New Rochelle Mayor Noam Bramson addressed attendees at the Young Israel of New Rochelle’s main minyan on January 27, Shabbat Shirah, in response to the January 10 fatal stabbing of New Rochelle High School student Valaree Schwab. Acknowledging that most of YINR’s children attend “religious schools” and not the local public schools, Bramson reiterated how these events were not just a local school issue. On an upbeat note and in the spirit of unity, he implored these active religious groups within his city to work together in all of their community-oriented efforts to maintain a safe living environment.
Within a week after the murder, two more students were stabbed in the same vicinity by other students.
In the weeks after these incidents, Bramson addressed many of his city’s houses of worship regarding the local tragedies. His audiences have included two synagogues and eight churches so far, and he has plans to address two more synagogues on February 10.
The mayor announced that the city and the schools will convene government officials and citizen groups to pursue an “independently led, top-to-bottom review of policies, practices and procedures related to student safety,” to improve students’ security. The review panel will also be charged with identifying how current policies and procedures were not properly enforced.
Speaking from the YINR pulpit, he pledged: “To every student and every parent: I know that many of you are grieving, I know that some of you are scared, and I know that all of you—all of us—want answers and reassurance. But we will not allow any single incident, even one of such terrible gravity, to break our confidence and faith in each other. Every day, thousands of young people arrive at New Rochelle High School to learn and grow. They greet each other with love, and respect and friendship—and with pride in the strong school community they have built together, alongside their teachers. That is just as true today as it was yesterday. And it will remain true tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.”
Bramson concluded, “Let me put this in the most personal terms I can: our older son will attend New Rochelle High School beginning this fall, and his younger brother will follow one year later. My wife and I will send them to school with eagerness and joy, absolutely certain that they, like all children in New Rochelle, will be valued, nurtured and protected. Let us together mourn and seek justice for this awful loss, commit ourselves to an even safer city and society, and affirm our determination to do right by all of New Rochelle’s young people and by the community we share.”
Reacting to the mayor’s remarks, YINR employee Mira Tuci, a concerned mother of four current, future and previous NRHS students, stated that it “is scary watching them leave the house, considering the tragic events that have occurred lately. My youngest son is currently a senior at New Rochelle High School and the fact that I have to worry about his safety while he is trying to receive an education is very concerning. This isn’t just an issue at New Rochelle High School, but across schools around the country.”
In addition to the many religious and social organizations in New Rochelle, the city government has partnered with Volunteer New York and the Council of Community Services.
By Judy Berger