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Jewish, Christian communities rally after Massachusetts church is vandalized with swastikas

By Susie Davidson/JNS.org

SHARON, Mass.—One month after a large rock was thrown through the windows of a Sharon, Mass., church — in addition to swastikas being painted on the church doors and a banner for an upcoming Jerusalem Day celebration being shredded — the same rock was repurposed as a symbol of hope during an event featuring televangelist Dr. Pat Robertson.rock1

At the Victory Assembly of God Church on Sunday, the rock, which was inscribed with the words of Isaiah 54:17, “No weapon forged against you shall prosper,” became the centerpiece of a renewed and undeterred Jerusalem Day celebration at the church.

“This is a time to celebrate our love for the Jewish people and for Israel,” Robertson, chairman of the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), told a capacity crowd of congregants, Jews from area synagogues, and rabbis Jonathan H. Hausman, Barry Starr and Jonina Pritzker. Outside, Sharon police and fire department officials, and a local security, company maintained a tight presence, screening each entrant and eschewing phones and electronics.

Speakers at the event, which became a fundraising drive for Jerusalem’s ALYN Hospital, also included Shai Bazak, consul general of Israel to New England, and Col. Amnon Meir, the Israel Defense Forces’ liaison officer to the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).

Bazak explained that his first name, Shai, was an acronym for Jerusalem—appropriate because Bazak was born in 1967, just after the city’s reunification.

“It is a part of my name,” he said of Jerusalem, adding that when he suffers from any stress, a vein in his forehead even forms his name’s first Hebrew letter, Shin. The gravestone of Bazak’s father on Jerusalem’s historic Mount of Olives cemetery reads, “One of the liberators of the City of Jerusalem.”

“Jerusalem of gold, iron, war, peace, tears, hope, of children and of elderly people; everyone has a piece of Jerusalem in their heart,” Bazak said.

Meir, a veteran of the second Lebanon War, said, “It was tough, but I knew exactly what I had to do.” Now, however, Meir said he doesn’t know “what the future will hold for Israel.”

“And I can’t say, because I am an officer of the military,” Meir said. “But I can tell you that Jerusalem is the heart of the Jewish people.”

ALYN (All the Love You Need), for whom the event raised money, is a nonprofit rehabilitation center in Jerusalem for physically challenged and disabled children, adolescents and young adults. Cathy Lanyard, executive director of American Friends of ALYN Hospital, told the crowd, “Love never fails at ALYN. All the therapies in the world are meaningless unless you have the human touch, which is a recipe for miracles.”

Lanyard showed a video about a boy, one of five Siberian children who arrived at the hospital as part of an ongoing program sponsored by the Russian government, who over the course of four days was taught to ride a bicycle and take his first steps. Following Lanyard’s talk, the crowd broke out into a rousing rendition of “Heivenu Shalom Aleichem,” with music and dancing.

Minette Brown, president of the ALYN board, was also in Sharon for the event.

“My great aunt and uncle, Malcolm and Dorothy Woldenberg, saw children with polio being passed in and out of windows as their only way outside the former hospital site in a monastery basement in Katamon (a Jerusalem neighborhood),” Brown told JNS.org. The Woldenbergs decided to make a donation, securing zoning exemption help from then-Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek in the process, to secure ALYN’s current site in the city’s Kiryat Yove neighborhood.

Fumio Taku, president of event co-sponsor Christians and Jews United for Israel, began the afternoon with a reflection on the recent Boston Marathon bombings, which occurred only a few days prior to the vandalizing of the church. “One month ago, as I watched the Boston bombings, I thought of suicide bombings that occurred in Haifa and Tel Aviv when I was in Israel,” he said.

In Sharon, the beauty of the relatively recent friendship between the church and area Jewish officials and institutions was on full display. Pastor Joe Green, director of outreach ministries for Victory Assembly of God Church and previously a pastor and instructor in Florida as well as national outreach manager for CBN, said he had never even met a Jew, let alone a rabbi, prior to coming to Sharon. Looking at those around him on the podium, Green said, “God is doing something incredible in New England.”

The crowd, upon exiting, picked up brochures for ALYN’s Guardian Angels donor program, and for its Oct. 1 – 9 joint “Mission of Love,” which will tour Christian and Jewish sites in Israel, including the hospital.

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