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As we reel from the aftermath of the shooting at Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, Jewish educators consider how to support their teachers, as well as the children and families in their care.
While the inclination may be to introduce brand new lessons and materials tomorrow, consider waiting. Allow your students to take the lead and let you know what they need to explore and give your community time to process. The following resources, however, may be helpful:
In a new post published the day of the shooting, Anne Berman-Waldorf, president of the Association of Reform Jewish Educators, shares what her congregation planned to do when it opened its religious school on Sunday morning. She addresses safety concerns, as well as how to create a space for parents to process their own concerns.
"4 Ways to Talk to Teens after the Pittsburgh Shooting" provides guidance for educators, clergy, and parents alike as they seek to talk with their teens about this tragedy, while "Don't Avoid Talking to Your Kids about the Pittsburgh Shooting", shared by the Forward from Sivan Zakai, PhD, also shares concrete and helpful advice for parents.
As you process with your families and staff over the next week, "After Terror: 5 Jewish Ways to Help Kids Deal" may be helpful to share and to guide your work.
Consider how you prepare your teachers so they can let go of their own fears and be a calming presence for the students. This infographic from the National Association for School Psychologists highlights key messaging and considerations may be a helpful resource for your teachers for talking to children about violence.
Many of our parents are struggling with how to talk about this act of terror. In “Helping Children to Process Acts of Terrorism," Rabbi Edythe Held Mencher, a clinical social worker, gives concrete advice and suggestions for talking to children of different ages including how to assure them that the adults in their world are working hard to keep them safe, strategies for letting them take the lead in the conversation, and ways to help them work through their fears or concerns. NPR’s “How to Talk with Kids about Terrible Things” may also be helpful to share with parents to guide them in these difficult conversations.
In the coming days and weeks, consider sharing PJ Library's "How to Talk to Children about Anti-Semitism" (for younger children) or NFTY’s Resources for Learning and Action to create a thoughtful approach for your students.