STOW — Town Administrator Denise Dembkoski, the Select Board and Police Chief Michael Sallese report that the Stow community came together to stand against hate on the Town Common on Tuesday night.
In response to an incident of antisemitic vandalism that remains under investigation by Stow Police, the community gathered outside of the First Parish Church of Stow & Acton, Unitarian Universalist, for a vigil against hatred.
The vigil was organized by the Nashoba Area Social Justice Alliance and the church, which is located across from the Town Common.
“The Town that I know and love and am happy to be a part of is warm and welcoming. Our community is friendly, kind and tolerant,” said Select Board Chair Megan Birch-McMichael. “As a parent of two children in this community, I am reminded often of the lessons that my husband and I have always tried to teach them: Love your neighbor. Stand up against bullies. If you see something is wrong, speak up. Seeing our community here tonight reaffirms the welcoming nature that is at our heart and why I am grateful to be a part of it.”
The church’s minister, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum, prayed for peace, acceptance, love, and an end of hate and violence.
“Terrorism against one family in Stow terrorizes more than just one family — it terrorizes a community,” Landrum said. “We are here to say this is not what this community stands for.”
Landrum spoke of the bonds between Unitarian Universalists and the Jewish community that date to World War II, and invited two local rabbis to speak.
“We are a community united, affirming that we are one. Despite our differences, we find similarities and we stand together saying no to hatred,” said Rabbi Josh Breindel, of Congregation Beth El in Sudbury.
Rabbi Braham David, of Congregation Beth Elohim, in Acton, spoke of the increasing number of antisemitic and racist attacks across the country, state and community, and urged the community not to allow such hatred to become normal.
“We cannot become habituated to hate. We must fight the normalization of antisemitic attitudes — words and attitudes that serve as the foundation for discrimination and violence,” David said. “The violent attack here in Stow represents a dangerous escalation, and those of us in the Jewish community appreciation your action.
“While this was an attack against the Jewish community, it was also an attack on the entire community, and our commitment to plurality and inclusion. We come together tonight to say hate has no home here in Stow.”
First Parish United Director of Music Brad Dumont led those gathered in singing “Lead with Love,” and state Rep. Kate Hogan and Sen. Jamie Eldridge thanked all those who organized the event in brief remarks.
“In a time of rising antisemitism, growing attacks on our LGBTQ community, racism and islamophobia, it is so important for us to come together no matter what the attack is, no matter who gets attacked,” said Eldridge. “It’s so important for us to come together to stand in unity and say we will not put up with such an attack, that we stand with the persons who are oppressed, the persons who are hurt, and that we do whatever we can do through our social connections, civic actions, and political actions, to bring people together, to advance social justice, and to bring healing in the United States, in Massachusetts, and in our communities.”
On Saturday, Nov. 5, at about 9:42 a.m., Stow police responded to a home on North Shore Drive for a report that cars had been damaged overnight.
Upon arrival, officers learned that tires on two cars had been slashed, and that an antisemitic slur had been carved into the side of one car. A subsequent investigation discovered fresh burn marks on several areas of the home’s exterior.
Anyone with information about these incidents or anyone who has noticed suspicious activity in the area is asked to call the Stow Police Detectives at 978-897-4545. The investigation into the incident remains active and ongoing.
“Hate and intolerance have no place in our small town and we will continue to strive to make Stow a welcoming and safe place in Massachusetts that anyone can call home,” said Birch-McMichael. “I hope that you will join in making Stow the safe and affirming community we all want it to be.”