About 50 people gathered at the Randolph Hills Shopping Center in Rockville on Wednesday morning to show support for the nearby Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School, which had received an automated bomb threat by telephone Monday morning.
Students did not evacuate as police checked the interior and exterior of the building Monday. No bomb was found. More than 20 Jewish schools and community centers received similar threats that same day.
“I felt like we needed a place to stand together to show that this is not who we are,” said Aviva Goldfarb, of Chevy Chase, who coordinated the Bagels Not Bombs rally at the shopping center across from the Rockville school.
She stressed that the rally was not school-sponsored. It was originally set to take place on school property but moved to the shopping center because the school did not want involvement and because of the possibility of a large crowd.
A message of appreciation appeared on the school’s Facebook page. “While we appreciate the support and efforts of Maryland State Delegate Jeff Waldstreicher and his team, the ‘Bagels Not Bombs’ event planned for tomorrow at the Upper School is not an authorized CESJDS event and will not be taking place on our campus.”
Waldstreicher, who attended the 7:30 a.m. rally, said he preferred not to comment as he didn’t want the rally to be politicized.
County Council member Roger Berliner also attended. “Silence is no longer an option,” he said. “People are standing up and saying this is not who we are.”
State Sen. Richard Madaleno Jr. explained that he came “to show my support with the Jewish community and stand up to the hate and threats that have been on display, sadly, in our community.”
He was surprised that the school had received a bomb threat. “I thought we had moved so far beyond these sorts of attitudes.”
Rabbi Greg Harris, of Congregation Beth El of Montgomery County in Bethesda, said the incident had surprised him, but he was “proud” that the community was coming together in support.
Most of the attendees mingled in the parking lot, and there were no formal speeches.
Mara Greengrass, who, like many at the rally, had no direct connection to the school, said she wanted to show support. “I am both Jewish and a member of my community. We need to stand up for both Jews and our neighbors,” said the Rockville resident.
Her neighbor Donna Saady agreed, adding, “We have to be the good people who take a stand.”
Heather Sisan, whose children attend public school, said she wanted the Jewish Day School students and faculty to know that they are not alone.
Few students from the school came to the rally. Eighth-grader Abigail stopped by, and as she ate her bagel with cream cheese, she said she had been “freaked out” when she learned about the bomb threat. However, “I knew our school was a safe place,” she said. “It’s sad, though.”
“Schools should be peaceful places for everybody to learn and to play,” said Susan Kahn.