Attacks on Israel condemned, student safety emphasized | #schoolsaftey

Netta Levy, a Westport parent, told the Board of Education: “My ancestors fought too hard and survived too much for me to sit quietly … I am here to voice my concern regarding the education of our kids.” / Photo by Linda Conner Lambeck

By Linda Conner Lambeck

WESTPORT — Supt. of School Thomas Scarice began Thursday’s Board of Education meeting by reading a statement in support of the Jewish community and against “unspeakable” acts of violence and terror that began the weekend of Oct. 7.

“I think I can speak on behalf of the board that our hearts are broken for the unspeakable acts of violence that occurred in Israel the weekend of Oct. 7,” said Scarice “And now the continued violence.”

Together, as a community, Scarice said the Westport public school district stands against all forms of hate and violence, including the desecration of human life, the murder and kidnapping of innocent Israeli citizens.

He said the district stands ready to support all affected by the atrocities.

Shortly after the attacks, Scarice sent an email to the community, condemning the violence.

This past week, the superintendent said he met with four area rabbis — Michael Friedman of Temple Israel, Yehudah Leib Kantor of Chabad Lubavitch of Westport, Jeremy Wiederhorn of the Conservative Synagogue of Westport and Greg Wall of Beit Chaverim.

Scarice said he asked for the meeting in search of wisdom and knowledge, but also in search of guidance how to best support the district’s Jewish students and community.

“As Rabbi Kantor pointed out to me … it is not just a huge likelihood, it is a fact, that many of our Jewish students have a direct connection to family, friends and loved ones in Israel right now,” Scarice said. “That puts our schools in a position where we must provide necessary school-based supports.”

Scarice said he also reached out to Steve Ginsburg, the former executive director of the Connecticut Anti-Defamation League, who became a friend after working together on an issue several years ago.

Ginsburg and the other rabbis advised the school district to remain on high alert. There is historically an increase in antisemitism following international incidents, such as the events on Oct. 7, he said.

“We are a public education system,” said Scarice. “We have a lane.”

Although comfortable expressing his moral clarity on violence directed toward innocent children, elderly and families anywhere, Scarice said he is mindful his public comments will not receive unanimous support.

Still, he said he is the same superintendent for every one of the district’s 5,400 students. He said he is committed to making sure the district provides an environment where all students feel safe.

In response, Netta Levy, a Westport parent who has spoken in the past about Holocaust education, addressed the meeting, saying she is an Israeli American who moved to the U.S. when she was 12 years old.

“My ancestors fought too hard and survived too much for me to sit quietly,” Levy said. “I am here to voice my concern regarding the education of our kids.”

Education has the power to teach children to love or hate, she said.

“I am asking you to look at six to 12 [grades] curriculum and materials being used in our schools and to go beyond the bare minimum and figure out what is necessary,” Levy said.

Louis Weinberg, who attended the meeting to advocate for the Westport Community Gardens, which he chairs, thanked Scarice for his comments about Israel.

“It’s meaningful to us … we appreciate it.” said Weinberg. “Thanks for recognizing it.”

Freelance writer Linda Conner Lambeck, a reporter for more than four decades at the Connecticut Post and other Hearst publications, is a member of the Education Writers Association. 

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