BELCHERTOWN, Mass. (WWLP) – Around the world Tuesday, communities came together to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day, but in Belchertown, recent anti-Semitic incidents have given fresh urgency to the remembrance.
Belchertown commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day and stood up to recent antisemitism at a standout in town Tuesday afternoon. This gathering was organized just a few days ago but in the wake of what happened at Jabish Middle School. More than 100 people came to show support for the Jewish community.
Many in Belchertown and surrounding towns including faith, student, and civic leaders came to the Belchertown town common to honor Yom Hachoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day, but to also connect the past to the present, especially following anti-Semitic incidents at Jabish Middle School.
Nora Gorenstein, CEO of the Jewish Federation of western Massachusetts told 22News, “One of the ways in which we connect our history to our present is bringing up the events of the past and showing how they continue to be real and present concerns.”
Even though this standout was organized last minute, over 100 people came, giving hope to those who work, live and represent the town.
“It makes me believe that Belchertown has no place for antisemitism and as we continue to respond to those incidents in the middle school we’re doing so as a unified community,” said Representative Aaron Saunders.
Henia Lewin is an 83 year-old survivor of the Holocaust. Lewin was smuggled out of her home in Lithuania. Lewin attended Tuesday’s gathering and told 22News it’s her duty to make sure everyone knows the past because education is the most effective way to combat antisemitism and all forms or hate.
“I will not be around very long, I know that, and it will be left to my children and grandchildren to tell that story but it is important that the teachers be trained to teach their students to fight for good and not for evil,” said Lewin.
An anonymous letter read aloud at a school board meeting last week indicated up to 50 students had been intimidating Jewish students at Jabish Brook Middle School by making Nazi salutes and talking about concentration and death camps at school.
School officials are still investigating the details of those anti-Semitic incidents but for now many are hopeful this gathering Tuesday shows a true representation of unity.