Sending My Son to a Jewish School Every Day Should Not Be an Act of Bravery

Avital Norman Nathman

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I'm at my desk only 20 minutes after dropping off morning carpool when the reports begin streaming in. This time, it starts with a JCC in Florida receiving a bomb threat. Video of a preschool teacher attempting to distract 2- and 3-year-olds with "The Wheels on the Bus" makes the rounds. More reports of threats in other states begin to pop up. A Jewish day school nearby was just evacuated. I hold my breath as my stomach tenses to the point where I'm nearly doubled over in pain. And, like the other times before this, I wonder if my son and his Jewish day school will be threatened next.

Since the beginning of 2017, there have been five waves of coordinated bomb threats called in to Jewish community centers, day schools, and organizations. Over 100 incidents at 81 different locations. The calls are chilling. You can listen for yourself:

"It's a C-4 bomb with a lot of shrapnel, surrounded by a bag .... In a short time, a large number of Jews are going to be slaughtered. Their heads are going to [sic] blown off from the shrapnel. There's a lot of shrapnel. There's going to be a bloodbath that's going to take place in a short time. I think I told you enough. I must go."

And they aren't stopping. If anything, they're increasing in frequency. This Monday, February 27, there were 31 bomb threats made. Thirty-one. Let that sink in.

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I am a first-generation, Jewish-American citizen. Both of my parents are immigrants to this country. My maternal grandparents survived the Holocaust. I grew up attending a K-8 Jewish day school in Connecticut. I know what it's like to be Jewish in America. Usually, it's okay. Sure, I've been on the receiving end of such comments like "You're actually okay ... for a Jew," and, "That there is the Jewish piano" (said by a boss at my first job as a teenager; he was pointing to the cash register). But I can't ever recall having to practice evacuation drills.

My son and his classmates, however? This year they began practicing safely evacuating the school in case of bomb threats.

Sure, drills in schools are nothing new. My son and his classmates have practiced fire drills numerous times, and in a post–Sandy Hook world, they've also practiced lockdown drills. But how do you explain to elementary-age students that they now need to learn how to safely escape their school because of a rash of bomb threats? That people hate them because of their religion?

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How do you explain to your Jewish son that the president of the United States has hardly made a peep about these threats, and the one milquetoast statement he gave happened too late, felt forced, and decidedly did not call out the real problem here: The new administration has essentially rolled out the red carpet to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. That these bigots feel emboldened and empowered by a president who was officially endorsed by the KKK and known anti-Semites like David Duke. These evil, awful people have been given the green light by Steve Bannon's being placed in a top position in the White House.

And no, a photo op where Vice President Pence holds a rake for five minutes isn't going to cut it.

Many Jewish organizations have been pushing for a real response from the White House, one that not only denounces these coordinated attacks, but also makes clear that hate crimes like these will not be tolerated, that Jewish Americans will be protected, and that white nationalism has no place in America, let alone the White House.

In addition, the Anti-Defamation League sent out a press release in the aftermath of the last round of bomb threats detailing the action steps Jewish organizations have to take in order to stay safe in Trump's America. The JCC Association of North America also issued a statement:

Anti-Semitism of this nature should not and must not be allowed to endure in our communities. The Justice Department, Homeland Security, the FBI, and the White House, alongside Congress and local officials, must speak out -- and speak out forcefully -- against this scourge of anti-Semitism impacting communities across the country.

These threats have real-world impacts. Many parents are pulling their children from JCC daycares and preschools because of the almost weekly threats some are receiving. While I'm not going to compromise my principles and beliefs and take my son out of his school, I completely understand the fear those parents are going through. I have it each time a new wave of bomb threats happens.

Sending my son to school each day should not be an act of bravery.

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Waves of coordinated bomb threats is not okay. This is not normal. I feel the need to repeat these sentiments because for many people, they continue on as business as usual. This is NOT USUAL. People who actively hate me and my community are infringing upon my child's right to education and our right to live peacefully and without the looming threat of violence upon us.

So what can you do? Get angry. This isn't a problem for Jewish folks to solve on their own. We've been posting and shouting about this since it started.

I tweeted about the newest round of threats yesterday and a lot of folks "liked" and/or retweeted my thoughts. But that's not enough. What will you actually do? How are you supporting your Jewish friends and neighbors? Does your Jewish community know they can count on you? Consider joining a local JCC. So many of them are being financially hit because of this. Because people are afraid. Put your body where your words are. JCCs have awesome exercise and pool facilities open to people of any religion. They have summer camps and after-school programs. They have classes and workshops for folks of all ages. Some have cafeterias and shops you can frequent.

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Chanukah ended in December, but I left up one of our decorations -- one of those blue, gel-like stickies that cling to windows. It's the shape of a Star of David and it sits prominently on our front door. Anyone who drives by knows a Jewish family lives in this house. I am proud of that. I am also scared. But, despite the lack of a meaningful response from Trump and his administration, I will not let that fear rule me or my family.

I implore you to join me: Raise your voice against these hate crimes, demand your representatives speak out about them, support or check in on a Jewish family in your neighborhood. But do something, because while not all of us are Jewish, this is a problem for us all.

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safety, bomb threat, donald trump