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Diverse Holliston Hosts a Community Conversation

by Chris Cain
January 18, 2019

Many residents accepted the invitation extended by Diverse Holliston to discuss hate symbols in the community.  The conversation took place in the Adams Middle School auditorium on January 16th.

The conversation was prompted by the discovery of a swastika on the Placentino playground late last year.  From the perspective of the panel members, the use of such a hate symbol has one goal – to create fear in a large portion of the population.

The panel consisted of (L – R): Rev Nathan Detering; Rabbi Jennifer Rudin; Rabbi Steven Edelman Blank; Dr. Barbara Fritts; and Dr. Bradford Jackson.  The conversation was moderated by Michelle Diamond (at podium) representing Diverse Holliston.

Dr. Jackson led with a review of curriculum offered at each school level / grade.  In the earliest grades, students learn: “If you see something, say something.”  Dr. Jackson pointed out that the symbol was discovered and reported by a second-grade student.  He shared several other examples of the school district’s theme of Diversity, Acceptance, and Respect.  The timing of this conversation was important to those from the school community in attendance.  A K – 12 curriculum review of these topics is about to begin and insights from the community will be important in shaping future curricula.

Rabbis Blank and Rudin connected today’s hate symbol with its non-hateful origins to its use during the Holocaust.  Whether the fear created by the symbol is rational or irrational, it achieves the desired effect of intimidation.  Rev. Detering shared the powerful message from Martin Niemoller’s poem, “First they came for . . .”; reminding us to never be silent when we see injustice.  Dr. Fritts wrapped up the panel’s insights by sharing some strategies for having difficult conversations.  If we avoid having the tough discussions, we are allowing the bad actors to continue and perhaps embolden them to greater harmful acts.

Next, Michelle Diamond asked the panel a provocative multi-part question, “Why Hate?  Why Now? What can we do about it?”  Rabbi Blank and Dr. Jackson responded with different powerful one-word answers.  Rabbi Blank believes Pride - in who you are and your heritage, repels such attempts at intimidation.  Dr. Jackson used Modeling.  It is through the adults’ behaviors and words (in all aspects of their life) that set the tone for the next generation.

Then the conversation turned to the many people in the audience. 

To paraphrase the little blues signs, hate should not have a home here. Thank you, Diverse Holliston, for helping our community bring out into the open those difficult conversations that will make us a more inclusive society.

 

 

 

 

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