Last Wednesday, as I passed by the entrance to Andover High School, every news outlet in the greater Boston area was there. By Thursday they were gone.
Earlier in the week, the Andover High School community was informed that swastikas had been found etched onto desks of the classrooms used by many teachers, including two who are Jewish.
Each swastika scratched on a desk in a high school classroom or crudely drawn on the mirror of a public bathroom is an insult to every value we Americans cherish. Whatever misguided point the offenders think they are making, they should know that with this act, they dance on the graves of thousands of brave American servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives during World War II to rid the world of the kind of intolerance, hate, racism and bigotry this symbol represents.
Given our history, the swastika is particularly hurtful to those in the Jewish community. But this ugly symbol is an attack on every minority, every group that has felt the sting of narrow-mindedness and disrespect. It is an insult to people of color, women, Moslems, and members of the LGBTQ community. With the appearance of a swastika, someone in a minority community is assaulted.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there have been more of these incidents this past year. Some suggest it is a result of the heightened polarization in American politics. Because there is such discord in our nation, rather than engage in civil debate, people dig in their heels and express their disagreements with anger.
Unanimity of opinion is not the American way. Attempting some kind of amicable conversation is. The rejection of vitriol is not an unreasonable goal.
After the New Year, school officials have agreed to join with the Andover Clergy, town officials, as well as youth leaders to find ways to encourage respectful conversations. Though I doubt the television cameras will return, these dialogues are no less news-worthy. There is nothing more vital to our wellbeing as a town and as nation than to firmly reject hate, whether it is hostile symbols or hurtful speech, and reaffirm our cherished values of tolerance and respect.
On these darkest days of the year, each of us—parents, teachers, students, townspeople have an obligation to do all we can to let the light of justice and virtue shine brightly on our land.
Rabbi Goldstein is the spiritual leader of Temple Emanuel, 7 Haggetts Pond Road, Andover