By GAIL LOWE
WAKEFIELD — A rabbi whose grandfather founded the renowned Maimonides School in Brookline was one of four religious leaders killed in Jerusalem at a small Jewish orthodox synagogue Tuesday.
Rabbi Arnie Fertig from Temple Emmanuel on Chestnut Street said the attack on Rabbi Moshe Twersky, 59, and others “clearly shows hatred and a lack of regard for human life.”
Twersky attended the school his grandfather, Rabbi Dr. Joseph B. Soloveitchik, founded in 1937. The murdered rabbi left behind his mother, wife and five children.
According to a news report, Rabbi Twersky and the other Orthodox Jewish men were facing east to honor the Old City site where the ancient temples once stood when two Palestinians armed with a gun, knives and axes burst into the small synagogue Tuesday morning. Within seconds, three rabbis and a fourth man lay dead, blood pooling on their prayer shawls and books deemed holy. Eight others were injured, including one police officer who later died.
The assailants apparently were cousins from East Jerusalem and were killed at the scene in a gun battle with police that wounded two officers. Politicians and others around the world condemned the attack and the rising religious dimension of the spate of violence, which has been attributed mainly to a struggle over the very site the victims were praying toward.
“It was an act of terrorism,” Rabbi Fertig said, adding that what took place on Tuesday has elements of a Holy War since religious leaders, rather than political leaders, were targeted.
“The conflict in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbors is a political conflict about recognition of nationalities and borders and rights,” said Fertig, adding that this attack was different because it targeted rabbis.
“I totally reject the notion that it should be construed as a conflict where those who are, for whatever reason opposed to Israel, equate any Jew, any place with Israel,” he said.
A statement concerning the murders was released by the Central Conference of American Rabbis, which has its headquarters in New York City.
“The Central Conference of American Rabbis condemns the cruel, cowardly and despicable murder of Jews peacefully worshipping God in their synagogue by Palestinian terrorists belonging to one of the fanatical groups that seek Israel’s destruction,” wrote President and Rabbi Richard A. Block.
“This was an act of unadulterated evil and obscene desecration and a predictable consequence of incitement by Palestinian leaders calling for ‘days of rage.’
“Such incitement must be condemned by all concerned in unequivocal terms and it must stop immediately and permanently,” said Block. “No political cause can justify or be advanced by such deeds. Our hearts go out in condolence to the loved ones of those murdered and pray for the full and speedy recovery of those injured. We trust that law enforcement authorities will move swiftly to bring any perpetrators that remain at large to justice.”
Peter Brown, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Wakefield, said, “Any attack on a person of faith, especially while praying, is an attack on persons of any faith. I join with my Jewish colleagues in condemning this reprehensible act of violence.”
The Reverend Maddie Sifantus from the Unitarian Universalist Church on Main Street also commented about the murdered rabbis: “They were connected to their community and the community here, as well. What happened in Jerusalem on Tuesday is both poignant and disturbing for all people of faith.”