We at Diverse Holliston want, in this difficult time, to reach out to the Holliston Jewish community with care and an offer of support. We, both Jews and non-Jews, see your pain and grief at the magnitude of the horror perpetrated in Israel, which has resulted in a horrendous and brutal loss of Jewish life such has not been seen since the Holocaust. We know you are scared and grieving for family and friends and acknowledge the generational trauma this evokes for American and Israeli Jews alike, who are all the descendants of refugees and survivors. We are also here to speak out against the rising antisemitism in the United States and in our own community, as exemplified by the swastikas found on Damigella Field just last week. Antisemitism is an ancient hatred, ingrained in many societies in both conscious and unconscious ways, and like all forms of hate, must be taken seriously and fought seriously. 

We grieve the loss of all innocent life, no matter a person’s ethnicity, nationality, race, or religion. No life is more valuable than another. We are deeply saddened by the suffering of all innocent people caught in conflict, including both Israelis and Palestinians, and hold everyone suffering for loved ones in our hearts. Our hearts go out especially to those members of the Holliston community whose loved ones have been harmed or are at risk during this conflict.

When an attack such as that in Israel happens, it spills out into the rest of the world. Following the events in Israel, there have been antisemitic demonstrations worldwide. It makes many Jewish people around the world feel more afraid and less safe, and puts Jews at heightened risk of being the targets of hate and violence. In the past, conflicts in the Middle East have also increased Islamophobia. We have begun to see Islamophobic sentiments this week worldwide, and this makes many Muslims and Arabs, and even those perceived as such, more afraid and also more at risk of being targeted with hate and violence. Diverse Holliston is committed to building a Holliston that supports the wellbeing of all its residents, both present and future, and we will always stand firmly against hate in all its forms. 

When a swastika is found in our town, and specifically in a place where children frequent, we must all remind ourselves that this is unequivocally a symbol of hate specific to Jewish people. It is an injustice to all of us that we live in a town where conditions that allow hatred to thrive continue to exist. Holliston residents have lived experiences with, ableism, antisemitism, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, transphobia, sexism/misogyny and xenophobia. We must do better.  It is a reminder that the safety of our most vulnerable residents, our children, is of paramount prioritization. 

We would like to share with you some of what Diverse Holliston has been working on in service of making Holliston a safer and more just place. First, in collaboration with Temple Beth Torah, Metrowest Interfaith Alliance, Holliston Youth and Family Services, Holliston Drug and Alcohol Coalition, and Holliston Public Schools DEI/SEL Director, we are at work on creating a series of educational and action workshops on antisemitism and its relationship to white supremacy and other forms of oppression. We have been involved in the work of Envisioning Future Holliston’s strategic planning for our town, trying to ensure that equity and inclusion are priorities and that there are measurable outcomes for which the town is accountable. We have been in a continuing dialogue with the administration of Holliston Public Schools. We have partnered and continue to partner with other Holliston organizations such as Holliston Youth and Family Services and the Holliston PTO in creating educational programming. We hold monthly community labs to discuss our work and practice being in community. We welcome you to join us. 

Given the limitation of the mainstream media’s coverage of what is a deep and historic conflict, we emphasize the importance of learning beyond the narrow information provided.

Here are a few examples of books that can help you learn more about historic and contemporary antisemitism, as well as the history that underlies the current conflict in Israel:

  • People Love Dead Jews by Dara Horn
  • Jews Don’t Count by David Baddiel
  • Antisemitism Here and Now by US Envoy to Combat Antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt
  • Israel: A Brief History of the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth by Noa Tishby
  • Can We Talk About Israel by Daniel Sokatch

Reading books about people who are different from us helps to humanize them. This is true for children as well as adults. Here are just a few recommendations of children’s books that can help to humanize Jews, Israelis, and Palestinians as well as to better understand antisemitism.

Here are a just a few titles for younger children:

  • Yaffa and Fatima: Shalom, Salaam by Fawzia Gilani-Williams
  • A Concert in the Sand by Tami Shem-Tov
  • Everybody Says Shalom by Leslie Kimmelman
  • Our Favorite Day of the Year by A.E. Ali
  • The Tower of Life: How Yaffa Eliach Rebuilt Her Town in Stories and Photographs by Chana Stiefel
  • The Secret Shofar of Barcelona by Jacqueline Greene
  • As Good As Anybody: Martin Luther King Junior and Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Amazing March Toward Freedom by Richard Michelson
  • Anne Frank’s Chestnut Tree by Jane Kohuth

For middle grade readers:

  • Blackbird Girls by Anne Blankman
  • No Vacancy by Tziporah Cohen
  • White Bird by R.J. Palacio
  • Linked by Gordon Korman
  • The Six-Day Hero and Beni’s War by Tamar Stein
  • A Sky Full of Song by Susan Lynn Meyer
  • The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz

The PJ Library’s Israel Hub includes information on talking to children about the conflict, as well as books about Israel.

In response to the tragic Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in 2018, The American Jewish Library Association has also created several “Love Your Neighbor” booklists to help introduce the Jewish community to non-Jewish readers.

In solidarity,
The Diverse Holliston Strategic Planning Committee
Jane Kohuth, Barbara Fritts, Dee Phair, Robert Principe, Laurie Markoff, Annie Singh, Rene Park, Chinmaya Gogineni