Many of the 2,000 at the rededication held signs of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza./BARRY WANGER

In Newton, 2,000 attend ‘Hostage Wall’ rededication

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In Newton, 2,000 attend ‘Hostage Wall’ rededication

Many of the 2,000 at the rededication held signs of the Israeli hostages held in Gaza./BARRY WANGER

NEWTON – In a powerful show of support for the more than 100 Israeli hostages in Gaza, and in condemnation of antisemitism, more than 2,000 people rallied together Sunday on the six-month anniversary of the Oct. 7 massacre.

The event was billed as a rededication of a 100-foot-long hostage memory wall in front of a Newton house on Homer Street where posters of the hostages were defaced last month. Three “We stand with Israel” lawn signs on homeowners’ properties were also defaced last month, and a rock was thrown through the window of a home with a sign supporting Israel. According to the city, there have been 18 antisemitic or anti-Israel incidents so far in Newton in 2024.

“The fact that the hostages are still held prisoner in Gaza breaks my heart every day,” said Adina Troen-Krasnow of Natick, one of the event volunteers. Two of her cousins were killed in the Oct. 7 attack.

“I’m here because we need to get the hostages out. It is too late for my cousins but not too late for the hostages,” she said.

As a police department drone buzzed overhead, children unveiled new posters of the 106 hostages, one at a time, reciting a few sentences about each of the prisoners still held by Hamas in Gaza.

“It is amazing how many neighbors and strangers have come up to us and shared how devasted they were by the wall’s desecration,” said Jeffrey Kosowsky, who put up the wall with his wife, Miriam, in front of their home shortly after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

“We learned how much this hostage memory wall has meant to those who passed by and saw it as a place of memory, comfort, meditation, or even prayer,” he said to the assembled crowd, some carrying flags and posters of the hostages.

Miriam Kosowsky, an attorney, angrily pointed out that “the spray paint wasn’t random; it blocked the faces and names on the posters.

“They had to look at Kfir Bbas, who was nine months old, and to Ariel, who is his brother,” she said. “They had to look into their eyes.”

Dozens of volunteers at the rededication – described by Jeffrey Kosowsky, a corporate executive, as a “grassroots effort that generated support from leading Jewish organizations” – passed out hundreds of flyers and lawn signs.

Emily Brophy of West Roxbury, one of the local leaders of Run for Their Lives, an organization dedicated to the freeing of the hostages, led a group of sign-carrying volunteers from the nearby city hall to the rededication ceremony.

At the rededication, the crowd chanted “bring them home” and a series of speakers, including Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and U.S. Rep. Jake Auchincloss, condemned antisemitism and voiced support for the families.

“As the mayor of Newton, and as a Jew, I want to say loudly and clearly that hate will not and cannot silence us,” she said. She also praised the Newton Police Department for its efforts in dealing with antisemitic and anti-Israel acts in the city.

Last Saturday, “from the river to the sea” posters were plastered in Newton Centre, according to Newton Police Lt. Amanda Nickerson.

The previous week, a red swastika was spray-painted in the parking lot of an elementary school, and a rope that tied an American and Israeli flag to a fence outside a home was cut and the flags stolen.

“Since the start of the year, 19 incidents classified as antisemitic or anti-Israel have occurred (in Newton), and are being investigated,” Nickerson said, compared to 26 last year. To date, no arrests have been made.

“Whatever our disparate views on the current conflict in Israel/Palestine, verbal and physical assaults on members of our community or their property are abhorrent,” Rabbi Toba Spitzer of Congregation Dorshei Tzedek in Newton told the Jewish Journal.

“We are seeing a rise in both antisemitism and Islamophobia in Newton, and it is imperative that we stand together against all of these attacks on members of our community,” she said.

Referencing the incidents in Newton, Ron Fish, Anti-Defamation League New England interim regional director, said that “vandalism that crosses the threshold of a home is an especially malicious act,” and that the recent incidents serve as “a grim reminder of the work we need to do to ensure that there is no tolerance for antisemitism in our community.”

Efforts to combat antisemitism and anti-Israeli attacks have brought together a broad, informal coalition of religious and community leaders in Newton, according to Rev. Cheryl Kerr, senior minister at the United Parish of Auburndale and chair of the Newton Interfaith Clergy Association.

She said a letter expressing solidarity with Israel, signed by 46 local elected officials and clergy, was sent out to the community last week.

“We are writing in order to speak together in one voice, to decry the uptick in threatening behaviors directed against those among us who publicly express their solidarity with the State of Israel,” the letter said.

“We recognize the diversity of views about the war currently being waged in Gaza. Our hearts go out to all who are suffering. At the same time, we insist that each and every one of us be free to express their views without fear of reprisal of any kind.”

Statewide, the ADL reports that antisemitic incidents increased by 41 percent between 2021 and 2022. Nearly half of the reports involved vandalism. Most of the others in­­volved harassment.

Massachusetts reported the sixth-highest number of incidents in the country, just behind New York, California, New Jersey, Florida and Texas. Θ

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