A week after McGilvra Elementary School was vandalized with anti-Semitic hate messages, the school and surrounding community came together to discuss healing and learning.

The anti-Semitic and anti-black graffiti disturbed many in attendance, especially given the timing in proximity to the Tree of Life Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.

The graffiti was cleaned up prior to children arriving at school on Monday, Oct. 29, and specifics regarding the messages have not been released to the public.

McGilvra Elementary held a community meeting in the school’s cafeteria on Wednesday, Nov. 7. Many teachers and parents showed up to share their reactions to the vandalism while community members and local school representatives came to provide support to the McGilvra community.

The anti-Semitic and anti-black graffiti disturbed many in attendance, especially given the timing in proximity to the Tree of Life Synagogue attack in Pittsburgh.

“The goal of this gathering is to reiterate that there is no place for hate for our students,” said McGilvra principal Dr. Maria Breuder in her opening remarks.

While many were concerned with the safety of the students and security of the building, Breuder emphasized that the meeting was focused on bringing the community together to process and heal from the act. More community events will be held in the future to bring together the parents and children in one gathering, she said.

Rabbi Yona Margolese, Head of School for Torah Day School of Seattle, provided some words of sympathy to the Jewish and McGilvra community to open the meeting.

“We need to caution to not point fingers, and fight with love,” Margolese said.

Margolese commended the work Breuder and staff have done in opening the dialogue with students and their families and provided some opportunities to positively influence children with his “30 Days of Kindness.”

The teachers spent much time with their students in Community Circles over the course of the week. Breuder described these circles as “a space for authentic interactions to hear voices.”Given the success of the circles to bring out honest conversation, the majority of the meeting was structured around a Community Circle to provide a safe space for the community to voice their opinions.

Many parents shared their shock, sadness and confusion about the hateful messages. The two PTA presidents emphasized the fear they experienced after learning about the graffiti. Both pointed to the PTA and the school as a tool to start fostering a welcoming community.

Dr. Concie Pedroza, director of Leadership Development for Equity and Impact at Seattle Public Schools, noted that kids have asked for their community to come together and embrace the values and ethics of their schools and to show support for the students. Pedroza led the Community Circle with some open-ended questions for the group to discuss.