Fiorentini Makes Plea for Peace: ‘There Is No Place for Hate in Haverhill’

Mayor James J. Fiorentini spoke at Temple Emanu-El's peace service on Friday, Nov. 2. (Courtesy photograph)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini spoke at Temple Emanu-El's peace service on Friday, Nov. 2. (Courtesy photograph)

Mayor James J. Fiorentini and several local religious and political leaders came together Friday night to remember the victims of a Pennsylvania synagogue shooting—and to denounce acts of hate closer to home in Haverhill.

Offering remarks during Temple Emaunu-El’s peace Shabbat service, Fiorentini paid tribute to the 11 killed and six injured at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue Oct. 27. In a deeply personal speech, Fiorentini told attendees at the house of worship how his grandfather once stood up to protesters during an impromptu Ku Klux Klan rally at the old city hall on Main Street.

“In the audience was a young man, who had come to America at age 14 to seek a better life. He had never heard of the Ku Klux Klan, but he was anxious to hear from anyone who could provide answers to the tough life he lived,” Fiorentini said. As the protest got out of hand after the speaker spoke ill of immigrants and Catholics, “that young man joined with the audience…rushed the stage determined to run this speaker out of town. That man was my grandfather.”

“The young immigrants who rushed the stage that day also set another tone that day, one that I hope stands to this day: There is no place for hate in Haverhill,” the mayor said. “We are, we have been, and we will continue to be, a community that welcomes all regardless of where they came from, their religion, (or) their nationality.”

Haverhill’s dedication to inclusivity has resulted in the opening of a new mosque on Amesbury Road, Fiorentini said.

Temple Emanu-El’s spiritual leader Cantor Vera Broekhuysen was grateful for Fiorentini’s show of support.

“Thank you to all of the public officials and community leaders who made it your business to be part of an evening of unity and love in response to the acts of hate, especially anti-Semitic, that marred the end of last month,” Broekhuysen said after the service. “Thank you especially to Mayor Jim Fiorentini for publicly, passionately and unequivocally affirming that ‘there is no place for hate in Haverhill.’ We're going to keep building this world with love, one day at a time.”