Practically every student at Barrack has some connection to Israel. For this reason, the war in Israel after the October 7th attack has been very personal for teachers and students alike. While this time has been difficult for students, Barrack has made many efforts to reduce these struggles.
Starting with the first school day after the attack, the Hebrew department planned a presentation to keep the student body informed. The presentation, which was preceded by the lowering of the Israeli flag, included basic information about the war thus far, as well as prayers for Israel and the recitation of Hatikvah. While the presentation did address the horrific events of the war, it also described how Israeli society was coming together in many ways, for example, the number of people donating blood. After the presentation, we heard from Rabbi Lesack, who shared his thoughts on the war, and his understanding of the difficulty of this on students.
After that, Barrack students participated in a project where, on a big sign saying “We stand strong with Israel”, they were encouraged to fill the empty space of the sign with personal notes of their thoughts and feelingsNext, the school encouraged students to attend the Philly Stands with Israel Rally at Saligman Campus in Wynnewood, even making it a no-homework night. The rally was very powerful, as students and faculty gathered among other supporters of Israel, and heard support from local, state, and federal representatives. Barrack then encouraged students to come together with other Jewish organizations to attend the March for Israel in Center City, organized by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. There, the city heard from the 11th graders about their experience and return from Muss. Most recently, Barrack facilitated transportation for families to the March for Israel in Washington D.C. and, to encourage students to attend, made it a review day so students would not miss any class.
Aside from rallies, Barrack has also put in many in-school efforts. Particularly in the days following the initial attack, teachers were especially accommodating with regard to school work. In Hebrew and Jewish Studies classes, teachers temporarily put aside the curriculum, to allow students the chance to express themselves. Barrack participated in the #BlueRibbonsforIsrael trend as a way for students and faculty to express their solidarity with the hostages, their families, and more generally, the people of Israel. In class, some Hebrew teachers invited family members from Israel to discuss their lives in Israel with students. In class, and also facilitated by the JLI, students made cards and videos sharing positive messages with IDF soldiers. In a Shabbos Shmooze, the JLI led students in lighting 1300 tea lights in memory of those who lost their lives. Shacharit groups have also added prayers for healing, and prayers for the State of Israel to their regular prayers. There have also been many efforts to educate students, including a visit by a StandWithUs ambassador, and a live video meeting with a teacher from IsraelEd. Also, there is a board by the front desk which has pictures of some of the hostages and brief information about them.
On the Barrack website, there are also many resources available both in helping discussions, but also financially supporting Israel. There is a link to the fundraiser made by the 11th graders to help affected soldiers and families, as well as various other fundraisers by alumni. Beyond that, there are links to resources like the Jewish Federation events website, a class on Jews’ history in Israel by Danny Stein, a Barrack Alumnus and Muss teacher, and various other informational websites with facts on conflict and advice on how to address this conversation in family discussions. The Barrack community also brought together toiletries, supplies, and other essential items to deliver to Israel. There were bins at Barrack in the school foyer to collect items donated, and they were completely full. Finally, as always, our school counselors Ms. Grolnick and Ms. Yontef are available to help students emotionally during this difficult time.
While this time has been very difficult, it has been really wonderful to see the Barrack community come together and support one another, and Israel!