Sometimes there is a point or an incident or a time in life when fighting injustice suddenly feels more important than ever. AVѧԺ Year 10 students last week encountered some vile language and a physical altercation from other students at a careers’ expo in the city. Probably the most upsetting part of this for me is that this is happening in 2024 to children in Perth. Adults can expect to hold discussions with other, rational adults who hold a different point of view, but incidents such as this one are neither rational nor a discussion.

Of course, our reaction is always the appropriate one – we investigate, we take statements, we liaise with the venue so they pass on security camera footage, we refer information to CSG and the WA Police, both of whom do a fantastic job. Any excursion assumes a level of risk, but safety in the planning of all trips is at the forefront of our minds and we always act on CSG advice regarding key risks and how to mitigate them; we also debrief after an incident and ensure our follow up is detailed.

At school, we talk to individual students, we talk to cohorts. We listen and we debrief. We offer advice and we urge our young people to remain restrained, to keep each other safe, to walk away. We remind them that none of this is their fault. We tell them to note details and descriptions and to report everything that happens, immediately to an adult, so we can ensure an appropriate follow up.

What we can’t do is remove the memory of things that happen and words that are said. For those of us who are not Jewish, it is difficult to witness these things happening and hard to imagine how it must feel for our kids, but I can assure you that many of us are educating behind the scenes within our circles of influence. CSG are also planning a Sunday workshop on personal safety for the near future; we will encourage our students to attend.

You can help by reiterating the messages we are presenting to the students at school. Australia is a democracy. You have the right to be Jewish and to live your lives peacefully in Perth. Nobody has the right to vilify or threaten you and if they do, it is your duty to report it so it can be dealt with. Be mindful of your own language and make sure that what you say doesn’t vilify others. Keep yourself and your friends safe, don’t get involved in anything physical, walk away and report all incidences.

Shabbat shalom.

Julie Harris