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A Better Way Forward

June 05, 2020
By Adam Tilove, Todd Clauer, Jessica Kyanka-Maggart & Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Dear HBHA Community,

Over the past few weeks, attention in the news has appropriately shifted from nonstop coronavirus coverage to the recent incidents of racial injustice throughout our country, most notably the tragic and deplorable murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery and the ensuing protests that have taken place throughout the United States and around the world.

There are no adequate words that can express our sadness and anger to these and similar acts of brutality that communities of color have had to endure for far too long in our country. As Americans and professionals in a Jewish Community Day School, we can and must allow ourselves to experience these difficult and uncomfortable feelings. More so, we must take concrete action and do our part to ensure no other families have to experience the agony of losing sons, daughters, fathers, and mothers in this way.  

Our school’s mission states that we aim to help our students “become honorable and contributing citizens.” Our Profile of a Graduate further adds that our graduates will demonstrate “Actions that embody respect for the dignity of all people and all faiths.” Our Torah commands us to “Pursue Justice relentlessly,” while our prophets tell us we must be “A light unto the nations.” 

These values provide us purpose as a people and as an institution. We are committed to developing the whole child based on our rich Jewish tradition, helping guide them to become righteous upstanders and change-makers in the world. We are proud of our school’s efforts to both teach meaningful content and engage our students in transformative experiences. We explicitly ask our students to grapple and grow toward these ideals, and while we are proud of our work, this week we recognize that there is more to do.  

Doing more requires us to use our creative energy to develop and implement innovative curricula and transformational experiences appropriate for students at each developmental stage. It requires a willingness for all adults to honestly examine our fears, biases, privileges and relationships with communities who are disproportionately affected by injustice. It requires a willingness to reach out and connect with those who can work with us to find concrete and meaningful solutions to the disparities and distrust that have been laid bare by these tragic events.

Today, we know we have a great deal more to learn. And we have a renewed determination to live up to our highest ideals and to give our students the opportunity to become their best selves and be champions for justice and dignity for all people. We know as parents that these are not easy conversations, but we stand beside and with you as you try to make sense of what has happened and also provide hope that there can be - and is - a better way forward.

We make this statement not as the final word, but rather as our opening remark. It is a reaffirmation of our school’s commitment to social justice and as a pledge to use the tragedies to call for further action. This will likely lead to new programmatic ideas which will then become part of our school’s curriculum.

In the meantime, we encourage each family to have conversations with your children about racism and injustice. These are difficult, awkward, and sometimes painful conversations. However, discussing and empathizing with the experience of others is core to who we are as a people. What’s more, it is critical to raising children who are willing to stand up, speak up, and act. 

Below you will find two articles to help you navigate these challenging conversations with children/teens of all ages. Of course, we are also here to listen to your thoughts and ideas, and to provide support and guidance should you need it.  

B’shalom,

Adam Tilove, Head of School
Todd Clauer, Upper School Principal
Dr. Jessica Kyanka-Maggart, Lower & Middle School Principal
Rabbi Avi Weinstein, Head of Jewish Studies

Resources

Talking with Children About Racism, Police Brutality and Protests

Anti-Racism for Kids: An Age-by-Age Guide to Fighting Hate

HBHA