The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

The student news site of Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School

The Lion's Tale

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How school has responded to the Israel-Hamas war

Rachel Soifer
High school students write supportive letters to IDF soldiers on the front lines of the current conflict.

After the Hamas attack on Oct. 7, CESJDS head administrators sent out a solidarity message to the greater community.

The email addressed the tragedy in Israel, the impact it has on Israeli families, how the war would be addressed in school and how JDS would ensure safety on campus. 

“I’m really proud of our school … The way that we [the community] have come together in support for Israel, it’s been heartwarming in a terribly brokenhearted time,” Lower School Principal Rabbi Matthew Bellas said. “ We responded with unequivocal support for Israel, unequivocal support for our Israeli families and unequivocal support for Israeli staff. That’s something that we should be proud of.”

Like the administration, the Parent Association acted quickly to show their support. Though last Friday, Oct. 13 they were unable to carry out their plan to deliver Shabbat meals to embassy families due to security concerns, starting Oct. 20, members of the PA will begin delivering them. 

The Parent Association is not just focused on supporting Israeli families, but teachers too. Earlier this week, parent volunteers arranged coffee and pastries at both campuses for the teachers to eat in the morning. They have also been encouraging students to check in on their teachers or show their support in other ways like wearing blue and white to show solidarity with their Israeli peers and teachers. 

“I think that this is all really sudden and intense for everyone,” Co-president of the Parent Association Erika Terl said.  “Our hope is that we can continue to try to meet the needs of the community as things change and to help foster a sense of community through both more event-driven things. For example, this morning [Oct. 17] with appreciation signs and breakfast, but also just being a connector to help inspire people to reach out to each other and to reach out to their teachers, to make that human connection to let people know that you care about them.” 

For the Lower School, it was challenging to figure out how to talk about such a heavy topic to young students, especially considering the range of ages. The biggest challenge was the morning announcements on Monday, Oct. 9 as they had to be appropriate for the whole school. In the announcements, Bellas gave general information about the war, led a prayer for Israeli Defense Force (IDF) soldiers and a prayer for peace, Oseh Shalom. 

In addition, the Lower School held morning meetings for fourth and fifth grade and the whole school wrote and drew letters to IDF soldiers. Bellas also wanted to organize ways in which students’ needs could be addressed. For example, students have available social-emotional counseling support throughout the day. Bellas said that the community needs to support Israeli students and families, whether it be through tangible things, such as a meal or emotional support.

“The most important thing we can do, both spiritually and physically, is just throw our arms around the Israeli community and give them the biggest hug we possibly can,” Bellas said. “They’re going through … loss and anger and grief. It is really hard for us, as diaspora Jews, to understand, but we have to stand side by side with them and just be the best support that we can possibly be.” 

Sophomore Shira Liberty moved to America from Israel this year. Liberty’s father works for the IDF and returned to Israel to help in the war. For Liberty, one of the biggest challenges is that she can’t be with her friends and family to support them.  

“I feel stuck in here,” Liberty said. “I feel like I can’t help and I can’t do anything about it. They just suffered and I live my life as normal. I try to keep in touch and ask how [they are] doing every day, but I feel like it’s not enough.”

Liberty believes that the biggest way she and students and teachers at JDS can help is by educating others outside of school, whether through social media or in-person conversations. 

The administration, Parent Association and Liberty have found and suggested their own ways to support Israel and Israeli community members, and they hope that students will be the next to take the initiative. 

“I think that our hope would be that people feel the community supporting them and that people feel that they’re in a space with others who genuinely care about them,” Co-president of the PA Joy Demain said. “And to support Israel and show them our love for Israel by being caring community members.” 

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