A recent scoop from my colleague Ron Kampeas at our partner site, JTA, sheds light on the possible reasons why presidential advisers (and offspring) Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump quickly transferred their kids from one Washington Jewish day school to another — just two weeks before the elections.
But the report also brings to light the very real concerns that pretty much all parents who are sending their kids to in-person classrooms during this pandemic have: the amount of trust that needs to exist among fellow parents at any given school, and what the protocol should be for families that violate that trust.
According to Kampeas, who spoke to three parents at the Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School of the Nation’s Capital, some school community members were concerned when they saw Trump and Kushner attend crowded public events — like the first presidential debate, which took place mere days before Trump’s Covid diagnosis — without wearing masks and seemingly flouting social distancing recommendations.
The school’s coronavirus protocols require that families whose children attend the school “avoid gatherings off campus where social distancing is not practiced or masks are not used,” according to the JTA report.
“At the same time of rising cases in the states and children going back to school, we were seeing the Kushners violating quarantine requirements,” a Milton mom told Kampeas.
According to these parents, the school tried to work out a compromise with Kushner and Trump, acknowledging the obligations of their roles both in the White House and Trump’s reelection campaign. However, they were unable to reach an agreement.
A source close to the Kushners disputes this account, saying the Kushners transferred their three kids — Arabella, Joseph, and Theodore — to the Melvin J. Berman Hebrew Academy in suburban Maryland because it offered more on-site learning. In an update to Kampeas’ piece, a White House spokeswoman also said the decision to withdraw the children was and should remain private.
Still, reading this story as a mom whose kid goes to in-person daycare, I can definitely imagine how distraught some of the parents must have felt when they witnessed the Kushners’ public appearances — and learned about the rising cases among White House staff and regulars.
Fortunately, in Brooklyn, where I live and where the pandemic hit hard on the first wave, I feel like I can trust my fellow Jewish daycare parents. We have all agreed to wear masks, to social distance, and to notify our school at the slightest risk of exposure or infection.
But if I happened to see a fellow school parent at a public event without a mask, I know exactly what I’d do: I’d freak the eff out (pardon my French). I certainly would be infuriated to find out, on national TV, that a schoolmate’s grandfather had contracted Covid, and could not get any transparency about whether or not the child had been in contact with that grandparent. Learning about all of that must have felt incredibly alarming for the parents at the Kushners’ school.
The thing about sending our kids to school during the pandemic is that it requires a hefty amount of trust — trusting our schools to properly follow each and every protocol; trusting the teachers and administrators to stay safe, even when outside of school; and, more than anything, trusting other parents to take your kids’ and your family’s health to heart with everything they do.
As this second wave of Covid hits the country in full force, I find myself dwelling on a particular line from the Talmud: “Kol yisrael arevim zeh bazeh,” which means, “all of Israel are responsible for each other.” According to our partner site, My Jewish Learning, “This phrase is the basis of the notion of communal responsibility in Jewish law. If one Jew sees another Jew on the verge of sinning, he has an obligation to step in and help.”
Yes, everyone — even if your last name is Trump or Kushner — is entitled to keep the decision-making process about their children’s education private. But in this day and in our particular pandemic age, when a highly contagious virus can turn any gathering into a potential “superspreader” event, the idea of caring for and looking out for one another should be at the forefront of everyone‘s minds, no matter what your last name may be.
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