It’s Sunday in Boston, less than a week since the bombing of the
marathon finish line on Patriot’s Day and just a couple days since the capture of the surviving suspected bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who led police on a firefight-riddled chase through the city’s suburbs that shuttered the metropolis for a full day.
“It’s been a very long week. It’s hard to believe it’s only been six
days.” said Jeremy Burton, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston.
The Jewish community has spent the week coming to terms with the grisly events, and coming closer to each other, according to community leaders.
“It feels like the Jewish community is a part of a Boston community,” Burton said on Sunday evening, minutes before joining an interfaith gathering with local leaders from other religious groups.
The event, organized by the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, was planned long ago as a gathering meant to engage candidates for US Senate on “a series of critical issues,” according to Burton.
But the events of the past week transformed it into something more. “We felt it was important to go forward, but there is adaptation. We’re spending more time on reflection and prayer,” he said
That sense of strengthened community has been cited by many in the aftermath of the Monday bombing.
“The Jewish community gets closer in a time of stress and anxiety like this,” said Barry Shrage, president of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, the Jewish federation of greater Boston. “At the same time, almost paradoxically, we feel deeply integrated with being Bostonian. There’s a deep sense of identification as Bostonians with the pain of the city, and at the same time a renewed focus within the Jewish community.”
One example of inter-communal cooperation is the sharing of sacred space. On Sunday, Boston’s Trinity Church in the city’s Copley Square, near the site of the Monday bombing, was forced to relocate its Sunday services and found a willing host in nearby Temple Israel, a large Reform congregation barely 10 minutes’ drive from the church.
In a letter to his congregants, Trinity’s Rev. Samuel T. Lloyd III
invited his congregants to “a Sunday adventure” at the synagogue.
“It is clear that we cannot rely on being able to worship in our beloved Trinity Church,” Lloyd wrote. “And so instead we are accepting the wonderful hospitality of Rabbi Ronne Friedman and the people of Temple Israel to worship in their beautiful sanctuary on Sunday morning.”
The letter took a decidedly optimistic tone. “It will be a fine
service,” Lloyd assured, “full of Easter joy and sober reflection, and
following it, we will have ample time in the coffee hour [to] catch up
after these arduous days.”
‘Individual acts of kindness like that of Temple Israel happened in many different ways’
And he offered gratitude to the Jewish community for its aid. “What a gift to be able to hold our Sunday Eucharist in the worship space of our spiritual forebears, resting in their graciousness after the trials of this harsh week. We need to be together this Sunday to sing and pray and break the bread, and to be reminded that we the people are Trinity Church. Our Jewish friends have made this possible.”
“Every synagogue and every organization” had some story of helping or being helped over the past week, according to Shrage. “Individual Jews opened up their homes to runners who were shivering on the street and had no place to go [when nearby hotels were sealed off by police]. Individual acts of kindness like that of Temple Israel happened in many different ways.”
On Thursday, the federation announced the establishment of the Boston Relief Fund, a fundraising effort in the Jewish community for The One Fund, the official fund founded by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino to help the victims of the recent violence.
Getting back on their feet
The sense of intra- and inter-communal solidarity was most palpable at the Jewish community’s Tuesday ceremony celebrating Israeli Independence Day at Congregation Mishkan Tefila in Boston’s Chestnut Hill suburb.
The ceremony was organized by the federation, the JCRC and the Israeli consulate.
“Tuesday night was a remarkable thing,” said Burton, who was master of ceremonies at the event.
‘In spite of the trauma, people want to get together. In spite of the threat of terrorism, people need each other, need to support each other’
“On Monday when the bombs went off I was sitting quietly finishing off the speeches for [the] Yom Ha’atzmaut [event].” After the bombing, he recalled, “we had serious conversations about whether to go forward.”
In the end, “we realized it was important for the community to go forward.”
The resulting ceremony “was a complex duality of celebration of Israel, but also a moment where we’re crying. We tried to do both those things in one space. People appreciated that we tried to strike that balance.”
“A thousand people showed up,” recalled Shrage. “There was no fear of terrorism. No fear. A thousand people showed up at a pro-Israel event within 24 hours of the bombing, out of 1,000 who responded to the consulate invitations.”
Shrage explained the reason for the high attendance in simple terms. “In spite of the trauma, people want to get together. In spite of the threat of terrorism, people need each other, need to support each other. They needed to hear from the governor, [mayor], from [Israel’s] consul-general. They needed to express their support for Israel.”
“A lot of allusion has been made between Boston and Israel,” said Burton, who once spent two years living in Jerusalem. One key lesson from the comparison: “A lot of people, not just Jews, have talked about going back to work and not letting those [terrorists] prevent me from getting back up.”
In a letter to the community on Wednesday, Shrage shared a note he had received from an Israel Air Force pilot, Omri, who visited the city just two weeks earlier in a delegation from Boston’s sister city Haifa. Omri had lost two grandparents and a brother in a terror attack in Israel. His note, Shrage said, was one of many letters sent to the community from Israel in recent days.
Omri wrote: “In times like these, we measure ourselves by the way we get back on our feet as individuals and as a group united. No words can bring comfort or peace to those who had family and friends hurt, but it is important for you to know that you’re not alone. We, your family in Israel, stand with you, as you stand with us, and strengthen you as you have strengthened us.”
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