NJEA’s officers, President Marie Blistan, Vice President Sean M. Spiller, and Secretary-Treasurer Steve Beatty issued the following statement of condolence and call to action in the wake of the horrific attack on a Pittsburgh synagogue this weekend, as well as other violent and terroristic acts in recent days. Last week, another gunman had attempted to enter a predominantly African-American church in Kentucky before murdering two people in a grocery store, and another man has been charged in connection with a series of bombs mailed to prominent Americans.

“We mourn today with the families and loved ones of those murdered and injured at the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh, along with all victims of the intensifying violence and terrorism in our nation. There are no words to express the sadness, shock and anger we feel at the latest senseless loss of life motivated by hatred and intolerance. It is clear evidence that the fear and hatred being stoked by some of our elected officials have profound real-world consequences.

“We condemn the violence and we condemn the hateful political rhetoric that has poisoned our nation’s political discourse. By exploiting, rather than bridging, religious, cultural and racial divides, those voices have become toxic and are undermining the very nature of our great multicultural democracy. Words matter, and words can have deadly consequences.

“As educators we pledge, along with the 200,000 members of the New Jersey Education Association, to both teach and model civility and respect for the diversity that defines our nation. We call on all who are privileged to hold positions of power and influence to not just condemn the violence and hatred we see but to confront it and work to root it out.

“The only meaningful way to honor the memory of those lost in Pittsburgh, as well as all who have been victims of hate and intolerance, is to redouble our efforts to build a nation where diversity and differences are honored and celebrated, not feared and attacked. That is what we will do in order to set a better example and build a better nation for the students we educate.”

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