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On Kristallnacht anniversary, an evening of warmth, support and remembrance in Laconia

People stand at a Jewish temple in Laconia.
Olivia Richardson
People gathered at Temple B’nai Israel in Laconia to commemorate the events of Kristallnacht, Thursday, Nov. 9, 2023.

For the past four years, Lois Kessin has organized Kristallnacht events in Laconia — sometimes simply turning on the lights of the city’s Temple B’Nai Israel — to commemorate the violent attacks against thousands of Jewish homes, schools and synagogues in Nazi Germany in 1938.

But this year — the 85th anniversary of the attacks, also known as “The Night of Broken Glass” — was different. It came just a few weeks after the discovery of antisemitic graffiti in the city, and a rise in anti-Semitic acts nationally.

The New Hampshire Attorney General and the F.B.I. are investigating the latest antisemitic vandalism in Laconia, which included swastikas, references to white supremacist groups and threats against a member of the city’s Jewish community. Over the past year, Laconia has seen a handful of similar acts of antisemitic vandalism.

All of it weighed on Kessin’s mind as she prepared for this year’s Kristallnacht vigil.

“I cannot tell you how frightened I was last night,” Kessin said Thursday. But as people began to gather, she said, “it was lovely.”

The vigil, though solemn, was also a night of warmth and support. Marsha Ostroff was among the people at the temple Thursday evening. She said when she was 6 years old living in Virginia, she was assaulted in an antisemitic attack. She came out to the vigil, she said, weary of hatred she’s seen throughout her life. But Ostroff also said she wants to support her community and show she's not afraid of her Jewish identity.

“It’s easy for people to be quiet and do nothing and just hide,” she said. “It just makes it worse.”

Representatives of Laconia’s city government and Congressman Chris Pappas also spoke at the event, offering words of support.

Olivia joins us from WLVR/Lehigh Valley Public Media, where she covered the Easton area in eastern Pennsylvania. She has also reported for WUWM in Milwaukee and WBEZ in Chicago.
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