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Israeli Independence Day Celebrations Muted Down in Boston

By: JTA

Israeli Independence Day celebrations in Boston were muted and security was increased in the wake of bombings that left three dead and dozens injured at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Mike Rosenberg, director of community relations at Maimonides, a Jewish day school in suburban Brookline, said an event Tuesday commemorating Israel’s 65th anniversary had been toned down out of respect for the victims of the attack and their families.

“Messages have gone out to parents and students that in the context of yesterday’s events, there will be no dancing and more [words of Torah],” he said.

The Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston called off a flag-raising ceremony for Israel’s Independence Day, leaving its flags at half-mast.

Shira Strosberg, the school’s director of communications, said security in and around its campus was ratcheted up.

“We are obviously saddened and everybody came to school today with a heavy heart,” she said. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the bombings.”

No one has taken responsibility for the explosions that President Obama on Tuesday called an “act of terrorism.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, there was no indication that Jewish institutions were at any particular risk. Nonetheless, community officials told JTA they remained vigilant.

Rabbi Yosef Zaklos, the director of Chabad of Downtown Boston, was at the marathon finishing line offering runners and their families the opportunity to put on tefillin when the bombs detonated.

“There was a huge boom about half a block away from the finishing line, followed by another one further down,” Zaklos said. “You turned away from one explosion towards another.”

After a few seconds of shock, the 31-year-old rabbi offered assistance to the injured and helped direct people to safety.

“It was horrific,” he said, “but as an individual and member of a religious leadership, you are endowed with the energy and power of the moment to address the needs of people and ask ,’What can I do? How can I help?’ ”

Zaklos said he has been busy over the past 24 hours visiting hospitals offering help to the wounded alongside clergy of other faiths.

Jeremy Burton, the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, said hundreds of people were expected to gather as planned at the Mishkan Tefila synagogue in suburban Newton to mark Israel’s Independence Day.

“We’re still modifying and working out the details, but we’ll take the time to honor the victims and at the same time honor the ties between Boston and Israel,” Burton said. “There will certainly be some prayer or acknowledgment of what happened.”

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