The Florida Legislature passed a bill requiring that all public-school students be given a brief period to pause and reflect as they begin each school day. The State Senate’s approval of the Moment of Silence in Public Schools bill follows its passage in Florida’s House of Representatives on March 18. It will go into effect on July 1, 2021, after it is signed into law by Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis, a key supporter of the legislation.

During hearings in both Houses, proponents asserted that a Moment of Silence—currently mandated in 15 states and on the books in dozens more—can be effective in giving children an opportunity for introspection and contemplation in a chaotic world.

The Moment of Silence bill was sponsored in the House by Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay), and in the Senate by state Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala), and passed both Houses with overwhelming bipartisan support. The wheels were first set in motion after Baxley met in 2019 with Rabbi Shneur Zalman Oirechman—co-director with his wife, Chanie, of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Panhandle—at the Capitol building in Tallahassee. After meeting the rabbi, Baxley discussed the proposal with Rabbi Yossi Hecht, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Ocala, which Baxley represents, and resolved to sponsor a bill enshrining a Moment of Silence into law.

“In our busy lives,” Baxley previously said in a statement to, “we all know the tyranny of the urgent and anxious pace in which we live. It’s important for students to observe a moment of silence as they reflect and begin their day. In fact, this would be a good practice for all of us.”

Fine sees the bill as a non-denominational effort regardless of faith or background: “Every child will benefit from this time to be centered before the beginning of the day.”

Oirechman’s work on the bill was directly inspired by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory, who was a longtime champion of moral education in schools, both public and private, noting that while schools must obviously teach basic general education, they have an imperative to imbue moral values in their students as well.

Beginning in 1983, the Rebbe spoke increasingly about the concept of a Moment of Silence in America’s schools in the face of rising crime rates and societal dysfunction across the nation.

“The Rebbe passionately encouraged a Moment of Silence in all public schools,” says Oirechman. “He spoke of how it will put society on a better path, by giving children the awareness of something greater than themselves.”

Rabbi Shneur Zalman Oirechman, center, with sponsors of the Florida Moment of Silence legislation, which received bipartisan support.
Rabbi Shneur Zalman Oirechman, center, with sponsors of the Florida Moment of Silence legislation, which received bipartisan support.

Better Behavior, Academic Achievement and Social Skills

Highlighting the universal nature of the proposal, the Rebbe insisted that parents be the ones who instruct their children regarding what to reflect on during a Moment of Silence—and not the school or the teachers—providing parents with a framework for meaningful dialogue with their children. While parents often pack a sandwich for their child’s lunch, he explained, they must also send them off with “spiritual food.”

“Knowing that school time is devoted to education,” the Rebbe explained in a 1986 address, “the child realizes that the moment of silence must be dedicated to the most important things in his life: his outlook on life, and his belief in the Creator and Ruler of the world—as per the instructions which his parents will give him.”

Indeed, research cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that increased parent engagement in schools is linked with better student behavior, higher academic achievement and enhanced social skills.

The Florida Moment of Silence bill reads, in part: “ ... in today’s hectic society too few persons are able to experience even a moment of quiet reflection before plunging headlong into the activities of daily life. Young persons are particularly affected by the absence of an opportunity for a moment of quiet reflection. The Legislature finds that our youth, and society as a whole, would be well served if students in the public schools were afforded a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.”

A moment alone with one’s thoughts and disconnected is perhaps more important than ever; a 2013 study commissioned by Nokia showed that on average, people check their phones every six minutes—or 150 times a day.

Sen. Victor Torres (D-Kissimmee), a supporter of the bill, recalled observing a Moment of Silence as a child in New York. “I feel that it gives the teacher and the students a chance to reflect, and whichever religion you believe in, that’s your right,” he said. “That was something that we did when I was a kid in New York, so I age myself, but that’s OK.”

In addition to its foundational value, Moment of Silence supporters cite a pressing contemporary concern. According to national statistics from the CDC, mental-health diagnoses among school-age children are on the rise, with behavior problems, anxiety and depression being among the most commonly diagnosed in children. Particularly concerning is a sharp increase in youth suicides, especially among girls, in the last decade. Research shows that silent reflection may help lower stress levels and contribute to healthy behaviors.

A Sense of Urgency

Chabad-Lubavitch of Florida’s efforts to bring a Moment of Silence to schools gained added urgency in February 2018, after the Parkland mass school shooting, when Parkland-area Chabad rabbis held talks with then-Gov. Rick Scott about practical security plans for Florida Jewish centers, while at the same time underlining the need for a Moment of Silence to better society as a whole.

After the April 2019 shooting attack at Chabad of Poway, Calif., in which congregant Lori Kaye lost her life, Oirechman felt something had to be done. “Poway was an attack of darkness,” the rabbi tells “I felt a need to respond to this attack. To fight darkness, you must increase light.”

Noting the fact that the lone gunman was 19 at the time (as was the gunman in the mass school shooting in Parkland) Oirechman feels “this is the best way to respond to the recent attacks on the synagogues and houses of worship, shootings in schools; we need to bring more light into schools.”

Oirechman anticipates that doing so now will help guide children to “think about others rather than thinking only about themselves, and all in all have a better day. Being better to their friends and better to the world around them.”