Our students returned to school this week with the flag at half-staff, again. Our hearts go out to the people of Pittsburgh, the Tree of Life Synagogue and Squirrel Hill neighborhood as they cope with last weekend’s tragedy. Tower Hill stands together through good and challenging times, and we stand together especially right now with our Jewish students and families.
When hateful and violent attacks happen anywhere in our country, we all lose as human beings. Hateful and bigoted acts are cowardly, evil and wrong. Our faith and school communities are sacred places where love and learning are celebrated. Simply put, there is nothing more noble than love and learning, and we must never compromise in this realm.
Our children, like us, are surely saddened by the reoccurring and all too frequent tragedies in our country. They know that these acts are horrific and senseless, but unlike us, and because they have not lived our history, they may consider them “normal.” This does not mean they do not care. They do. The values and expectations for behavior in our school community, families and faith communities help children and adults alike practice humanity and goodness.
We must ensure that our children understand that hatred, bigotry and violence are not normal and should never be tolerated. While our students truly understand the concepts of kindness, courage and integrity, we must insist, with significant muscle right now, that all of us have a responsibility to stand up to hatred, anti-Semitism, racism and violence. Our children are smart, and they watch us closely; they need to see and hear evidence that we value kindness, civil discourse and integrity over fear, winning at all costs and politicizing things in order to prove ourselves right all the time.
We remain confident that Tower Hill students of all ages are taught that their minds and hearts matter and that they have a responsibility to stand up when they see wrongdoing, whether it be big or small, with friends on the playground, in the classroom or in their communities.
It seems especially fitting to remember Fred Rogers’ compassionate and hopeful words. When he saw scary news as a boy, his mother would say, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Tower Hill’s administrators and school psychologists are helpers and can serve as resources for you and your children as we navigate confusing and painful times. Drs. Cuddy and Lineback share these recommendations from the American Psychological Association, which are applicable to students of all ages and provide concrete suggestions for how we can discuss nationwide tragedies and the media coverage that accompanies them.
This week we observed moments of silence with students in each division, in age-appropriate ways. Our steadfast belief in your children gives us hope that there will indeed be a more peaceful world.
In places where no one acts like a human being,
let us bring courage;
let us bring compassion,
let us bring humanity.
(from Central Conference of American Rabbis)
Head of School