Commemoration Speakers’ Theme: Learn from History

November 11, 2022
About 40 people, bundled to thwart the chill, gathered at the entrance to the historic First Parish Church on the Common for Wednesday’s annual ecumenical commemoration of Kristallnacht. Bedford Citizen Staff Photo/Mike Rosenberg

Bedford’s annual ecumenical commemoration of Kristallnacht on Wednesday evening was an opportunity for speakers to draw parallels between the hate and intolerance in Europe more than eight decades ago and current episodes in the United States.

“In the 1930s, the party in control of a government of a sophisticated and industrial country influenced the media and created its own propaganda and convinced the population that their difficult situations were caused by the Jews,” said State Rep. Kenneth Gordon, the event’s principal speaker.

“Today, a significant number of government officials on the national level and in other states have created media outlets and influenced social media to convince the population that their greatest problem is caused by immigrants – specifically by the type of immigrant that seeks refuge in this nation on an emergency basis,” he continued.

Wednesday was the 84th anniversary of violent anti-Jewish demonstrations across Germany and Austria. On Nov. 9, 1938, mobs plundered hundreds of synagogues and thousands of Jewish businesses. The pogrom became known as the Night of Broken Glass – Kristallnacht. Almost 100 Jews were murdered and thousands were detained in concentration camps.

Kristallnacht, in retrospect, is regarded by some historians as the event that launched the Holocaust.

About 40 people, bundled to thwart the chill, gathered at the entrance to the historic First Parish Church on the Common for Wednesday’s ceremony, which has been sponsored by Bedford’s faith communities for many years.

Annie Gonzalez, acting senior minister at the church, coordinated the observance with Rabbi Susan Abramson of Bedford, spiritual leader of Temple Shalom Emeth in Burlington.

Gonzalez said, “I wish this event were less relevant to our realities today. When we remember history together, we are making meaning of the events of the past and of events in our own time and place.”

Abramson continued the thought. “Our task tonight is to remember well, and vow not to repeat history. We are all too cognizant of how easy it is to become the victim of hatred, prejudice, and oppression.” She added, “Tonight’s commemoration of Kristallnacht must be viewed as a memorial, a warning, and a promise.”

Gordon pointed out that the United States “demonstrated indifference to the Jewish struggle in the 1930s because so many Americans easily regarded Jewish people as those whose lives were not as valuable as others, and because they believed that showing hospitality to others came at a cost to them. Never forget? Have we forgotten?”

However, he added that in Massachusetts “we stand out as a beacon of hope,” citing the events of last summer when “the people of Martha’s Vineyard opened their arms to a planeload of innocent souls who were tricked into boarding a plane and then dropped off as a political stunt.” He said another affirmation was the upholding of a law on Election Day providing driver licenses to undocumented residents.

Other participants, who delivered readings and led songs, were Phyllis Landman of the Bedford Jewish Community; the Rev. Alexx Wood, director of pastoral services at Carleton-Willard Village; the Rev. Peter Beckwith, associate pastor at Carleton-Willard; the Rev. Chris Wendell, rector, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church; and Ben Silver, cantor at Temple Shalom Emeth.

The commemoration concluded with the group singing the 1955 hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth,” and extending candles skyward. 

“Together we spread our light in the darkness,” Gonzalez said. “Look around at all this hope and solidarity. This is love and respect made visible.”

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