “and we need to combine that with education programming and leadership to create change that doesn’t just benefit the Jewish community, that benefits all Americans.”
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.