Educating in a Time of Crisis
We are heartbroken and outraged by the horrific situation continuing to unfold in Israel. We grieve for all who have been killed, injured, or taken hostage, and pray for a swift end to this darkness.
As events in Israel continue to evolve, The iCenter is creating resources and learning opportunities, as well as providing one-on-one support to think strategically about engaging in meaningful conversations with your community.
There have been countless images of resilience, support, and camaraderie in Israel. Among these are stories of Israel’s musicians who are making their art and themselves available to those across the country, and the world. We continue to see Israel’s musicians reaching out to those seeking solace, advocating for those taken hostage, celebrating times of joy, and simply creating things of beauty in times of hardship. Here is a sampling of some of those songs and stories.
At a time when we tend to consume news that is packaged, filtered, sometimes theoretical, or even hypothetical, we should take a step back. One thing that we really need, and what our learners need, is to hear authentic voices, the words and experiences of those on the ground.
POETRY THAT INSPIRES US
Eliaz Cohen is a peace activist and an educator. He is also the father of three soldiers who are protecting the lives of Israelis while putting their own at risk. His poem echoes the timely and timeless conversation between humans and God, a reminder of how fragile, resilient, and responsible we are at the same time. May God and us always look after the bird.
Iris Eliya Cohen’s poem demonstrates the futility of language when faced with the tremendous personal and collective pain we’ve been living with since October 7. But even when we don’t have the right words, or any words at all, the poem reminds us that our souls and minds have the capacity to hold together sorrow and hope, today and always.
On December 15, 1947, while fundraising for the defense of the future Jewish state, Zionist leader Chaim Weizmann said, “The state will not be given to the Jewish people on a silver platter.” The poet Natan Alterman took these words and wrote the poem, “The Silver Platter”, which he published four days later in his weekly newspaper column. Today, Israel is again fighting for her very existence, and that victory, while attainable, will not come on a silver platter.
SONGS THAT SPEAK TO US
Doron Talmon, the lead singer of Jane Bordeaux, a band known for their American, folk-country style music in Hebrew and English wrote a new song, “Lo Levad,” meaning “Not Alone,” to help herself and others process the October 7 attacks. In the linked video, she opens with a brief poem about the range of emotions people are feeling in the wake of the attacks.
Shai Tsabari’s “Kochavim Bashamayim” (“כוכבים בשמיים“), which means “Stars in the Sky,” offers a way to grapple with the atrocities of October 7. In the song, the metaphor of the stars and road on which we’re walking offer glimmers of hope and humanity—in the way everyday people have acted bravely and Israeli civil society has come together to support one another. On the other hand, there is a lens into feelings of despair as we recognize the vastness of the stars and all that is unknown, such as where the road leads, and when or if it ends.
“Lashuv Habaitah” (“לשוב הביתה”), meaning “To Return Home,” was released by Ishai Ribo in 2017 and became an instant hit. Despite coming from a relatively unique background in the Israeli music scene—being an Orthodox Jewish singer—the song quickly became popular, at times being the #2 most played song in Israel.
Written as a song about returning to one’s origins, its beautiful lyrics take a new and harsher meaning—hoping for the safe and speedy return home of the hostages taken on October 7.
Hanan Ben Ari released, “Moledet” (״מולדת״), meaning “Birthplace,” a song that explores the ways in which Israelis have pulled together in times of difficulty. While born from a place of deep sadness, this song, much like the Israeli spirit, is a hopeful one—hope for a better future. As Ben Ari said, “This song is dedicated to my nation. Not the one that was here a week ago, the one that we’ll create again when all this is over.”
In “T’filat Haderech” (“תפילת הדרך”), renowned Israeli musician Shai Tsabari blends the classical words of the Traveler’s Prayer with the haunting reality of the present day. Shai’s offering both holds the tremendous pain we are experiencing and gives us an invitation to breathe. It even offers us a moment in which we can dream of safety and peace.
Since October 7, Shai Tsabari has sung it with displaced Israelis from the north and south of Israel, with the survivors of the terror attacks, the IDF, and the volunteers who are holding Israel together. When we join him in song, we are reminded that we are all in this together.
VOICES FROM THE FIELD
IN SERVICE OF TRUTH
by Rabbi Jan Katzew
As servants of truth, educators in the trenchant phrase of Parker Palmer, require “the courage to teach,” to take a moral stand, to defy the post-modern trend of moral relativism, and state unequivocally that some actions are not only wrong; they are evil.
THE QUESTIONS OF TODAY
by Dr. Lesley Litman
Our families, children, and staff are bringing their questions and worries to us. Our job is not to have a ready answer to all questions. Rather, it is to listen carefully to the essence of the question and approach your response accordingly.
LOOKING BACK TO LOOK FORWARD
by Carl Schrag
As educators, we strive to provide context for understanding the content we teach. It can be overwhelming to learn about current developments if they’re approached in a vacuum, as if nothing that happened previously has set the scene.
AN ENDURING UNDERSTANDING
by Rabbi Jan Katzew
“As an educator, I am thinking about imprinting. What do I hope learners will remember 40 years from now? What will our current students be saying to their children and their students about October 7, 2023, and following?”
Schedule a Consultation
We are committed to helping you find intentional strategies for engagement in these unprecedented times. Sign up for an individual consultation with a senior iCenter educator who will support you in navigating this moment with your community.
Dr. Rachel Fish
As part of The iCenter’s Pro Seminar series, we’ll examine the significance of moral clarity when facing complex ethical dilemmas, strategies to cultivate moral courage, and valuable insights that can shape our perspectives and decision-making amidst today’s crisis.
What does it mean to be an Israel educator today? As Israel’s war with Hamas continues and antisemitism rises across the world, educators are tasked with answering complex questions of antisemitism, Jewish peoplehood, and the relationship of American Jews to Israel. For so many educators, these questions are unanswered, challenging, and outside of their comfort zones. Join us as we kick off The Jewish Education Project’s four-part series, diving into the world of Israel and peoplehood education.
Recording Coming Soon
Dr. Lesley Litman, Dan Tatar, and Ayal Weiner-Kaplow
Join together with The iCenter team to navigate through these challenging times for Israel and the Jewish world, and emerge with new insights and ideas for your school communities. In this interactive session, we will delve into the challenges day school educators and leaders are grappling with, drawing from some of the most common questions we’ve received in recent days. This will be a time to share your collective wisdom and to bring the questions you are hearing from your students, parents, and others.
Recent developments in Israel have sparked deep responses from people throughout our community and raised questions about how these events might affect the course of history. The iCenter’s senior educator Carl Schrag, former Editor of The Jerusalem Post, will provide context to current developments. Following a brief update, we’ll explore ways to bring the news to learners in meaningful and age-appropriate ways.
Many of us are struggling with how to speak to our children and youth about the events in Israel, and how to answer their questions in a way that is truthful but also mindful of the mental health of those we love. To help respond to the many inquiries we have received about how to talk to our kids about Israel, we have organized an opportunity to learn with Leanne Matlow, a cognitive behavior therapy counselor from Toronto whose expertise is working with children and teens with anxiety.
We invite you to explore resources created by our partner organizations.