Co-Chair Personal Statement at Restorative Justice Circle for Arlington High School Student

My name is Naomi Greenfield and I'm the Co-Chair of the Arlington Human Rights Commission. I'm also a mom, a member of the Jewish Community,  a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and one of the people who first found and reported the hate graffiti at the high school.


I grew up in Newton, Massachusetts amidst a large Jewish community and attended a Jewish day school. As part of my Jewish Education, from an early age we were taught about the Holocaust. For me, this education was supplemental to what I knew from a young age. From the numbers tattooed on my grandfather’s arm from when he was in the Auschwitz Concentration Camp, I knew I had a personal connection to this horrible time in the world and in the Jewish community. The most important lesson from my Holocaust education in school and at home was summed up in the simple phrase "Never Again." This meant we--as Jews, as survivors, and as human beings--must never let something like the Holocaust happen again. We must be vigilant at any of the clear signs that led up to this atrocity.


Understanding history is an incredibly important part of understanding why we are here today. In practical terms, you painted something with spray paint on school property. But the symbol you painted has a long history and carries weight and emotions, fear and panic. “Symbolization” is in fact the second stage in the eight stages of genocide as outlined by the Department of State in 1996. Although we are not currently in Nazi Germany in 1938, when I see a swastika, I am reminded that there are people out there who hate me for who I am and who think highly of people who were responsible for the deaths of my grandparents’ parents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins and grandparents. And when I see that swastika in Arlington, I am overwhelmed by the fear that those people are my neighbors.