By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Members of the local Jewish community filled the Westborough rotary for this year’s town menorah lighting Dec. 27. At one point, they passed around a rock from a liberated Nazi concentration camp and reflected on recent violence against American Jewish people.
The 18th annual ceremony led by local rabbi Michaol Green of Chabad of Westborough, took place less than 24 hours after a man ransacked a New York Hanukkah party with a machete. It also followed just a matter of weeks after two men killed three patrons in a New Jersey kosher supermarket in a confirmed anti-Semitic attack.
With all of that fresh in collective memory, a mood of solidarity and hope following tragedy hung over downtown Westborough as Green addressed the crowd and led attendees in singing a series of Jewish hymns before and after lighting the menorah.
“It’s important for us to all remember that freedom of religion is inherent, and God given,” he said. “It’s invaluable and it belongs to every individual.”
Saying this, Green discussed a similar menorah he maintains in Shrewsbury and told the story of a WWII veteran there who recently approached and offered a rock from the Dachau concentration camp. That veteran, Green said, was part of the regiment that liberated Dachau from the Nazis at the end of the Holocaust. He was not Jewish but said he admired Green’s commitment to his faith and wanted him to have the rock as a symbol of continuing memory of the lives lost in the Nazi genocide.
Green told those listening that interactions like that mirror the support he sees in all the communities in which he works, especially during the holiday season. In Westborough, in particular, he said, he benefits from aid from the local rotary club and security help from the town police as he organizes the menorah lighting each year.
He appreciates that especially in the wake of violence like the recent New York attacks.
“We’re not alone,” he said. “Everyone is standing with us and I feel they are rallying for us.”
Ultimately, Green found optimism in the shadow of the menorah and the flag covered Westborough veterans memorial that also occupies the rotary area. Violence like that seen in New York, he says, are but the flashes of dying hatred overwhelmed by changing social norms and overall increased cultural sensitivity.
“I believe that we are at the cusp of a new era of good,” he said. “They talk about doom and global warming and hatred and problems in the world, but I believe that we are living in better times now than we ever have in history.”