Hamas’ terrorist attack on Israel earlier this month is an international event.
But it has local implications.
At the beginning of last night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent of Schools Thomas Scarice spoke heartfully about what the incident means, for our students — and for him.
I can speak on behalf of the Board when I reiterate that our hearts are broken for the unspeakable acts of violence and terror that occurred in Israel the weekend of October 7, and now the continued violence that is sure to engulf the region, and world, for the foreseeable future.
Together with the community, the Westport Public Schools stand against all forms of hate and violence, including of course the desecration of human life, the murder and the kidnappings of innocent citizens in Israel.
With the Board, we stand in solidarity in condemnation of these acts, and ready to support all those impacted by these atrocities.
This week I had the fortune of meeting with 4 of our local rabbis: Rabbi Wiederhorn, Rabbi Friedman, Rabbi Kantor and Rabbi Wall. This will be followed by a subsequent meeting with the Interfaith Clergy Association of Westport and Weston
I asked for this meeting in search of wisdom and knowledge … but also in search of thought partners in how to best support our Jewish students, and the Jewish community of Westport.
As Rabbi Kantor pointed out to me, there are 15 million Jews in the world, and 7 million live in Israel.
It is not just a high likelihood … it is a fact that many of our Jewish students have a direct connection to family, friends and loved ones in Israel.
That puts our schools in a position where we must provide necessary school- based supports
As Rabbi Wiederhorn pointed out to me, Israel is at war with the terror group Hamas. Collectively our local rabbis want, and pray for, peace with all neighbors, here, and internationally.
I also had the opportunity to connect with former executive director of the Connecticut ADL, Steve Ginsburg.
I had the chance to work with Steve in confronting a very public issue a couple of years ago. We became friends. And as a friend, Steve shared some wisdom with me that I would like to share with the community.
As the local rabbis cautioned me about historical increases in antisemitism following international incidents such as October 7, they noted concern for all students.
Steve also wisely advised that we remain on high alert for incidents of Islamaphobia. He indicated that historically, incidents of Islamaphobia rise following international incidents such as October 7.
We are a public education system. We have a lane. Although I am comfortable expressing my moral clarity on violence directed towards innocent children, elderly, families, etc. anywhere, I am mindful of my professional lane when speaking publicly on these matters. And I am quite confident that my comments will not be received with unanimous support.
That said, in my lane, I am the same exact superintendent for each and every one of our approximately 5,400 students.
Our job as public educators is to support the growth and development of our students.
That work is optimized in an environment marked by physical and emotional well-being, one in which students feel safe, and an abiding sense of belonging and affiliation. This is the foundation of all learning.
As I said in my message to the community, as much as we try, the chaos and evils of the outside world penetrate the walls of our schools. When this happens, we respond to the best of our abilities.
Rather than divide and scatter, as chaos and evil can do, we work to pull closer together as a wider Westport school community to serve our students.
This means every student. We won’t be perfect, but it will not be due to a lack of caring.