(JTA) – A newly hired dean of students for a Michigan middle school resigned after only nine school days on the job after receiving an anonymous antisemitic death threat.
The threat sent the district into lockdown and contributed to the decision to cancel classes during the first week of the year.
Michael Woodberg was hired by Richmond Community Schools, a rural district north of Detroit, in December. But in early January the district received a series of disturbing and violent threats directed at staff. The first one, on Jan. 3, took the form of a physical note discovered in one of the district’s buildings, targeting Woodberg specifically with antisemitic language and including details about his family and personal information.
District superintendent Brian Walmsley closed schools for the first week of the winter semester in response, alerting parents to the nature of the antisemitic threat, as well as to another threat made by email against a different administrator on Jan. 8. When the district reopened without Woodberg, local police were a heavy presence.
“The Dean of Students position was, as Mr. Woodberg stated, ‘a dream job,’” Walmsley wrote in an email to parents on Jan. 8. “He was excited for his first administrative experience and [to] work with outstanding administrators, teachers, and support staff – all dedicated to the success of students.
“As you can imagine, the threat affected Mr. Woodberg and his family and permanently changed the way they operate and view the environment around them,” the letter continued. “While Mr. Woodberg is going to be missed, I support the decision he made for his family and himself and wish him nothing but health, happiness, and success in his future endeavors.”
In an earlier letter to parents, Walmsley had said that he had already intended to close school for the first week of classes anyway, due to district staffing shortages, but that the threat gave additional cause to do so.
Walmsley did not respond to a Jewish Telegraphic Agency request for comment. Woodberg, who previously worked at West Bloomfield School District in a heavily Jewish Detroit suburb, declined to comment to the Detroit Jewish News.
The incident was condemned by Detroit Jewish federation CEO Steven Ingber, who told the Jewish News, “The recent incident at Richmond Community Schools is deeply disturbing and yet another reminder of the prevalence of antisemitism in our society today.” The federation has been in touch with the district, Ingber said.
The mayor of Richmond also condemned the threats this week during a city council meeting, while praising ongoing police efforts to identify the culprit. “These threats are not reflective of the Richmond community,” Mayor Tim Rix said, according to local reports. “We have a great community made up of residents, families, businesses, schools and organizations which all work together to make Richmond a place we all call our hometown. The actions of one or a few will not drag our community down.”
Two days after Walmsley alerted parents to the antisemitic threat, he told them a third threat had been made in the district, this one a shooting threat made on behalf of a middle school student. The district closed school for an additional day in response to the threat. Richmond is 30 miles east of Oxford High School, where a student shooter armed with his parents’ gun murdered four classmates and injured seven others in 2021.
Elsewhere in the Detroit area last month, local law enforcement were criticized for failing to immediately arrest a man who had videotaped himself making antisemitic threats outside a synagogue preschool.
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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.
Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary
By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”
Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)
Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station
This is a developing story.
(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.
An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.
Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.
Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.
The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.
The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.
Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.
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