Heckling, Booing at Boston-area Meeting on anti-Semitism and Racism

The meeting was arranged by a local mayor in the wake of several anti-Semitic and racist incidents in the community.

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Illustration: anti-Semitic graffiti.Credit: CBC television
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A meeting called on April 7 by the mayor of a Boston suburb to discuss prejudice, including anti-Semitism and racism, degenerated into name calling and accusations.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren said he called the meeting in the wake of in the community, especially in the local schools.

Many who attended the forum wanted to keep the focus directed on anti-Semitism, including a woman who held a sign reading “It’s not prejudice, it’s anti-Semitism,” the Boston Globe reported.

Three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti were reported at predominantly Jewish Newton North High in the days after fans of an opposing Catholic school basketball team shouted anti-Semitic chants during a championship game. And a Newton middle school was the target of at least three incidents of anti-Semitic graffiti since October, including one in March.

At one point in the meeting, Jewish activists heckled an African-American woman who spoke of her son being called a vulgar racist slur at school, according to the newspaper. Also, the superintendent of schools was booed and needed a police escort to his car. 

Warren, who is African-American, said that in addition to the anti-Semitic incidents, there have also been racist issues on campus. He noted an incident in which racist questions were emailed to a black student group at Newton North High.

“I was chilled, and just as angry as when I heard about the anti-Semitism,” Warren told those attending the meeting.

Warren called on the crowd to show respect and try to understand their neighbor’s perspective.

In a letter sent to the community following the meeting Warren, who called the community meeting “difficult, but essential,” announced continuing steps to halt the problem, including hiring a civil rights attorney to work with teachers and students to address issues of prejudice and discrimination, and tracking the progress made by the community .

“It will take work on the part of all of us to maintain Newton’s tradition as a welcoming, inclusive community,” Warren wrote. “It is not enough to acknowledge the groundbreaking work that came before us. Each community and each generation must keep up these efforts.”

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