An Atypical Weekly Update for an Atypical Week, October 13
Dear Uxbridge Community:
Over the past several years, I have painstakingly provided a weekly update to the school and community of Uxbridge High School. I tend to focus on school happenings, updates for families, important dates, deadlines, and highlights. Every now and then, the school has the challenge of sharing difficult news or updates that provide insight on some of our challenges. There have been messages about medical emergencies, substance use in our young people, reckless behavior, and community responses to bigotry and racism. There have been concerns raised about the online behavior of some of our young people and even some of our adults. We have focused on areas of school that are important to the students, families, and faculty, and I have never really written about myself.
In that vein, I hope everyone will indulge me for a two-pronged messaging this week, as I will eschew the typical messaging to share some very personal, very individual thoughts with our community, with whom I have been bound professionally for nearly a decade, which in some ways I consider home or at the very least have roots, and with which I have always aspired to have a degree of transparency.
First, thank you. Thank you to the colleagues, staff members, fellow administrators, parents, coaches, friends from around the Commonwealth and nation, community members, and other stakeholders who reached out to me personally in the aftermath of last week’s terror attack in Israel. Thank you to those who gave me some grace and patience this week to process my own fears and challenges, knowing that my family is in harm’s way overseas. Thank you to those who just took a moment to tell me they were praying for both the victims and for peace in the region. Thank you to those who may have known my roots to Israel, being the son of an Israeli mother and grandson of Holocaust survivors, with family still residing there and sheltering this week, and who could thus acknowledge how close to home the past week’s events have hit me personally. Thank you to those who did not know the details but made a presumption and just checked in. Thank you for the words of encouragement, the attempts at compassion and empathy, the simple drops in the office just to say, “how is everything,” even when the answer could not be, in any way, in any sense, anything but “struggling.”
Recognizing when someone is not at his or her best, offering compassion and a gentle ear, and attempting to reconcile another’s perspective is one of the most challenging life skills we teach at UHS. Just last Friday, at our professional development and curriculum workshop, our faculty had a robust discussion on the importance of resilience, tenacity, and toughness - how to instill that in our students when we ourselves do not always have the capacity to be “tough.” I hope that people recognize that toughness comes in many forms, that upholding professional responsibilities in the face of adversity is but one way to demonstrate that resilience or toughness, and that a commitment to that tenacity is a continued state of mind, not a momentary paroxysm.
A second point that I wish to raise is one I do with a great deal and abundance of caution and pause. There are those who use their platform as school leaders as an opportunity to shine a light on themselves or to proselytize their own views, be it politically or socially. I have tried to avoid this practice, and have resisted using the school's or my professional platform as a means for therapy. I write this acknowledging that this week's post is atypical.
Over the past few days, I have seen some political groups blaming victims. Some people have taken the "by whatever means possible" stance in support of Palestinian freedoms. Others stay silent on the brutal terror attacks and massacre inflicted on innocent civilians. I have found myself addicted to the news cycle from different countries, which is giving my multiple language skills a workout, perhaps the only benefit to this past week. My Jewish friends, family, and peers, even at the synagogue and congregation of which I am a member, are frightened by this rhetoric. We have a student group, Mending Spartan Minds, that speaks to normalizing the stigma of mental health awareness. In a word or two, we are not okay, and I think it takes some strength and courage to acknowledge and respect when people are not okay. It also takes support to move past that discomfort.
To be clear: I have no interest in seeing innocent civilians perish because of the actions of terrorists. I know this conflict is more complex than a blog post can begin to explain. I always advocate for peace and understanding, for respecting different perspectives, for attempting to understand others. I do so knowing that the American people have a range of beliefs, and it is hardly the school’s or my responsibility to indoctrinate young men and women to a single hegemony but to guide students in a way that help them make decisions that best suit their individual minds and values while understanding different perspectives and how to discern truth from fiction.
Some people have referred to this as Israeli 9/11. I have started to think of it as a 21st century Kristallnacht, around which the world should coalesce and galvanize against terror, realizing that the mantra of "never again" shared by Jews after the Holocaust is very nearly and quite possibly, "right now." That in and of itself is scary, but is something we can use to motivate us to action or understanding. In short, we must collectively reject acts of pure evil, without negotiation, with exception, and without consideration of how they can be justifiable.
Thus, the question for our community is how to bring the point back to the local. We have a collective responsibility to combat all forms of violence and hatred. We must understand that there are those in our community who are struggling to reconcile their personal experiences and values with what is happening abroad. We must realize that students and families alike will see news and information conveyed through traditional and social media sources that can and will affect them. We will see images of destruction and hatred, and we will no doubt have concerns about our safety in the face of potential domestic challenges. We will wonder how or if these actions could spill over to our domestic lives.
We remind our community that we have no space for violence or hatred. We acknowledge that the actions being felt personally by a few and certainly those in the Middle East can have reverberations in our classrooms. We must continue to speak up against injustice, offer supports and resources for families, and commit to making the world a better place for all who inhabit the earth. Indeed, we must strike hatred for others from our midst, be it abroad or domestic. We ask our community to embrace those affected by the recent trends and events in the news, renounce the normalization of anti-semitism, promote awareness and empathy, and, most of all, stand together with communities who hurt. Indeed, it is all that may get some of us through these challenging times.
Finally, a saying that people may see popping up in the news this week is the Hebrew phrase, “Ahm Yisrael Chai,” which literally translates to “The People of Israel Live.” The lyrics of a song composed in 1965, the words are often used as a phrase of solidarity. I share it in the hope that others may use it in unity with those fighting against terror.
Again, I offer my deep appreciation for this community’s support, feedback, and camaraderie.
Michael Rubin, Principal
Uxbridge High School