Letter to TST families in the aftermath of October 7th

Posted on October 11, 2023

(This is an abridged version of the letter shared with our TST families on October 7th)

Dear TST Families,

As the tragic events in Israel continue to unfold, I am writing with an update, an offer of support, and some resources.

Whatever you are feeling right now is valid. Please know that the clergy team and I are here to support you.

We acknowledge that our TST families and teachers have family, friends, and colleagues in Israel. Even if we are not discussing the news at home, children may know that something is happening, and if we are worried or frightened, they may respond to our energy. Children with smartphones have been hearing news updates and seeing images. Please be aware of what they are consuming.

What to expect in TST’s learning programs

Our teachers are prepared to continue our regular middot curriculum, while holding space for your children’s feelings and answering questions. We are not preparing lesson plans about the terror attack, but we are prepared to answer questions and reassure our learners that the adults in their lives are doing everything they can to keep them safe.

Suggestions for sharing information and answering our children’s questions?

Over the last few days, I have been in many spaces for educators preparing to hold space for students and I want to share something from one of my graduate school professors, Dr. Sivan Zakai:

“This is an unprecedented moment. As best we can, we are drawing from prior experience, but … this is not business as usual. We are stumbling around in the dark. We do not need to know all the answers to children’s questions, and we should be prepared to “Set It Up or Clean It Up.”

Dr. Zakai attributes “Set It Up or Clean It Up” to Lucy Rimalower, LMFT and it means that even if we have made a conscious decision to protect our kids by not sharing information, they are likely going to hear and see the information somewhere…on the playground, from people who do not think they are listening, on their devices. So, if we do not frame it for them in our own loving, safe environment, we have to be ready to clean up and undo any misinformation.

I have learned from Dr. Zakai’s work that we do our best when we sit with our children and their big questions, and really pay attention to what they are asking. We can ask them questions about what they are thinking and feeling. It is likely that that our children will want to know why evil exists in the world, and why bad things happen. We can be with them, knowing that we may not have the answers either. The magic of childhood is not that children are blissfully unaware. It’s that they are acutely aware of what is happening todayand they can still imagine and dream and hope for a better tomorrow. We can ask, “What do you want to do in this moment to bring light into this dark world?” And we should listen to their responses. They can be our teachers.

Comfort and Resources

If you were unable to watch or attend our service on Sunday night, you can view it here. It was filled with music of peace, prayers, readings and remarks by Rabbi Danny.

Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Wishing you and your family continued strength and love.

May God spread over us a shelter of peace.