On Wednesday at 10:00AM, many schools in our community and across the country will participate in a seventeen-minute "walk out" (one minute for each of the victims of the school shooting in Parkland, Florida last month) as a protest against gun violence in schools.  As I shared in my letter two weeks ago, we will support the members of our Heschel community -- administration, faculty, staff, and Middle School and High School students -- who wish to walk out for these seventeen minutes. (Our Early Childhood and Lower School students do not have school on Wednesday because of parent-teacher conferences.)  We will also, of course, support those members of our community who do not wish to walk out.

I am grateful to Amit Meir, our Director of Security, for working with us to ensure that our school community will be safe on Wednesday morning, both inside and outside of our buildings.  At 10:00AM on Wednesday, we will observe a moment of silence for the victims of the recent attack in Parkland. Following that moment of silence, anyone walking out will be directed to a particular area outside our school, and members of our faculty as well as members of our security team will accompany them.  Members of our community who do not wish to walk out will remain in our school buildings under the supervision of other members of our faculty and security team. After the walk out, we will all gather in the gym for a brief memorial for those who died in Parkland and other school shootings. We are grateful to the members of the High School Student Government who have worked with us on all aspects of these plans.  Our High School students discussed the walk out last week in a division-wide Town Hall and, before Wednesday, our Middle School students will be discussing it in their advisories and with their social studies teachers. We hope that you will talk with your Middle School and High School students about this too.

We are mindful that we are a pluralistic community and we are proud of the different views and beliefs that members of our school hold dear.  We are also mindful that, in the world around us, it is increasingly challenging to find public models of respectful disagreement. We look ahead to Wednesday with a spirit of optimism:  We hope that everyone, regardless of whether he or she chooses to walk out, will feel supported. We also hope that all members of our school community will use this opportunity to think deeply about their views and beliefs, as well as to appreciate the value of being a part of a community where we do not all agree and where we are stronger for our different points of view.

We know that, while many schools will be walking out on Wednesday morning, different school communities and different sub-communities across the country will define their participation in different ways.  Each of us might agree with some of what will be said around the country on Wednesday and, no doubt, each of us might disagree with other publicly expressed sentiments. We will not, however, allow any other group to define the meaning of our participation, even though other groups may seek to use Wednesday's walk out to further their own agendas.  We, thus, want to explain why we are supporting those members of our community who will choose to walk out on Wednesday. We will support them because we believe:


That schools should be safe places for all children and adults;

That, in the aftermath of yet another tragic school shooting, in an effort to resist normalizing gun violence, we should join school communities around the country that are raising their voices to support greater safety in schools and reasonable restrictions on assault weapons in schools;

That, consistent with the Supreme Court's jurisprudence, the Second Amendment and the Constitution protect our rights as individuals and allow for regulations that would keep assault weapons out of schools;

That the politics of our moment should not keep us from coming together to support the students whose classmates and teachers were brutally murdered in Parkland, Florida;

And that, within our pluralistic community, we should always remember Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel's view that "to be is to stand for" and push ourselves to sharpen our views, disagree with respect, learn from our different perspectives, and stand for what we believe in.

With thanks for all of your support and engagement,

Ariela and the Heschel Administrative Team




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

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