LWV OBSERVER CORPS: Task Force Against Discrimination talks local impact of attack on Israel

Marblehead League of Women Voters Observer Corps
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Observer Corps Reports are provided by volunteers from the Marblehead League of Women Voters. To learn more about the League and its activities, see my.lwv.org/massachusetts/marblehead.

BOARD: Task Force Against Discrimination

DATE: Oct. 19 (Zoom, recorded)

LWVM OBSERVER: Shari Pressman

MEMBERS PRESENT: Diane Gora and Helaine Hazlett, co-chairs; ex-officio member Police Chief Dennis King, Deacon John Whipple, Chris Bruell, Scott Marcus, Reece Dahlberg and Kim Gubelman

ALSO PRESENT: Jay Morrison, liaison to Marblehead Racial Justice Team 


Rebecca Herve-Lorenzo, a student at MHS, expressed an enthusiastic interest in being one of the two MHS student representatives to TFAD. She has been trained by ADL and is of French-Cuban ancestry. Hazlett explained that students are asked to submit a short application to the Select Board, followed by a brief interview.

Moment of silence

A moment of silence was observed in support of Israel and Jewish people both at  home and abroad.

Police Department update

Chief Dennis King reported that the event at Star of the Sea on Sunday, Oct. 15 had been previously planned before the Oct. 7 attack, but its focus changed after that event. He reported concern about potential counter activity on Sunday, but there was none.

He suggested that a “no backpacks” or searching backpacks rule should be previously stated, not enforced for a single event.

Both Leslie Dever and Joe Whipple of Star of the Sea expressed no concern about counter activity.

A total of $2,300 in donations was raised for Combined Jewish Philanthropies at the event.

King reassured the community about the measures, both seen and unseen, that he and the department are taking to ensure safety. However, he warned that domestic violence can be triggered by events thousands of miles away and have increased since Oct. 7.

King said that extra effort is provided for communal spaces that may be vulnerable, including the two synagogues, JCC and schools in Marblehead.

He also noted that the JCC has been awarded $130,422 in state allotment for security, part of a large grant to many communities.

Massachusetts has the sixth highest per-capita rate of antisemitic incidents in the U.S.

He again stressed the MPD’s behind-the-scenes preparation, CJP safety training, work  with the ADL, and a federally produced video about training and security called “The  Power of Hello,” which he hopes to make available to a wider audience.

He thanked his staff but predicted the effort to ensure the safety of the community will be a very big part of his duties for the next year or more.

King will participate in a discussion on “Why We Have Antisemitism and Our Role in Dismantling It” with Pastor James Bixby of Clifton Lutheran and Rabbi Michael Schwartz of Temple Sinai on Sunday, Oct. 22, 11 a.m.-noon at Clifton Lutheran Church.

Herve-Lorenzo reported that there had been antisemitic incidents at MHS and asked King if the police could do anything. He said they work on every incident and that the school system has been supported.

He reported that he had spoken with seventh graders and was impressed with the ADL’s “phenomenal kit” and with Team Harmony.

Marblehead Public Schools update

Gora reported that the Oct. 7 attack has had a big impact on her students. Dahlberg’s children didn’t mention any changes at school.

Both King and Dahlberg mentioned the Lappin Foundation’s Butterfly Program, which provides materials for students in grades 6-12 to commemorate the 1.5 million Jewish children who died in the Holocaust, educates about the dangers of hate and bigotry, and inspires the creation of a more compassionate and peaceful world.  

Cultural Council art installation

TFAD hasn’t fulfilled its commitment to help fund the restoration and maintenance of the Pride Pavement in front of the Visitors’ Center because the artist has been away.

International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Hazlett will speak to the Select Board about observing Holocaust Remembrance Day at noon at Abbot Hall on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024.  

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Gubelman reported that she is looking to confirm an open space for May 4, 2024, and possibly through the next week for the celebration. She hopes to work with Todd Bloodgood from the School Department and connect to the town website with a visual to call attention to the celebration. Dahlberg volunteered to work with Gubelman.

Discussion: Marblehead Public Schools student reps

Rebecca Herve-Lorenzo and Damilola Graciella Olabisi are possible candidates.

Discussion: Select Board reminders

Gora and Hazlett reminded members to go to the Select Board to be sworn in. Members were also reminded that an Open Meeting Law presentation by Town Counsel Lisa Mead is scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 5 p.m. at Abbot Hall.

Marblehead Racial Justice Team

Jay Morrison reported that some were upset by the lack of recognition of the plight of Palestinians. He also has lived in Israel for a number of years and has close Palestinian friends.

MRJT is grateful for Chief King and TFAD’s work. Morrison and MRJT hope for higher-ground discussion and settlement of the conflict other than by war. Discussion followed, with participation by several members of TFAD, including Deacon Whipple.

Future agenda items

TFAD will schedule meetings that do not conflict with other town board and committee meetings, especially Select Board and School Committee.

Next meeting: Wednesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m.

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