Light in the darkness of anti-Semitism


Anti-Semitism was an all-too-common experience during my childhood years in the U.K.

Each Friday night, as we walked home from synagogue in our beautiful countryside hometown of Bournemouth, England, we’d encounter the local young people, who would come out for a drink at the local pubs. Inconveniently for us, the town’s nightlife center was just around the corner from our synagogue, and as a result, more often than not, our walks home would be accompanied by the ugliest of anti-Semitic slurs.

One Saturday afternoon, as we returned home, my father and I were accosted by a few teenagers who pelted us with stones. One of the stones hit me, causing me to bleed on my forehead. I vividly recall running home in tears, shocked that someone would hurt me just for being Jewish.

Thankfully, it was only a minor cut that didn’t require medical treatment, and in the days that followed, we met with the local police, who promised to increase their presence along our route and find the perpetrators. I don’t recall if they ever did. But the next week — and for years to follow — we continued walking to synagogue, taking that same route each week.

These memories came back to me earlier this month because we’re living in a time when anti-Semitism has become widely accepted, and perhaps more mainstream in this country than it has ever been, certainly in recent history. It’s frightening.

Just last week, I saw someone post on Twitter, “This is the first year in a long time that I don’t think I feel comfortable putting my menorah in the window. I live in a liberal city, I am a proud American Jew. But it’s just too scary right now. EVERYwhere.”

As I read those words, I was reminded of my father’s decision to continue walking to synagogue despite the slurs and curses directed at us each week. And he didn’t go alone. He took me along, his young son. Did he not care for my safety?

I think he decided to take me to synagogue because if we allow ourselves to become victims of anti-Semitism and hide our Jewishness, we might feel safer for the moment, but we’ve lost the battle. And we might just be setting the stage for the final scene of our children’s Jewish future.

Which child — which human being — wants to have an identity that must be hidden?

If we tell our children that they must hide their menorahs, hide their mezuzahs, that they must keep their heads down, that they cannot proudly identify with their religion, what are the chances they’ll want to keep this identity as their own?

Anti-Semitism is a real crisis, but letting it cow us is possibly an even greater tragedy. If we want our children or grandchildren to be proud of who they are, we must be their living example, holding our heads high and standing tall.

Thankfully, Martha’s Vineyard is a lighthouse of kindness and diversity, and is well-known for being an Island where many different cultures and communities come together. Our country would be a better place if it learned from the inclusion exhibited on M.V.

In light of the above, we’ve collaborated with the town of Tisbury to organize a public menorah-lighting ceremony and Chanukah celebration at Owen Park Beach on Dec. 22 at 6 pm. There will be live klezmer music, children’s entertainment, doughnuts, latkes, and hot drinks. The first candle will be lit by Tisbury town administrator John Grande, who will also share a few words.


Martha’s Vineyard’s public menorah lighting will be one of over 15,000 organized by Chabads across the world this Chanukah, an awe-inspiring initiative of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson.

This project requires tremendous time, energy, and resources, and we’re thankful to all of our partners for making it possible. But if even one child sees our public menorah this Chanukah and feels prouder of their identity, all our efforts will be worthwhile.


Rabbi Tzvi Alperowitz is the leader of Chabad of Martha’s Vineyard.  –Ed.


  1. Thank you for sharing.
    Welcome and please take care. I am sorry that you were raised in that environment.
    Being born and raised here I and my friends were lucky to not deal with such awful behaviors.
    I would have had to speak up and not allow that. I understand I grew up in a very different place and I was much safer back then. It hurts my heart to hear that anyone could treat another person differently or badly because of their religious beliefs or nationality.

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