For many students and educators, the scale and violence of the Hamas attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 and the events that have unfolded since, have evoked many different thoughts and emotions. Our hearts are broken by the unprecedented massacre that killed more Jews than on any other single day since the Holocaust. The images are harrowing, and many community members have family or know someone in Israel, and they are fearful their children are not safe at school. It is important to be aware, especially as the enormity of the situation unfolds, that these events will likely spur difficult but important conversations with your students.
It is vital that education leaders across Columbus remain vigilant and responsive to any antisemitic messages or actions that may occur in the coming weeks and months. Education leaders at all levels should provide a safe space for students and employees to process these events–one that rejects hate, bigotry, and prejudice. It is not always easy or comfortable to have these conversations in our schools, but it is important to help students become more informed about controversial issues, build skills in media and news literacy, and consider alternative perspectives.
An example of messaging for district and county families:
“This week, our hearts are broken by the unprecedented massacre of Israeli citizens by Hamas. As this conflict unfolds we know there will be more casualties, including of innocent civilians in Gaza and Israel. We are here to support the members of our community who have family and friends in the region. Please know our thoughts are with you during this tragic time.”
As the largest supporter of Jewish programs in Columbus, we are aware that many of your educators and other staff may be personally impacted as well, and may need additional support both personally and professionally. We have gathered some suggestions and resources to support educators in these efforts and remain a resource for any additional support that is needed during this difficult time:
- Anti Defamation League’s guide on having family conversations about difficult topics and tips for supporting Jewish students in the classroom
- A guide to talking to their children about what is happening in Israel (broken down by ages)
- Support for classroom discussion on the Israel-Hamas Warfrom the Institute for Curriculum Services (includes lesson plans, primary source documents, maps, document analysis tools, student engagement activities, and videos)
- Guide to “Helping Children Cope After a Traumatic Event”
- “How to Talk to Children about Israel Today” video
- Here I Am: A video storytelling resource about antisemitism and Jewish identity
Every student deserves safety, security, and respect regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. As such it is crucial for all of us to work together, each day, toward a community that is peaceful and promotes mutual understanding, respect, and belonging. When having these conversations, and as events continue to progress, please consider the following:
Create safe spaces where students can share their feelings and fears, and feel listened to. There are no words that will make the pain go away nor should that be our goal. However, to help process trauma, we want students to be able to express how they feel in a supported way and know they are not alone.
Discourage students from sharing or consuming violent images and videos. Be aware that students are exposed to these images, but they are actively harmful and can cause psychological distress.
Share grounding and centering techniques with employees, particularly Jewish and Palestinian ones, as they take in very difficult information which they may find overwhelming.
If possible, give students passes to leave class without questions in order to speak to a counselor or seek other assistance as they are confronted with conversations that are emotional and difficult. Please consider offering this up for Jewish students who are struggling if it is not currently a school norm.
Remain vigilant for and address antisemitism and other forms of hate that are being circulated in person and on social media, We have already seen many Jewish and Israeli students targeted by bullying and hate because of what is happening in Israel and Gaza and this is not acceptable.
You can contact Ginna R, Israel Emergency Director at JewishColumbus if you would like help securing additional resources, speakers, or to talk about anything else.