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Head of School Response to Tragedies in Pittsburgh and Jeffersontown

Dear BFS Community,

The horrific attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue congregation that resulted in the premeditated murder of 11 people there on Saturday, the Sabbath day of the Jewish faith, is an abomination that sears the soul.

On behalf of Brooklyn Friends School, I send this message to all in our community condemning this hateful crime and pledging to do all that I can personally, and in my role as Quaker Head of School, to continue our advocacy against gun violence and to reaffirm the Friends testimonies of nonviolence and of seeking and respecting the divine light in all human beings.

The attack on the Tree of Life synagogue provokes responses in all of us that we need to process. It was an attack on religion, one of the oldest of world religions; it was an attack on the elderly and vulnerable who lost their lives simply because they were exercising their freedom to participate in religious worship; and the attack intentionally violated a religious sanctuary.

The attack took place three days after a man with a history of mental illness and racist behavior killed two black senior citizens in a suburban Louisville, KY retail store after unsuccessfully trying to break into another religious sanctuary, the First Baptist Church of Jeffersontown, approximately 10 minutes before the shootings.

As a school that is intentionally a sanctuary for your children and our community in general, we closely identify with such violations. They compel us as teachers, parents, and community members – once again – to try to explain to our children the complexity and horror of multiple acts of violence that are inexplicable– all the while striving to take appropriate security measures that can keep our students safe and free from irrational fears.

As we have done previously, we have included in this message below some resources for families about discussing unsettling news with school-age children. You should also know that school leadership and our counselors are always available to you and your children to help whenever it is needed.

In the next few days, administrators, faculty, and staff will discuss other ways that we can work meaningfully as a school community to address the many issues unfolding in the aftermath of the murderous attacks in Pittsburgh and Jeffersontown, KY. We grieve for each of the individuals so hatefully killed and hold in the light the families and loved ones left behind. We also remain mindful of the many other violent acts and threats that are dominating the news that we, and your children, are processing each day. We welcome your suggestions and participation in such work.

In friendship,

Larry Weiss
Head of School


Information from Child Mind Institute

Additional information from OHEL

Common Sense Media: Explaining the News to Our Kids

Information for adults and children

Talking to Children about disasters

Understanding Antisemitism, by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice