Processing Light and Dark

Reading about the recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida is scary and heartbreaking. As a school professional, there is nothing more important than keeping our children healthy and safe – even learning, which is our reason for existing, is a distant second. There is no easy way to understand or process events like this; the best we can do is recognize and validate our emotional reactions, and take time to mourn.

For our students, there are adults in our building who are always prepared to listen, and there are counselors and resources to help all of us move through our emotions. Our younger students are much less aware of these events, and our best moves with them are to listen and look for any signs of distress, answer questions the best we can, and correct any misconceptions they have. For our older students, we can check in, make sure they feel safe inside our walls, and support them as they question and seek.

Jewish schools are particularly security-conscious because we have to be. We have not experienced the particularly scary scenario of a lone shooter at Gesher, but we practice our reactions for this and other highly unlikely events anyway, because we know that our responses in the early minutes of such an event have a critically important impact on the outcome. Our teachers are prepared, as we demonstrated one year ago when we received a bomb threat at our school, and acted quickly and professionally with the support of local law enforcement to keep our community healthy and safe. We returned to learning later that same day and have not looked back.

My emotional reaction right now is a combination of sadness, anger, horror, and confusion. I simply can’t wrap my head or my heart around the notion that someone would ever carry out actions like these against educators, children, or any other innocent civilian. I know it happens, though, and try as I do to make sense of it, I never can. It is truly senseless. So I pray.

As we enter the month of Adar, which is traditionally a time of joy, song, jokes, and costumes (the month in which we celebrate Purim), I hope that we will all remember one of the primary lessons of Jewish tradition, including the story of Purim: it is possible to reclaim light during the very darkest of circumstances, and it is up to us to make it happen.

Shabbat Shalom,