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Head of School Response to Tragedy in Pittsburgh

October 28, 2018

Dear AFS Community,

As are so many, I am shocked, heartbroken and in grief at the news of the devastating violence at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh yesterday. That such a horrific scene would be visited upon family members and friends gathered in peace, engendering a deep connection to spirit and community is all the more difficult to take in. My heart goes out to our beloved Jewish friends for whom the specter of hate and violence has again made its reality known. May we embrace each other in solidarity and resolve against all forms and forces of anti-Semitism and the poison it spreads in the world.

My heart goes out to our entire country. Violence in word and deed has taken root in new and emboldened forms in our nation. Our history shows that we have the profound capacity for both inspiring aspiration and for deep betrayal of our highest principles. The human cost of those betrayals, which have been almost always rooted in dehumanization of others, is incalculable. When will we ever learn, for good, the lesson that dehumanization brings ruin to our country? We flourish as a country only when we courageously reach toward human rights, dignity and commitment to the common good of all.

The state of our nation, in its unmooring from truth held in common and from an abiding commitment to each other, deepens my resolve for the work of communities like ours. William Penn envisioned a new world, one that was tolerant, peaceful and prosperous and grounded in the spiritual goodness at the heart of each of us. He put out the call for schools to be founded at Quaker meetings like ours, knowing that education was the essential path for this new kind of citizenry.

Our mission could not be more important three hundred years later. An AFS education is for building peace and humanity in the world. That peace and humanity come from a capacity for recognizing the value of human life, for seeking justice and equity for all and for effectively meeting the unique challenges that rise to meet each generation. It’s an education that prizes a skilled and rigorous search for truth, a heart for compassion and a grounding in goodness. This is so important in building lives of fulfillment for our children and for the much-needed work we have ahead of us to create a better world.

We are joined in grief over the tremendous loss that occurred at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh. May we also be joined in the resolve to work toward the understanding, justice, equity and human rights for all that are the only foundations for lasting peace.


Rich Nourie
  • Rich Nourie
  • Head of School
  • Abington Friends School
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