Jewish schools show resilience following bomb threats

By Max Marcilla.

Throughout the country, numerous Jewish schools received bomb threats in recent weeks — including 31 on Feb. 27 alone.

Local schools such as the Aleph Bet Jewish Day School in Annapolis and the Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville received threats, forcing Jewish organizations to take action.

The Jewish Community Center released a statement in March acknowledging that it “met with FBI Director [James] Comey and the senior leadership team of the FBI to discuss the range of threats that have been directed against Jewish institutions in the past two months.”

While discussions on how to address the problem are taking place at the national level, on a school-by-school basis administrators have to confront the possibility of threats.

“Once the threats started to Jewish centers and schools around the country, we knew that we were on borrowed time before we were a target,” Laurie Ehrlich, the Director of Marketing and Communications at Charles E. Smith, wrote in an email to Beltway Bulletin.

Schools across the country anticipated threats and prepared for any situation that could arise.

“Even before the call came in to our school, letters were sent home to the parents explaining that we are aware things are happening in the Jewish community,” Sarah White, the head of school at the Aleph Bet Jewish Day School, said.

Being prepared — and keeping the students safe —  was clearly the most important objective for White, Ehrlich and countless administrators of Jewish schools across the country. However, even after they received the “all-clear,” the administrators had to explain what had happened to the students.

“What we told [the students] was that there was a threat in the building, we called the police and we’re here because we’re waiting for the police to let us know that we’re okay to go back in,” White said.

However, as an elementary school, White acknowledged that the depth of the conversation varied based on who was on the receiving end.

“[We had] a little bit deeper conversation of what that means and what that threat was [with the fourth and fifth graders],” White said. “Then we let the parents guide the conversation that they had with their own children.”

For Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, a middle and high school, the discussion was more open-ended.

“Our students feel empowered to ask questions, and teachers are prepared to answer questions and address concerns about these threats,” Ehrlich wrote.

Both Ehrlich and White noted, however, that there is a positive message that could be taken from the threats.

“I think that a lot more positive came out of this than negative,” White said.

“Positive being the support we got from our community, not just the Jewish community but Annapolis itself, the churches, the schools — and a little more awareness of what anti-semitism is and how that affects not only the Jewish community but our neighbors.”

Ehrlich agreed, writing: “It has been comforting to know that we are surrounded by people who care.”

Featured image courtesy of Creative Commons.

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