Dear TBC community,

Late last night I learned that swastikas and other graffiti had been found at Staples High School in Westport. Today, I've spent time speaking with the Connecticut office of the ADL, representatives from the administration of Westport's Public Schools, and many local colleagues. Based on our conversations, we decided to issue a joint statement about this incident which I am including below.

I want to share with you that I was very impressed when I learned about the work that Staples High School has done to try to avoid this type of incident while simultaneously equipping the school's faculty and staff to respond effectively if something like this were to happen. More information about that proactive work as well as the school's response to this week's incident is included in the letter below.

This Shabbat, I hope that each of us will take a few moments to seek out the quiet- using Shabbat's sacred time to soothe our anxious spirits and comfort our worried hearts.

Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Bearman


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Dear Friends,
 
As leaders of the Westport and neighboring Jewish communities, we were of course extremely troubled to learn of yesterday's discovery of swastikas and other antisemitic graffiti at Staples High School.  We are aware that there have been other troubling incidents in Connecticut and New York in recent days. 
 
Today we have been in communication with the administration at Staples, the Westport Public Schools leadership, and the Westport Police Department.
 
We are grateful to the Westport PD for taking this incident very seriously; the Detective Bureau is actively investigating.  We are grateful to Steve Ginsburg and the staff at the Anti-Defamation League for providing leadership, education, guidance and resources.  We are also grateful to the Staples administration and the Westport Public Schools for the actions that have been initiated and those that are being planned.  We would like to share with you some specifics about how this incident is being addressed.
 
This year Staples launched "Connections," a program in which all students are assigned to a small group that meets twice a week with a faculty member.  The purpose is to facilitate important conversations that are difficult to have elsewhere.  Over the summer, all faculty facilitators participated in ADL training in how to create brave spaces in which teens and teachers can have open, honest and direct conversations.  A special Connections session was scheduled for today in order to process this incident, answer questions, and determine how additional support can be provided to students.  
 
In addition, many Staples faculty were recently trained in the ADL's "Echoes and Reflections" curriculum, which gives teachers training and resources in how to present effective Holocaust education and facilitate conversations about the Holocaust.  This training was formulated in partnership with the USC Shoah Foundation and Yad Vashem.  Next week Staples will hold a teach-in during all social studies classes.  It will be focused on to symbols of hate, and the swastika in particular, and will address the way these symbols impact the communities in which they appear.
 
It should be noted that this is not the first time that Staples HS and the Westport Public Schools as a whole have taken tangible efforts to proactively address and prevent incidents of bias and hate. 
 
Let us use this regrettable incident as an opportunity to raise up a next generation that is committed - as we are - to fighting hate, bias and antisemitism wherever and whenever necessary.
 
Shabbat Shalom,
 
Rabbi Rachel Bearman, Temple B'nai Chaim, Georgetown
Cantor Luis Cattan, TCS, Westport
Rabbi Michael S. Friedman, Temple Israel, Westport
Rabbi Jason Greenberg, Temple Shalom, Norwalk
Rabbi Yehuda Kantor, Chabad Lubavitch of Westport
Rabbi Mark Lipson, Temple Shalom, Norwalk
Rabbi Danny Moss, Temple Israel, Westport
Rabbi Elana Nemitoff-Bresler, Temple Israel, Westport
Rabbi Ita Paskind, Congregation Beth El, Norwalk
Rabbi Cantor Dan Sklar, Temple Israel, Westport
Rabbi Cantor Shirah Lipson Sklar, Temple Shalom, Norwalk
Rabbi Greg Wall, Beit Chaverim Synagogue, Westport
David Weisberg, CEO, Federation for Jewish Philanthropy of Upper Fairfield County
Rabbi Jeremy Wiederhorn, TCS, Westport