OPINION: The collective trauma at the school gates

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

OPINION: The collective trauma at the school gates

Adam Callier on the apprehension and anxiety gripping mums and dads as they drop their children off at Jewish schools.

File image of parents crossing the road to take their children to school
File image of parents crossing the road to take their children to school

The term “collective trauma” never really meant much to me until this morning.

On a normal day, I wouldn’t go with on the school run due to the fact I’m normally working from 7am, so that is very much the job of my wife.

However, last night, I could see she was not at all comfortable taking our daughter, aged just four, to school by herself.

Over the weekend, WhatsApp groups were filled with scared parents talking about pulling their children out of school – which is a large Jewish school – altogether due to legitimate security fears.

This could just be me, but having worked in the Jewish community for the vast majority of my life, until two years ago, I was a bit less concerned about it because I’ve seen and dealt with these issues for years, and having covered Russia since Putin launched his invasion last year, I might also be slightly desensitized to some of what is going on.

However, this morning, having taken time off work specifically to make sure my daughter got to school OK and to see for myself that everything was safe outside the building, the term “collective trauma” suddenly became a whole lot more real for me, and snapped me out of the desensitizedness I was feeling.

There was an eerie quiet outside the gates with visibly less parents and children around, which was broken by the mum of my wife’s friend approaching us almost on the verge of tears because they have relatives in Israel – I tried (pretty much in vein) to keep our daughter away from the conversation, as I’m adamant she does not need to be dealing with what we’re all going through at her age.

Having finally got through the heavily-guarded gates – which had three security guards, and later a police presence – several parents walked past us with their children, or having already dropped their children off at this morning’s breakfast club, and we all gave each other a very nervous and very much of a “yeah, this is uncomfortable” head nod or “morning” without any real conversation.

But no matter how much added security the schools have, we will never feel safe.

It was, in reality, a quick dash inside because we all wanted to get this over with and back to relative safety as quickly as possible.

The phrase “you alright?”, which most Brits greet each other with, was not uttered this morning . . . we all know we aren’t “alright”.

Inside the school, the staff and teachers we came across were noticeably overly nice to our daughter in a bid to keep some sense of happiness for their sake, while looking very concerned and on edge when turning to us as parents.

Kudos to the school – which I’m not naming, for obvious security reasons – for keeping parents up-to-date over the weekend and yesterday morning, with the latest security measures.

But no matter how much added security the schools have, we will never feel safe.

The collective trauma we as a community, and as parents at the school gates, are now feeling will take a long time to get over . . . and I highly doubt many of us ever will.

I just hope for everyone’s sake, that we can shield our children from it in some way, because they do not need to be part of our collective trauma, no matter what age they are.


Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: