School addresses Pittsburgh shooting

Talia Winiarsky and Jack Crovitz

In Pittsburgh’s pleasant Squirrel Hill neighborhood on October 27, a morning of praying and rejoicing on the Jewish Sabbath was shattered when a gunman opened fire at the Tree of Life Synagogue, killing eleven and injuring multiple others.

A day after this senseless act of violence, Head of School Dr. Tom Kelly reached out to parents and guardians of students in an email to provide resources to support students in the aftermath of this violent act of hate.

The email included links to webpages on how to talk to children about tragedy and how to “promote civility in the face of incivility,” Kelly wrote. He also suggested that parents and guardians should provide students “with the tools to change the conversations we’re having in an attempt to alter the growing number of negative outcomes,” he wrote.

To process acts of violence, students should feel comfortable doing whatever they need to do, whether it be “hosting a forum on hate crimes or organizing to protest at a local rally,” Kelly said.

“Through these actions, we find our stability, our moral center,” he said. He added that the school has resources available to provide support those who may need it.

The Office for Guidance and Counseling (OGC) and the Office of Identity, Culture, and Institutional Equity (ICIE) offered a walk-in session on the following Monday to any student who wanted to talk about what happened in Pittsburgh or any of the other events that had happened that week.

“These are difficult times we are living in, and unfortunately, the rhetoric is very intense. It’s hard to figure out why the event in Pittsburgh happened,” Director of the OGC Dr. Daniel Rothstein said.

The OGC can help students who are grappling with some of these questions, although they sometimes cannot be answered, Rothstein said.

“Talking about events like these and feeling that you’re not alone is very important,” he said.

For many students, the Pittsburgh attack reminded them that violent anti-Semitism is still alive, even in America.

“It seemed as if anti-Semitism in America was decreasing, but it’s obviously out there,” Margot Rosenblatt (12) said. “I thought that as a Jew in America, I was safe, and it’s scary to see that I’m not.”

Although Carmel Pe’er (10) feels that she “lives in a bubble” and feels safe as a Jewish person within her community, she realizes that there still is anti-Semitism in the nation, she said.

“This scares me, because instead of moving forward, we are moving backward,” Pe’er said.

Malek Shafai (11) said that he was not personally affected by the shooting, but it showed him how prevalent gun violence is in America.

“There easily could have been someone I know in that synagogue,” Madhav Menon (10), whose brother goes to college adjacent to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood, said.

Having a “personal tie changed my perspective on all the issues surrounding it, and it’s important to talk and educate ourselves about tragedies like these so that we can respond,” he said.

“At this juncture, I think many members of the community are overwhelmed by the negative information pushed by social media. I hope the community learns that we are here for each other, and we have resources available to provide support for those who may need it,” Kelly said.