The knife wounds have largely healed now. The memory of the attack, however, is likely to stay with me forever.
One year has passed since a madman filled with hate came at me, first with a gun, then a knife, as I stood outside Shaloh House in Brighton, where over 100 Jewish children were enjoying day camp activities inside. Eight times his knife pierced my shoulder, arm and ribs. I thank God to be alive, and that I was able to keep the attacker away from those precious children. Sadly, that is a skill we are now taught.
I am also thankful to have witnessed a real unity in purpose and community since that attack, even during times that seem so divisive—in our politics and in daily discourse. When we are confronted with negativity in its worst forms, it is very easy to hunker down and lock everything up. And to start creating silos where we are all in our own little bubbles. What we need to do as Jews and as a community is build a more unified community—a Godlier society—where we help and protect one another. In the days after the attack, it was so heartening to experience that and come together.
One such example is the remarkable support shown to us at Shaloh House by members of Boston’s unique Communal Security Initiative, or CSI. Led by nationally respected security experts Jeremy Yamin and Daniel Levenson, CSI is an innovative program provided by Combined Jewish Philanthropies designed to meet the real needs of over 250 Jewish institutions in Greater Boston, including 14 schools, 40 preschools, 100 synagogues and social service agencies. This includes professional security advice, training and support to Jewish organizations like mine.
All of us now are forced to contend with increased antisemitic threats as evidenced yet again just this month by the hate-filled “mapping project” that targets Jewish organizations across Boston using dangerous antisemitic tropes.
Those who commit acts of antisemitism and hatred know that every time they act out there is a spike in fear, which results in people becoming afraid to come together, be it to worship, to attend summer camp or any number of communal activities. That is what makes CJP’s Communal Security Initiative so special. Beyond their friendship and professionalism, what I most appreciate is their unique ability to protect the joy and vibrancy of Jewish life while at the same time helping us to keep our buildings safe.
What you may not know about the assault against me at Shaloh House is that Jeremy and Dan proactively worked with us for several years prior to me being attacked. They helped us to secure a grant that allowed us to fortify our exterior doors, add security cameras and create a school emergency plan. It helped to keep the children inside safe.
I found out later that while doctors tended to me in the emergency department, Jeremy was there, too. He had followed my ambulance to the hospital. A former special agent with the U.S. State Department who has protected U.S. ambassadors and diplomats, Jeremy was now helping us navigate this frightening moment. The FBI agents and local police who rushed to the hospital all knew Jeremy. He was able to help facilitate the sharing of critical information with law enforcement while I was receiving life-saving medical care.
While we need to have synagogues, schools and community centers that are engaging, warm and welcoming, letting every Jew feel at home, they also need to be safe and secure and that is at the heart of what the CSI program does every day, and I have seen this philosophy in action.
We cannot turn our buildings into fortresses, allowing fear to drive us toward creating communal spaces that are neither open nor welcoming. We cannot allow those filled with hate to keep us apart—to keep us from living authentic Jewish lives. We all have a part to play in this work, and fortunately Boston has CSI and the stalwart support of our law enforcement partners to provide the expertise and resources we need to achieve this balance.
Just recently, Robert Kraft and other leading Boston philanthropists joined me in dedicating a new rabbinical school in Brighton. My goal is to train eight new rabbis, new Jewish leaders—one for each swing of the knife that nearly killed me. On this joyous day the CSI team stood beside our school community and beside me. They always do. And Boston is better for it.
What has been truly healing to me is that we have been able to utilize the horrible incident to bring about more unity within our community at a time that divisiveness seems pervasive. In an unexpected way, this horrific episode has brought people and community together. And let that be its legacy.
Rabbi Shlomo Noginski is a Chabad-Lubavitch rabbi serving at Shaloh House in Brighton.
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