Shortly after the Oct. 7, 2023, attack on Israel, Melissa Kaplowitch knew it was important for her community of Marblehead to come together. As Co-chair of the ADL’s North Shore Advisory Committee, Kaplowitch reached out to Helaine Hazlett, Co-chair of Marblehead’s Task Force Against Discrimination. At the same time, members of the local interfaith community contacted Hazlett with concern for Jews here and in Israel.
Together, Kaplowitch and Hazlett—both past presidents of Swampscott’s Congregation Shirat Hayam—organized a Zoom with area religious and lay leaders. The idea of an interfaith vigil was born.
On Sunday, more than 300 people of all religions packed Our Lady Star of the Sea Church in Marblehead to show support for Israel and the local Jewish community. The program included a communal prayer led by members of the Marblehead Ministerial Association, the Mourner’s Kaddish (prayer for the deceased), and reflections and readings from clergy and Marblehead town officials. Children then came forward to lead the crowd in singing “Oseh Shalom,” a Hebrew song that calls for peace in Israel and everywhere.
“The vigil was about showing support for Jewish people in the community who are feeling sad, lost, scared, and alone,” says Kaplowitch. “It was about creating a common understanding for the reality that Jews are facing. It can seem very displaced to some as Israel is so far away. But it’s really not. I shared during the vigil that when my daughter walked home to her apartment in New York City last week, people were screaming, ‘Gas the Jews.’ This is happening right now, where we are.”
At the end of the vigil, organizers passed around collection baskets for people to make donations for Israel. Attendees gifted a total of $2,300 for CJP’s Israel Emergency Fund.
“I was tremendously pleased with the outpouring of support from the entire Marblehead interfaith community shown by their generosity, in spirit and in dollars,” Hazlett says.
Kaplowitch, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, says she’s proud of how her community has stood behind Israel and Jewish people in this time of crisis.
“We said ‘never again’ after the Holocaust,” she says. “‘Never again’ really is right now.”
Please note: Temple Sinai in Marblehead has organized another way for North Shore community members to support Israel. Through Thursday, Oct. 19, the synagogue is collecting baby blankets, bottles, diapers, pacifiers, swaddles, and other personal hygiene items to send to Israel for newly orphaned children, homeless families, and soldiers. To learn more, call Temple Sinai at 781-631-2763.