October 12, 2023

Dear Kehillah,

This week continues to be painful as our emotions tumble and toss us. The news of last weekend’s terrorist attacks continues to unfold in horrific detail. Our students, faculty, and families are struggling. We are supporting one another in ways borne out of years of building a culture of caring and respect. We are responding in real-time to support, take action, and find hope. 

On Monday, we gathered to grieve, to sing, and to pray as we stood in support of Israel and against terrorism. We heard from many with deep and personal connections to the war and to Israel. As a closing, we sang Hatikvah, the Israeli national anthem (literally, “The Hope”) after which we shifted to singing Oseh Shalom, a song and a prayer for peace, and our students were dismissed for class. Rather than dissolving into chatter and movement, however, your children remained standing together, singing:

May the one who makes peace

Make peace upon us

And on all of Israel –

And say, Amen.

On Tuesday, our students demonstrated great leadership as they led a Town Hall focused on the facts of the attack and their myriad feelings. While we understand some adults’ wish for us to “tell them what’s what,” our kids are on the precipice of adulthood. They have friends serving in the IDF. They are acutely aware of “the mess” we adults are handing them and they feel the responsibility to, as one student said in Town Hall, “do what is needed to make sure this never happens again.” Be assured that we will step in to correct misinformation, and we continue to reaffirm our stance in support of Israel, our commitment to the safety of all innocent civilians, and our stark opposition to terrorism. Our students are at varying levels of maturity and understanding, and we are working to meet them where they are, when they are there, in order to bring their understanding a few steps forward.

Dr. Danovitch and student moderators (Ari Strober, 12th, & Shaan Kapoor, 12th) leading a Town Hall about the attack on Israel and the broader context behind the war

Tuesday night saw many of us at the OFJCC for the evening of solidarity. More than 2,000 people attended the event, both somber and hopeful. It was great to see students, faculty, and families together and to be able to represent Kehillah as a partner with the OFJCC, area schools, synagogues, and agencies committed to not only showing our support but living it. 

We see our values in action every day:

  • Students dove into fundraising for equipment for the IDF and have generated many ways in which they and we can help (see below). Dr. Finkelstein and Ms. Nahum are working with students to continue these initiatives in the weeks ahead.
  • Teachers have shifted lessons to make time and space for processing as well as following the students’ lead when they need school to serve as a distraction. 
  • Mr. Nybakken and Rabbi Dennis are leading Lunch & Learn sessions. 
  • Moshe and Ms. Elman are hosting time each day to recite Psalms/Tehillim.
  • Ms. Lesser and Ms. Miraglia are available for social-emotional support.
  • Ms. Idleman has the art room available for quiet time and creativity. 
  • Two alumni lunches are planned for this weekend, one in Boston and one in Mountain View.
  • Next Thursday, we will be running an emergency evacuation drill to ensure we are as prepared as possible for emergencies of any kind. We will be informing students beforehand, so this routine practice does not alarm. 

This is only a small representation of the incredible community approach our faculty has taken. They are truly remarkable in their love and care for your kids.

On a practical note, I want to be sure everyone is reminded that we improved security at the start of this school year, increased it again on Saturday in response to the attacks, and again yesterday in response to concerns about recent Hamas messaging encouraging attacks on October 13. Additionally, we continue to progress through the permitting process for the planned fence and gates project and hope to have the project completed by the springtime. In the meantime, we are in close contact with other Jewish schools, the OFJCC, and agencies in the area. As a group, we work collaboratively with Rafi Brinner, a security specialist. On Wednesday, he shared this with us, “I realize threat perceptions are turbo-charged… but please know that all the partners I work with - SCN, FBI, police - are seeing no indications of threats to the Jewish community here in the US.”

Many of you have asked what you can do to help. We appreciate the question and, for now, have three asks:

  • While validating a natural curiosity, reinforce our request for students to stay off of social media. Our students do not need graphic visual proof to believe in what is happening, and those images cannot be unseen.
  • Recognize that our Israeli students are likely to be grappling with more stressors, given their personal and direct connection to the country. Our support for them is especially critical.
  • Understand that the energy of every person at Kehillah needs to be focused on our students while they navigate this challenging time. 

We will continue to put one foot in front of the other. We will remain in support and in solidarity. Through this darkness, we will continue to take action that lifts our heads up to see some light and a brighter future. 

A light for me and RM during this time is the upcoming simcha of the wedding of our eldest, Ruby, to her high school sweetheart, Jacob. We will be traveling to Boston this weekend for the wedding, and I will have the opportunity to connect with our Kehillah alumni community during this challenging time. 

In the days and weeks ahead, may each of you find some light.


Daisy Pellant

Head of School

Resources From the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS)

Media Consumption

Helping Children Cope with Upsetting News Events

Addressing Intolerance and Bias at School

From our Students: Ways to Help

My name is Danielle Dor, I talked at Town Hall about some of the organizations that we can support.

We have supported all these organizations at one time or another in Avodah La’Olam (If you decide to donate to organizations that support Israel, please choose one from the list. Students and faculty have checked these organizations to make sure that they are authentic.)

  1. IsraAid - Although this Israeli organization usually supports other countries through natural disasters, they have galvanized to support the emergency in Israel. They are a very reputable organization. www.israaid.org
  2. Friends of Israel Defense Forces - Unfortunately, like in other wars in Israel, supplies are short. They desperately need basic items, and any monetary donation is helpful. www.fidf.org
  3. Michael Levin Lone Soldier Center - a Home away from home for soldiers who do not have immediate family in Israel. All the more needed during war times when the family is worried and far away. https://lonesoldiercenter.com/ 
  4. Jewish Distribution Committee - again, another fabulous Jewish organization that usually helps Jews around the world, especially in poverty-stricken areas. They have mobilized to help in Israel and will be helping mostly civilians, such as children and mental health services, elderly Israelis fleeing, people with disabilities, etc. www.jdc.org
  5. Magen David Adom - This is the main ambulance service in Israel. Donate to support paramedics, EMTs, first responders, and first aid providers on the ground. www.afmda.org 
  6. ELI - Israel’s premier organization serving abused and traumatized children. They will focus their work on the trauma children are experiencing in this war. http://www.eli-usa.org/donate 
  7. Natal - Israel Trauma Center for Victims of Terror and War The organization offers mental health treatment around PTSD and other trauma related to war and terror. www.natal.org.il 
  8. Barzilai Medical Center - the hospital in Ashkelon which is treating many of the civilians and soldiers. www.bmc.gov.il

Jonah Frenkel - Hebrew Club

Thank you so much to everyone who contributed to the Hebrew Club fundraiser for Hadassah and for supporting Israel!

I am happy to say that we raised $523, but due to an anonymous donor currently matching all Hadassah donations, our organizing today led to $1,046 being donated in total!

עם ישראל חי

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