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Community reacts to event addressing antisemitism, racism, bias in Westport Public Schools

Superintendent of Westport Public Schools Thomas Scarice was one of the administrators that spoke at the event.
Lily Hultgren ’25
Superintendent of Westport Public Schools Thomas Scarice was one of the administrators that spoke at the event.

Members of the Westport community gathered in Temple Israel on March 13 for the event “Addressing Incidents of Antisemitism and Bias in our Schools.” The event, hosted and facilitated by Temple Israel, was in response to recent concerns and allegations over antisemitism, racism and bias in Westport Public Schools (WPS). 

At the event, WPS administrators gave a presentation on how the school currently addresses bias and hate, which include curriculum, teacher training and more. The presentation also explained the school’s procedure when incidents of bias or hate are reported, and addressed the questions that participants sent in when registering for the event. Additionally, during the Q&A section at the end of the event, some of the audience’s additional questions were answered.

“My goal certainly is to help the community and the district to rebuild trust in one another […],” Rabbi Michael Friedman, the Senior Rabbi of Temple Israel, who spoke during the introduction of the event, said. “This is not not just about Jewish students. This is about the district being able to serve all students of all identities.”

The community forum event was created as a space to facilitate communication between the community and WPS. 

“I’m a psychologist and I work with kids who go to Staples High School and I just wanted to hear what’s going on from the administrative side. I guess that’s the biggest reason why [I choose to attend this event],” Westport resident Jill Greenberg said. “And I care a lot about how people treat each other and right now everything’s a mess.”

And I know some people told me they had questions that weren’t answered, so overall I am very positive […] but I do think we should have these all the time and not just about antisemitism but about racism and like I said, making sure everyone feels included.

— David Rosenwaks

Greenberg wished that more of the presentation was spent on how the district handles bias and hate incidents. 

“And though everybody is happy to hear about the education of their kids, that felt a little bit like a PR announcement for how great the school is,” she said. “And although Mr. Scarice [Superintendent of WPS] segwayed into ‘okay it doesn’t always work out so well,’ I think people came here to hear more about, it doesn’t work out so well and here’s what we do about it. So I felt like the balance was off.”

Todd Freemon grew up in a family of activists and was always encouraged to stand up and work with others to find solutions in the face of issues. He chose to attend the event as a continuation of his parent’s efforts to advocate for others and to serve as a model for his own children.

“I thought [the event] went really well,” Freemon said. “I thought they took their time to be really thorough about how they did this and what they did and what they presented.”

Many aspects of David Rosenwaks life led him to attend the Wednesday night event. In addition to being a member of Temple Israel, he has young children that are currently enrolled in Westport Public Schools and is also a Representative Town Meeting (RTM) member representing District 6. 

“I think it’s really important to talk about real life experiences. Without going into detail, I’ve been a victim of antisemitism and it profoundly affected me and how I am as a person,” Rosenwaks said. “And I think all the stuff they’re talking about is extremely important in terms of how we approach it and we have to have set standards in place and policies, but it’s super important to engage in dialogue with people because we are all human.”

Rosenwaks hopes that events such as this can occur more often so the Westport community can continue to communicate in order to take on issues like antisemitism and racism.

“I do think they covered a lot of material but you can’t cover it all in one night […],” Rosenwaks said. “And I know some people told me they had questions that weren’t answered, so overall I am very positive […] but I do think we should have these all the time and not just about antisemitism but about racism and like I said, making sure everyone feels included.”

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Lily Hultgren ’25, Paper Features Editor
For Paper Features Editor Lily Hultgren ’25, joining Inklings was an opportunity to improve her interpersonal skills and do something she loves in the meantime.  ““I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and interview people I don’t know, which is something I get nervous about,” Hultgren said.  As a junior, a veteran now, in Inklings, she thinks that the organization has helped her push beyond these fears. She has definitely seen her own improvement.  “Having to constantly talk to new people for articles and for broadcasts has really helped me learn more about myself and other people.”

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