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‘It’s creepy,’ Boston area Chabad rabbi says, after vandalism of eight pro-Israel signs

Rabbi Moshe Bleich of Wellesley, Mass., told JNS that the vandalism has been the only instance of Jew-hatred in his area, but he knows of a family changing its name due to antisemitism.

Two separate vandalisms of signs at the Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts in 2024. Credit: Rabbi Moshe Bleich/Wellesley Weston Chabad.
Two separate vandalisms of signs at the Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts in 2024. Credit: Rabbi Moshe Bleich/Wellesley Weston Chabad.

Rabbi Moshe Bleich doesn’t mince words when he responds to at least eight instances in recent weeks when someone has stolen or vandalized pro-Israel signs that he put up outside the Wellesley Weston Chabad in the Boston area.

“It’s very creepy that someone is coming and taking your sign,” he told JNS. “It’s a creepy thing.”

“I don’t even know what to think,” he added, noting that several people have suggested that he stop putting it up. “I think that’s wrong.”

“We have family members that were taken hostage—when I say family members, I don’t mean immediate family. I mean the Jewish people,” he told JNS. “There should be no reason in the world that I can’t put up a sign saying that we want our hostages back. We want our family back.”

“That’s it,” he said. “It’s as simple as that.”

Initially, he put up signs stating, “We stand with Israel.” Some told him that people are dying in Gaza as well. “‘This is Massachusetts. There are a lot of liberal people here who are supporting whatever—or they might be pro-Israel, but they see a lot of deaths on the other side,'” he was told. “‘It can get them riled up.'”

“I said, ‘OK. No problem.’ So maybe I’ll take that down. Or I did not take it down—God forbid. But I didn’t put it back up after it was stolen the seventh time,” he told JNS. “What I did put up is something that I think universally all of humankind can agree. Give us back our hostages.”

“If you are against people dying, give us back our hostages, and you will live a longer life,” he said.

Bleich told JNS that he didn’t have security cameras in the beginning, so he doesn’t know who stole signs, knocked them over and wrote “Free Palestine” on them initially. After switching to hostage signs in the past two months, he also installed security cameras that have recorded two separate individuals vandalizing signs—one this past Friday and one on Shabbat.

“Police are investigating; hopefully, they will find the people,” he said.

“I know that people are pulling signs down across the country. It’s not unique to us. It’s unique over here maybe only because they came onto private property to take it down,” he said.

He noted that Massachusetts is “very liberal,” and he is sure many don’t support the Jewish state. But he told JNS that he lives in “a quiet town.”

“The only issue in this town has been my signs,” he said, noting that the Chabad center sits on a main street, upon which many people who aren’t local drive by.

Rabbi Moshe Bleich Geni Bleich
Rabbi Moshe Bleich and his wife Geni Bleich of Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts. Credit: Courtesy.

Asked what he makes of the view that criticism of Israel has nothing to do with the Jewish people, the rabbi again answers bluntly. “Anti-Zionism is antisemitism obviously,” he told JNS. “I have yet to meet an anti-Zionist that wasn’t an antisemite.”

“If anti-Zionism and antisemitism were two separate things, the Jews in Iran wouldn’t have the issues that they are having. The examples are unlimited,” he said. “I don’t believe that they are two separate things.”

Bleich runs a synagogue that serves “hundreds” of Jewish families in the local community in Wellesley and Weston, and he is also active on the campuses of Babson and Wellesley colleges. Each school has about 200 Jewish students, he says.

We are more or less involved with all of them,” he said. (He noted that Rabbi Mendy and Mushky Bleich lead activities on those campuses.)

‘We’re one big’ family

Moshe Bleich has heard of and is aware of many Jewish families who are getting more involved since the Hamas terror attack on Oct. 7.

Still, when he offered pro-Israel signs to community members, most declined. “These are people that are very pro-Israel,” he said. “Very proudly Jewish, but there’s a limit to everything.”

When he drives around town and sees someone with a sign that says, “We stand with Israel,” he stops the car, rings the bell, tells the person that he is proud of them and gives them a challah for Shabbat. “Now more than ever, we’re one big mishpacha,” he tells them, using the Hebrew word for “family.”

Wellesley-Weston Chabad in Massachusetts
Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts. Credit: Courtesy.

He has been hosting a lot of events about Israel, including with family members of a person being held hostage, which have attracted new people to Chabad.

But he also shared three negative stories with JNS.

One family in the community recently decided to scrap a trip to Europe. He told another family that was traveling to Ireland—as he tells all people who are going abroad—to connect with the local Chabad there for kosher food and to go for Shabbat meals.

“They told me that they will not go there,” he said. “In fact, they are not going to do anything Jewish, and they’re not going to have anything outwardly displayed that is Jewish because they are afraid.”

Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts
Rabbi Moshe Bleich (bottom left) at the Wellesley Weston Chabad in Massachusetts. Credit: Courtesy.

A third family actively involved in his Chabad community told him they were changing their last name. “They don’t want to make the same mistake that their grandparents did,” he said.

“When you have all that backdrop to the story and then you have some freak, creep or weirdo that is coming and grabbing signs, it gets a little scary for some people,” he said.

The local police have been very supportive and come by the Chabad multiple times a day, and now the center has “very expensive cameras” lined up to film the signs, according to Bleich.

“We’re hoping,” he said, that there will no longer be war and strife.

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