BRIGHTON – The rabbi who survived one of the worst antisemitic attacks in the region this year was honored Thursday evening during a menorah lighting in front of the Shaloh House day school. Rabbi Shlomo Noginski was stabbed at least eight times there and in a nearby park in broad daylight on July 1.
“It’s a big miracle, it’s a big miracle, what happened with me then and thank God and I feel better. I’m still in a little bit of pain. But, miracles, miracles for sure,” said Noginski in Russian in a brief interview before the Hanukkah festival.
The Brighton rabbi also took a moment to reflect on the context of his surviving the attack, and the related meaning of Hanukkah, before the menorah lighting ceremony.
“You, know they wounded me eight times, eight times,” Noginski said. “And of course we are lighting eight candles. Eight symbolizes the higher nature. There is seven, like seven days a week, so that’s from nature, but the way the omnipresent rules this world in hidden ways, we don’t always see him. If you think about the ways in which God rules, it controls everything. Sometimes, there are miracles. And when there is a miracle, we can immediately see God’s work at hand, exactly [in] the way of the holiday of Hanukkah, a big miracle.”
More than 100 people, many of them families with small children, gathered in the driveway of Shaloh House for the candle-lighting ceremony, which featured music, entertainment and a car parade around Boston featuring limos and cars topped with lighted electric menorahs.
The lighting of Shaloh House’s giant menorah using flaming torches took place on the fifth day of Hanukkah. The ceremony featured New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, Boston’s new mayor, Michelle Wu; Meron Reuben, Consul General of Israel to New England; Rabbi Marc Baker, president and CEO of Combined Jewish Philanthropies of Greater Boston; and Rabbi Dan Rodkin, executive director of Shaloh House.
Speakers explained how the festival of lights acts to dispel darkness; especially in light of what prosecutors have said was a hate-crime assault on Noginski. The suspect in the attack faces nine charges, including assault to murder and two hate crime charges, in Suffolk Superior Court. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Many noted that the attack on Noginski, who managed to fend off his attacker to escape back into Shaloh House, goes against the grain of what America stands for. Noginski’s family fled persecution for being Jewish in the former Soviet Union when he was 10. Noginski lived in Israel until he relocated his family to Brighton a couple of years ago.
“This man is a hero to me,” said Kraft in an interview with the reporters before the event. “He’s a wonderful family man. He’s a man of spirituality. You know, this holiday commemorates a time of freedom; the Maccabees won a great victory. Plus, this is symbolic of ending all kinds of racism, Islamophobia, issues with LGBTQ, everything.”
Kraft said he didn’t expect Noginski would be treated the way he was in Boston. “I love Beantown, and we’ve got to celebrate all the good things about it.” Kraft said he had a chance to meet with the rabbi, his wife and their 12 children this past summer.
“This country was founded on immigrants coming here and living their dream and feeling safe and secure. We’ve got to make sure we bring that back,” Kraft said.
In his remarks, Rabbi Rodkin said Kraft had never heard of Shaloh House before the attack on Noginski, but was one of the first people to reach out to him to offer help.
The festival was “also focusing the light on antisemitism and what has been going on over the last year,” Ambassador Reuben said in an interview. “Unfortunately one of the worse hate crimes occurred here on the steps of this building, so it is a very important message that we are trying to get across.”
During his speech, Reuben said, “While the assault on the rabbi was the most violent hate crime on the local Jewish community this year, it was also a time in which Duxbury High football players shouted antisemitic terms as play calls, alongside more recent antisemitic graffiti as well as offensive online language among students in the public schools in nearby Danvers and Holliston, just to name a few.”
This holiday started 2,200 years ago, Rabbi Baker said, “when we were not only persecuted as a people, we were persecuted culturally and spiritually, driven underground, told we couldn’t practice our traditions, forced to assimilate. And, the victory of Hanukkah is not just a military victory; it is a commitment to renewing and rededicating ourselves to walking proudly, to wearing our identities on our sleeve every day. We fight to survive so that we can bring hope and light into this world.”
Mayor Wu, a former Boston city councilor, noted, “We were all here not too long ago,” referring to a rally in support of Noginski the day after the attack and while he was still in the hospital, “but one additional person is here with us today.” Wu said they were blessed for Noginski’s presence at the menorah lighting.
“The city of Boston,” Wu said, “will always stand strong in rejecting intolerance, bigotry, antisemitism [and] hatred; but, more importantly, recognizing that bringing all of our lights together is the foundation for how we truly model that culture and community of love, of light and representing everyone in the city.”
Rodkin lamented the attack on Noginski, whom he said came to Brighton from a comfortable life in Israel.
“But he wanted to be [a] rabbi, he wanted to use his Russian language to teach in [a] Russian community and teach Hebrew and come here and be a rabbi of Shaloh House,” Rodkin said.
“It’s very sad what happened right now, here,” added Rodkin, who said they never would have expected this to happen in America. “Because America is different. America is all about freedom, all about tolerance and all about acceptance.”
Rodkin said they were there celebrating a holiday of miracles and light while announcing a program to educate eight new rabbis, given there are eight nights of Hanukkah and Noginski was stabbed eight times.
“For each stab, we will have one new rabbi educated here in Brighton,” Rodkin said.