I had the absolute privilege to attend a two-day conference for Jewish Student Union presidents in New Jersey, discussing how to be leaders in our communities and why our strength is needed now more than ever. After seeing what other JSUs around the U.S. are struggling with, I’m deeply grateful for how Bexley has responded.
One club from Toronto shared that their administration refused to talk about the recent attacks on Israel and how that affected Jewish students. Another president from California told me their student body was celebrating Hamas’ terror attack, but their administration had yet to address safety concerns. The radio silence they received is terrifying. No one should go to school worried that their religion is going to be attacked.
Here at Bexley, however, my experience has been the exact opposite. I’ve had several meetings with Principal of Secondary Schools Jason Caudill about how to properly address the war as well as how to best support Jewish students.
He helped me plan a public assembly on antisemitism, which he attended. In addition to this gathering, Caudill and Superintendent Jason Fine have both made statements to parents and students about the current situation in Israel. They were both incredibly supportive when I was planning the event and I appreciate how receptive they were to me hosting a large event.
I have to stress how proud and grateful I am to live in a city where this is commonplace. In Bexley, the school has set itself apart from other districts by creating an environment where students can get away from the violent and gruesome images shown on the news and social media. After meeting with other JSU presidents, I have learned many consider their schools to be unsafe environments—my heart goes out to them.
In addition to organizing the public assembly, I led a JSU meeting to answer students’ questions about the current conflict. Caudill and guidance counselors reached out to me about providing support. They inquired how they could be better allies and how to fulfill students’ needs. About 20 people came to the educational meeting; the discussion was healthy and safe, which I think helped create a supportive space for Jewish students. I have encouraged many students to talk to Caudill, either of the assistant principals or guidance counselors about concerns they have, and I’ve heard good things about their meetings. Each time I talk to Caudill or any administrator, I feel like I’m being heard and understood. Their work may be behind the scenes, but it is meaningful and helpful nonetheless.
The outbreak of the war has fueled hate against Jewish and Arab people alike; in times like these, we should not advocate for violence against each other. Instead, we should stand united against all types of prejudice. The district administration deserves credit for their work to create an environment that’s so welcoming of diverse backgrounds. Our school is an excellent example of how people can come together in difficult times.
I’m pleased to see how involved our staff has been in understanding the conflict and supporting the student body because it is not like this everywhere. I’m thankful I cannot relate to some of the news coming out of other public schools, and it’s all thanks to the work of our administration.