Growing up in Belmont, I knew about Bedford in two distinct ways. First, that the Marshall’s in Bedford was the best one around. Second, that Bedford was on the way out to “The Swamp,” which is what my parents called Great Meadows. That was about it.
Now that I’ve been a homeowner and resident in Bedford for seven years, though, it’s quite surprising to see Bedford in the international headlines not as a town celebrated for great schools or a good ice cream place, but as a hotbed for anti-Semitism. From the Minuteman, to the Globe, to The Times Of Israel, YNet, and Al- Jazeera America, everyone is talking about Bedford. Just tonight I was running by the high school and there was Channel 5, ready to go live again with a(nother) swastika story.
But I’m not worried.
America is a great place to be Jewish. In fact, Bedford is a great place to be Jewish. In the neighboring towns there is a rich assortment of temples and synagogues, Jews proudly serve in town government, and the broader Boston community is home to not a few Jewish educational and philanthropic organizations. My kids and I proudly wear Hebrew-lettered jackets and soccer jerseys around town, I play Israeli music with the windows down, I write and blog publicly about all things Jewish, and I have never felt, for once, like it was a big deal… in short, I have experienced nothing but tolerance and respect in my years in Bedford.
But let’s be real. Issues like anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and other kinds of intolerance have historical roots that go back farther than any of us can remember, and these problems will not be solved by any degree of interreligious dialogue, love your neighbor advocacy, or sensitivity training in the workplace or in the schools. After all, it took only a day for another desperate-to-make-the-news hater to draw a swastika in the high school. Do you think he or she will see the light after a tolerance campaign? Alternately, do you really think the swastika-drawers are part of a shift towards broad-based anti-Semitism in Bedford?
Of course not. The swift actions, condemnations, and responses of everyone in town, including Superintendent Sills, the Bedford Police, the town and local government, and the community at large have been strong, consistent, and clear- there is no place for this kind of behavior and these kinds of actions here. And the anti-Semitic events, whether they are the ignorant or naïve behaviors of a Davis School second grader, or the willful and hate-baiting provocations of a jaded adolescent, are neither normative nor acceptable in any way.
As I sat in the middle school auditorium last week, flanked by a Hispanic woman to my right and a concerned mom on my left who has kids and foster kids of different races, neither of whom are Jewish, I felt as confident as ever in Bedford being a wonderful place for me and my family. And while problems of hatred and intolerance are insidious, and will never be solved despite our best efforts, all I would ask of all Bedford residents is to model with your actions and words how this is a community where all are welcome.
So far, so good.