I’ve been avoiding saying anything public about what’s happening in Israel and Gaza because I’ve been too angry, grief-stricken, and frustrated to put my emotions into words that I felt I could responsibly share. But friends have reached out asking why I’m not speaking up, and a young Jewish mother emailed me in the middle of the night about how she didn’t feel safe dropping her child off at preschool . . . in Massachusetts. Out of necessity, the Jewish community has built a professional infrastructure around publicly responding to violence against Jews. I’m not one of these professionals and I am not equipped to do this as tactfully and skillfully as they do. But I am an elected official; the first Jew to represent my district in the state legislature and the youngest Jew in the legislature. So this is my best attempt.
It is important for people in our community to understand, and to take at face value, that Saturday was the worst day for Jews everywhere in the world since the Holocaust. A barbaric assault occurred by the hands of Hamas terrorists whose original charter directs the killing of Jews and eliminating the only Jewish state. The mass murder of Jewish babies and the elderly is not part of a cycle of violence. It is not justified retaliation. It is not the fault of Jews. Those tropes that are being circulated now are familiar to Jews and have been blasted on repeat for thousands of years, long before the creation of the modern State of Israel. They are like a dog whistle to our ears.
What is less familiar to many of us is the way that Hamas is broadcasting these atrocities. The Nazis tried to hide what they were doing to Jewish babies and women. Hamas wants you to see it. Jewish children and adults around the globe are being traumatized by these videos on a continual basis. Jewish parents are taking cell phones from their children.
In this moment, the Jewish people need allies. I am so grateful that many of our leaders understand this. For the non-Jewish allies in elected leadership across Massachusetts who had the presence of mind and moral conviction to swiftly make strong public statements of support, you were noticed and that will be remembered. Those looking for examples can find them in the public statements of Maura Healey, Ron Mariano, Kate Hogan, Lori Trahan, Seth Moulton, Manny Cruz, and many others in our Commonwealth.
Also noticed are those who draw false equivalencies, who pander, who prematurely call for a ceasefire just days after these atrocities while over 150 people – including Americans – are being held captive by brutal terrorists in Gaza and while Hamas relentlessly fires rockets at Israel with the intention of killing civilians. Expressing sympathy for and solidarity with innocent civilian victims in Gaza and their loved ones closer to home, which we should all do – and which I do – does not require eschewing any sense of moral clarity about terrorism. As elected leaders, there are times that call for a backbone, for calling out evil, and for side-choosing. This is an uncomfortable truth but one that we have to face when we decide to accept the solemn privilege of holding elected office.
Hamas’ terrorist attack has occurred during a well-chronicled rising tide of anti-Semitism in Massachusetts and the United States. According to the FBI, Jews are 2% of the U.S. population and the victims of over 50% of religiously motivated hate crimes in our country. Think about that. Last school year, the Acton-Boxborough school district experienced a string of anti-Semitic incidents on school grounds. As a response, Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton and the ADL began a months-long planning process for a “Walk Against Hate,” described as “a walk and rally against antisemitism, racism and all forms of bigotry.” Sadly, history teaches us that violence in the Middle East is often quickly followed by acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Muslim hate here at home. Both are unacceptable. We are already seeing this play out in Massachusetts. The event has 50 organizational co-sponsors and will take place this coming Sunday, beginning at 2 p.m. I will be giving the closing remarks at Gardner Field in West Acton at approximately 3:30. I encourage you to join us or to find some other way to show support for your Jewish friends and neighbors, and for everyone who is personally affected by this war, because we are suffering.