While we start the month of Adar, a time of happiness in the Jewish calendar, this past week has been anything but for the Jewish day school community. Day schools from coast to coast, along with other Jewish institutions, were targeted with bomb threats. As you can imagine, this had a significant effect on those school communities and their students. One class had just concluded its ceremony conferring the first Siddur (prayer book) to its first grade class; some were in the middle of reading the Torah; others were celebrating Rosh Chodesh, the new Jewish month; while others engaged in the daily tasks of learning. These threats also have a multiplying effect: our entire community of schools now suffers from the anxiety and fear that these threats engender, whether their schools have been the direct target or not.
Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, a network of close to 400 Jewish schools serving nearly 100,000 children -- is working in partnership with the Secure Community Network (SCN), the Department of Homeland Security, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and other agencies to provide resources and support for our schools.
In addition to providing a tremendous amount of individualized support to schools, Prizmah is taking a number of steps to support all schools throughout this period:
- The creation of a webinar series providing schools with the most up-to-date information on bomb threat procedures and protocols; crisis communication plans; and accessing funds earmarked for school security.
- Facilitation of peer-to-peer groups designed to support both heads of school and lay leaders.
- Leveraging the power of the day school network in collecting resources relevant to our schools (i.e., sample letters to communities, ideas about how to speak with students, resources to share with parents).
We applaud the leadership of the targeted schools for their quick thinking, calm in the face of crisis, and reassuring words to their communities. We are proud of the resilience and strength of the leaders, teachers, students, and parents at Jewish day schools across America who will not allow fear to take away the joyousness of Jewish education. We are proud that all children have returned to their schools with renewed determination that a Jewish day school education remains the best way to empower Jewish children to assume the authorship and ownership of the Jewish story.
The Jewish story in America has been one of opportunity and religious freedom, unparalleled in the arc of Jewish history. A story in which Jewish Americans have played important roles from the very founding of our constitutional government through today. Jewish day schools provide children with an immersive education that grounds them in the unique culture and values of Judaism while also ensuring they have the skills and resources to be knowledgeable citizens of America. There is not a corner of American life, history, and culture that has not been touched by the Jewish community.
As proud Jewish Americans, we call upon federal and local law enforcement to investigate these threats expediently and bring these perpetrators to justice. We call upon leaders at all levels of government to denounce the hatred and make clear that the United States will not countenance anti-Semitism in any form. And, most of all, we call on all Americans to combat hatred and bigotry in all its forms. As we come together to achieve these goals, we are sure that Adar and months to come will be ones filled with the sounds of joyous children.