BOSTON – Amidst eulogies and prayers for the Jewish state’s three murdered teenagers, calls to “break the silence” about Israel filled a packed sanctuary in Wellesley’s Temple Beth Elohim Wednesday night.
“We must support the State of Israel in its strategic response to ongoing terrorism, as it aims for justice,” said Rabbi Benjamin Samuels of Congregation Shaarei Tefillah.
As one of the first speakers, Samuels spoke about his personal connection to Rachel Fraenkel, whose son Naftali was one of the victims mourned all over the Jewish world this week.
The Newton-based rabbi had spent time with Fraenkel during a scholar-in-residence program at his congregation, and — since the kidnapping — he has been in email contact with the bereaved mother.
Following a Boston community vigil two weeks ago, Samuels told Fraenkel ways in which Boston Jews were taking action to free her son. According to Samuels, Fraenkel reacted by praising “the coming together of different Jews with so much love and caring.”
During Tuesday’s funeral for her son in Israel, Fraenkel recited the Mourners’ Kaddish in front of ultra-Orthodox dignitaries – a “seminal moment” for religion in Israel, according to some observers.
Samuels urged the 600 attendees to “give significance to the short lives” of the murdered teenagers.
Though devoid of traditional politics, the Memorial Service for Our Boys included several pleas for pro-Israel Bostonians to push back on local efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state.
“Now is the time to dry our tears and to speak up,” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of Boston’s Jewish Community Relations Council.
Burton urged the community to fight bias against Israel – even if it’s just chatter around the office water cooler – and to “make the boys’ memories live” by speaking out.
“We need to change how people see Israel and the Jewish people, and we need to change the conversation. Now is not the time for silence,” said Burton.
Early in the gathering, students from Harvard, Northeastern and Boston University read detail-packed biographies of the three young victims, eliciting sniffles throughout the audience.
Referencing Jewish texts, Rabbi Michelle Robinson of Newton’s Temple Emanuel compared the month’s tragic events to this week’s Torah portion, where a king bent on destroying the Israelites hires a prophet to curse them.
As Robinson reminded attendees, the king’s plan backfired, and each curse issued by his minion came out as a blessing.
“We are called on to confront tirelessly together the culture of death that celebrates the capture of children,” said Robinson, linking the Jewish past and present.
As the only elected official to deliver remarks, Congressman Stephen Lynch – whose district includes Boston – spoke about his recent visit to Israel and consultations with top security officials.
Calling the murdered teenagers “sons of Israel,” Lynch reminded attendees that Naftali Fraenkel was “a son of the US as well.”
The legislator was one of several speakers who referenced – some more directly than others – the murder of an Arab boy in Jerusalem yesterday, in what might have been a so-called “price tag” attack.
“Revenge will not lessen the grief we feel this evening,” said Lynch.
Among the speakers who called for turning grief into action, Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, was particularly vivid.
“This is not a time for silence. Now is the time for action, because our indifference means that the blood of more children will be spilled,” he said.
Urging attendees to “be Israel’s voice in the US,” Shrage lambasted the notion of not responding to “rising dangers” in the Middle East and increased anti-Israel activities locally.
“If we don’t take action, future generations will not be proud of their parents and grandparents,” Shrage said.