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Dear FIRSTNAME, 

 

In our tradition, this week is a jumble of emotions.  Today we observe the solemn fast of ta'anit Esther and tonight we jump straight into the celebration of Purim.  Seemingly, the Rabbis believed that we could process contradictory emotions in quick succession and even learn from their contradictions and extremes.


I have experienced these mixed emotions in our school this week.  I have embraced the glorious frivolity of Spirit Week in the build up to Purim and, simultaneously, along with the Administrative Team and the High School student government, I have focused on how Heschel should engage the national efforts to respond to the horrific school shooting in Parkland, Florida.  Our engagement already began with a letter signed by me and over one hundred and fifty other heads of New York independent schools, that appeared in the New York Times this past Sunday.  


Many of you are aware of the national plans for a seventeen-minute school "walk out" on March 14th--one minute for each of the seventeen victims from Parkland--to register support for keeping assault weapons out of our schools.  We plan to support participation in this walk out.  As March 14th happens to be a parent-teacher conference day for our Early Childhood and Lower School divisions, our youngest students will not be in school.  For the rest of our community, we are working on plans so that anyone who wants to walk out will be able to do so in a safe and thoughtful manner.  We will update you on our plans for our Middle School and High School as the day approaches.  


Of course, we remain focused as well on our own security and our community's peace of mind. Along with Amit Meir, our Director of Security, I will be meeting with the faculty and staff in our different departments and divisions over the upcoming weeks to address questions and review our well-established protocols.  In addition, in keeping with our regular practice, we will be conducting a lockdown drill so that our entire community can practice our procedures.  Our faculty and student support services will, of course, be particularly attuned to our students' emotional responses to the drill as so many of them have been thinking about the tragic events in Parkland.


Above all, now and always, we are an institution of learning named after Abraham Joshua Heschel. I deeply hope that, in the upcoming weeks and months, we will find ways to turn the tragedy of yet another school massacre into opportunities for learning.  And I hope that, beginning on March 14th, we will transform this moment into an opportunity for our pluralistic community to think about different ways that, in the words of Rabbi Heschel, we can pray with our feet.  I hope that Esther and Mordechai can serve as our guides as we struggle to make sense of how to respond to threats that seem beyond our control.


As always, I welcome your thoughts and questions as we continue to process what happened at Marjory Stoneham Douglas High School in Parkland.


I wish you and your family a Purim filled with joy.  And I wish for all of us a world of safety, community, security, and peace.


Hag Sameach,


Ariela


THE ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL SCHOOL
RONALD P. STANTON CAMPUS

Early Childhood Center • Henry Lindenbaum Lower School • Alan B. Slifka Middle School
30 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 784-1234
High School • 20 West End Avenue, NYC 10023 • 212 246-7717
www.heschel.org

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