Local day schools respond to national walkout

Local day schools respond to national walkout

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Area day schools have taken different approaches to the National School Walkout at 10 a.m. on March 14. The protest was to memorialize the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., and to demand the passage of legislation to reduce gun violence. 

The ENOUGH National School Walkout was organized at the national level by 16 teenage activists, ages 14-23, from around the country through the Women’s March Youth Empower. One, identified as Ziad, 19, is from Princeton. 

While some day schools were supportive of student efforts, Rabbi Eliezer Rubin of Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School (RKYHS) in Livingston said in an email to NJJN that he “cannot encourage” his high school students to join this national movement due to the walkout’s ties with Linda Sarsour, a leader of the Women’s March and the organizer of the national event. However, Rubin said that middle school teachers and students were permitted “to create a meaningful learning and civics experience in response to gun violence.”

Regarding RKYHS participation, “Students should know that the walkout is being led and sponsored by the Women’s March, an organization some of whose top leaders have worked extensively with anti-Jewish and anti-Israel causes,” wrote RKYHS administrators in a message sent to high school students. Other modern Orthodox day schools have set a similar tone, emphasizing that the march was not organized by survivors of the Parkland shooting. 

Instead, Rubin encouraged interested students to participate in the March for Our Lives, organized by the Parkland survivors and taking place in Washington, D.C., and in marches across the country on Saturday, March 24. The Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ is arranging shomer Shabbat programming to facilitate participation of observant Jews in the March for Our Lives taking place in Newark (see cover story). 

In the email to students, RKYHS called the national marches a “wonderful, coherent opportunity to express your support for this cause without taking up common cause with interest groups that may be antithetical to our values and interests.” 

High school students at Golda Och Academy (GOA) in West Orange organized their walkout with the support of the administration. “Our students are standing up to be counted and for that we applaud them and stand ready to support them in their efforts,” said GOA head of school Adam Shapiro a week before the event. 

At Gottesman RTW Academy in Randolph — which includes students from preschool through eighth grade — seventh and eighth graders joined the walkout. Earlier in the day, students in fifth through eighth grades attended a special minyan in honor of the victims of the school shooting that included the recitation of Yizkor as well as workshops on youth activism. 

Middle schoolers at Joseph Kushner Hebrew Academy in Livingston had two options: They could walk outside with their social studies teacher and spend 17 minutes — in memory of the 17 victims — engaged in a discussion about student activism and current gun bills in Congress, or they could spend the time learning a section of Pirkei Avot in memory of the lives lost in the shooting.

Neither of the high schools affiliated with the Jewish Educational Center in Elizabeth, Rav Teitz Mesivta Academy and Bruriah High School for Girls, responded to NJJN.

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