SOUTHBOROUGH – As evening enveloped the fields at St. Mark’s School on Sunday, Oct. 22, more than 50 people gathered for a candlelight vigil praying for peace in Gaza and Israel.
The vigil was sponsored by Neighbors for Peace, which is based in Southborough.
Vigil-goers wanted to affirm not only their desire for an end to hostilities, but their hopes for peace and unity in the face of growing discrimination against Jews and Muslims.
The vigil featured representatives from several faiths – Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Sikh. Each presented prayers or a few words about the current conflict in the Mideast.
“We unequivocally condemn the terrorism,” said Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz of Temple B’nai Shalom. “We are proud to call you our friends.”
Gurevitz added that members of her congregation have been impacted by the conflict, begun by Hamas militants on Oct. 7.
“We are not more than one removed from these people,” she said of those killed, kidnapped, injured and displaced by the attack.
Several speakers reminded vigil attendees that Muslims have been victimized as well.
Rev. Phil LaBelle of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church led several moments of silence to commemorate those killed and injured in Gaza. His daughter, Olivia, presented the Prayer of St. Francis.
The event ended with the song “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”
The vigil was only part of the response to the attack on the Gaza strip.
Temple Emanuel in Marlborough held a “Solidarity with Israel” event on Friday, Oct. 20, with First Church in Marlborough and the Unitarian Universalist Church of Hudson-Marlborough. Funds collected during the event went to Magan David Adom (Israel’s equivalent to the Red Cross).
“We are heartsick from the hateful attacks of the terrorist group Hamas on Israeli families and young concert-goers,” said Cantor Wendy Siegel. “Hamas must be conquered, but we know there are other terrorist groups who have the same agenda – they want Israel and the Jewish people to be gone! We are worried because the true hate of anti-Semitism has been unleashed by Hamas and are concerned that others will follow suit.”
Siegel added that the congregation cares about the civilians in Palestine.
“We pray that they will have food, water and shelter soon. We also feel badly for the Palestinians because their government has failed to protect them from Hamas, as well,” she said.
At Beth Tikvah synagogue in Westborough, President Cara Berg Powers said the congregation is focused on supporting each other during this time.
“Many in our community are directly impacted in different ways by what has happened and is happening,” she said. “Our regular community programs are going forward with some increased security, as we have been made aware by the [Department of Justice] and FBI that anti-Semitic and Islamaphobic threats have rapidly increased over the past couple of weeks. If there are Jewish community members in the area that are seeking community, we welcome them.”
There are several organizations providing humanitarian relief in Israel and Gaza, including Hadassah (https://www.hadassah.org), Muslim Aid USA (https://www.mausa.org), Project Hope (https://www.projecthope.org) and the Zakat Foundation of America (https://www.zakat.org).
Other organizations are working toward nonviolence and peace, including the Alliance for Middle East Peace (https://www.allmep.org).