I cannot stop thinking about the day I spent in Montgomery last August. The heat was oppressive as we gathered with Mirowitz Middle School students outside the National Memorial for Equity and Justice. We needed to set the tone for what we were about to experience — a memorial to black Americans who were murdered by lynching.
Reb Scott likened the memorial to a Holocaust Memorial, and his analogy could not have been more accurate. Students and teachers alike were horrified to learn about the extraordinary number of lynchings that have taken place in America. We let out a collective gasp when we entered, sickened by racism that has been — that still is — accepted in our society. Those feelings of disgust, anger, sadness, horror have bubbled up in each of us recently as we have learned about the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
Mirowitz parents, we are your partners! It is our collective responsibility to raise a generation of leaders who will narrow the gap between the way the world is and the way it should be. We want to ensure that your children are proud to be Jewish, and attuned to the systemic intolerance, the racial injustice and the inherent bias that leads to oppression, murder and genocide. We must create a world in which injustice against a race, religion, nationality or creed does not happen.
Since we are out for the summer, we need your help. Please talk to your children about tolerance and intolerance, about right and wrong, about kindness and unkindness, about taking responsibility and about being a bystander. You know your family’s comfort level with sharing sensitive information with children. Do what feels right and appropriate for you. Below are links to resources that may help you frame a conversation:
• Resources for talking about racism with kids.
• NPR: Talking about race with young children.
• Helping Children Cope with Terrorism
• Anti-racism Resource for White People
Ours is a multiracial Jewish community, but how aware are we that families at our own school have had direct experience with this kind of injustice? It’s imperative that we, as community members who believe that we are each created b’tzelem elohim, know that racism and violence is active all the time, not just when it is caught on video.
We hope that your children, our students, will grow up to be part of the solution, that they will help create an America where black Americans, LGBTQ individuals and all people of color are treated with equal justice and dignity…and where they are safe.
Our Civil Rights Trip in middle school provides powerful exposure not only to the horrors of racial injustice, but also to avenues for change and hope for a better future. The efficacy of this kind of learning is in the way we respond when the horrors of history are being repeated for us to see today.
I do believe that the world will be in good hands when Mirowitz alumni one day take the lead…because we will seize this moment and do our part to educate our children to expect better.
With a heavy heart and a sprinkle of hope,