Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives

“Antisemitism,” writes Noraa Kaplan, organizer of Never Again: An Antifascist Assembly for Jewish Lives, “is not a relic of the past; it is alive and well in our fascist society.” The rally was held in response to the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh that claimed eleven lives on October 27.

The rally, in the shadow of Providence City Hall, was planned as a public assembly, Shabbat service, mourning ritual, political protest and antifascist demonstration. It hit all those notes and more: It brought people together as a community devoted to countering fascism.

“To honor and mourn the victims of this latest chapter of antisemitic violence, we will assemble publicly. Assembly is just as much a political exercise as it is a religious congregation,” wrote Kaplan on Facebook. “We will hold a Shabbat service to finish what our fallen comrades started before they were interrupted. We will also make noise, make trouble, make a big stink, make them hear us and hear that we will not let terror and fascism and politics kill us.”

I will note right away that i am no expert on Jewish culture, religion and tradition, so I’m happy to accept corrections to my comments below.

Here’s the video:

Because the We will not be erased: A rally for Transgender Rights ran long, I was a little late and missed the introductions. My video picks up near the beginning of the first aliyah, which was read for first and second generation immigrants. The reading is being conducted by Noraa Kaplan with the assistance of Lex Rofeberg.

The second Aliyah was read for anyone who has ever been homeless or hungry, anyone who has ever needed sustenance.

The third aliyah was read for anyone present who was transgender.

The fourth Aliyah was read people who have lost a parent.

The Torah is read, from beginning to end, every year in the Jewish tradition. Divided into roughly 52 weekly parts, the Torah has been read cyclically like this for generations and millennia.

“I get chills thinking that some of the last words those people heard before their murders were the same ancient words that have been chanted for generations before them,” said Kaplan.

The text read that day was about the greatest sin of the Jewish people while in exile, said Kaplan, the intermarriage of Jews and not-Jews. Ironically, the gunman, “targeted the Tree of Life because they stood with HIAS, the Hebrew Immigration Aid Society, an organization that helps refugees make it safely to the United States,” said Kaplan. “This attack had as much to do with Islamophobia and white supremacy as it did with antisemitism. The fates of Jews, and of Muslims, and of people of color, poor people, and of trans women, and all targets of fascism are bound up together!”

A condensed version of the Amidah.

“The only thing we know for sure is that we will die. That’s the only we know for sure about our future,” said Kate Schapira. “And that is something that can bring us together and unite all of us. we share that knowledge, whether we fear it, whether we crave it, whether we don’t know how we feel about it, whether it’s a hope for us, all of that is something that we share: The knowledge that our lives will end. And we have the choice, before then, to do something with them.”

“I have been the victim of violence from both the state and the recent fascist organizations that are in our streets every day, now,” said V. “When I heard this was happening, I said, I need to speak to my community. And there’s a few things that we need to talk about, and I do intend to curse…”

You really need to watch this.

A short poem by Hannah Szenes, a resistance fighter who was tortured and killed by the Nazis.

The mourners Kaddish:

After a reading from Lex Rofeberg, Kaplan leads the crowd for a walk around the Providence City Hall.

With apologies, I caught most, but not all of Katherine Wela Bogen‘s address to the crowd. It was amazing.

“I will not commit such a dreadful, deadly sin of forgetting the sacrifices made to give me a voice in this,” said Wela Bogen. “I’m going to make some noise in this, a fight I was born into, a mantle I will raise higher than any salute they can throw at us…”

“We’re not being victimized by hate,” said Lex Rofeberg. “We’re being victimized by systems called white supremacy, called antisemitism, called transphobia, called Islamophobia, called ablism. We’re not being victimized by some abstract emotion. I refuse to continue to talk about fighting hate. We’re fighting white supremacy.”

“My existence is not a political belief, as a trans person and as a Jew.”

Speaking about the rise of the Nazis in Germany in that last century: “If this comes again, and it seems that it’s here, I want to be the kind of people that you read about. I know that we can all be that. You just have to make the decision, because it’s all inside of us.”

When fascists came to the Rhode Island State how recently, and beat counter protesters as the police stood by, writer Adam Cable, who was there in the thick of it, asked, “Where was the Jewish community?”

“He’s right,” said Eve. “Those people are going to come back here. They are recruiting here. They are making it less safe for you, your children and you community. And that doesn’t just mean Jews. That means black people, that means Latinx people, that means immigrants, that means Muslims.

“We need to show up. Next time they come here we need to show up for that. Antifa put their bodies on the line for our State… Please answer the call when it happens.”

“We see the rise of fascism in the United States, as well as in Brazil… and in Italy… This is an ideology that has a long and deep history inside the United States, inside Germany, and all around the world.  And we will not be safe. Neither Jews, nor Muslims, nor trans people, nor immigrants, nor anyone, until fascism is eradicated from the earth.”

“I think we should learn to defend ourselves as a group. We should learn to use our bodies in space… I want to be able to defend each other…”

“When we fight back, I am kind of scared… You’re not alone to be scared to fight back…”

A reminder of a dinner to raise money for a Rhode Island resident who has been detained by United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Information on that dinner can be found here.

“When the time comes, they’re coming for all of us and we all need to stand together. someone asked, ‘What does fighting back look like?'”

We will outlive them – Mir veln zey iberlebn – מיר וועלן זיי עיבערלעבן


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About Steve Ahlquist 628 Articles
Steve Ahlquist is a frontline reporter in Rhode Island. He has covered human rights, social justice, progressive politics and environmental news for half a decade. Uprise RI is his new project, and he's doing all he can to make it essential reading. atomicsteve@gmail.com

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