This is hardly a breaking-news publication. However, just as the content for this issue of the Chatter was close to completion, the Israel- Hamas war erupted and the TanenbaumCHAT community – like the rest of the Jewish world – was sent into a tailspin of shock, mourning and heartbreak.

There are many in our school community who are Israeli or who have relatives and friends in Israel. A considerable number of our alumni live, are studying or serving in Israel. So what was happening felt especially personal. Furthermore, in the days following October 7 as the ramifications of events in the Middle East rippled across the globe, and as antisemitic acts and sentiments exploded worldwide, the sense of horror and urgency became palpable.

Immediately following that fateful weekend, our staff sprung into action. Before anything else, came careful consideration of student and staff safety – an ongoing project that, in concert with our various security advisors, has been continuously evaluated and refined. Beyond that, teachers and staff were guided by key principles outlined by our Head of School, Dr. Jonathan Levy: what do our students need to know, what do our students need to do, and how can we help our students – and staff – navigate this troubling time, emotionally, spiritually and psychologically.

Immediately, and in the ensuing weeks, students gained valuable insights through specially-developed learning modules; extracurricular activities provided opportunities to show solidarity with Israel; guest speakers, and alumni currently or recently in Israel, conveyed their knowledge and experiences; students sent messages to peers in Israel; students and staff accessed ramped-up mental health resources; specialized PD sessions were organized, including Dr. Jonathan Levy Zooming in from a three-day mission to Israel to connect with staff and share observations; and assemblies and numerous informal meet-ups which brought students and staff together to learn, pray, grieve
and stand together.

So, we bring you these additional pages of the magazine to provide a window into how TanenbaumCHAT has coped, cared and continued on. Our fervent hope is that by the time this magazine lands in your mailboxes, the war will be over and a more peaceful existence restored to the entire region.

Am Israel Chai.

In response to the very first days of the war, our educators were quick to develop lessons and implement programming that would support and educate our students. Here are some examples.

Sara Black
We had a full-on discussion for an hour about conspiracy theories, anti-Jewish propaganda, celebrity culture and questioning if those celebrities owe it to us to post online, etc. It was amazing… Given the time to speak, share, respond, question and debate, [students] rise to the occasion!

Sandy Kadoch ’96
I prepared a “Processing the War through Poetry” workshop and the students read a variety of poems including Yehuda Amichai’s Memorial Day. They shared images, feelings and thoughts they hadn’t ever explored. They were honest, they were insightful, and they engaged in amazing conversations.

Dr. Matt Reingold ’03
Almost immediately after the news began circulating in Israel, the country’s cartoonists started producing creative and emotionally resonant images. I began collecting them for my Grade 12 Israeli Society classes to introduce students to a diversity of Israeli voices… The discussions were wide-ranging. What emerged was a new appreciation for how art can speak to contemporary moments of crisis and a deeper understanding of how Israelis are navigating terror and war.

Shaanan Scherer ’96
The lessons in Jewish history and Tanach that I teach become so much more real when Israel is at war and antisemitism is on the rise. From teaching Rashi’s first commentary on the Torah to Jewish history lessons – all of it is relevant now more than ever.

Heather Weinstock
The guidance department, deans, and JF&CS social worker have been helping students by offering them a safe and nurturing environment and a sympathetic ear, and allowing them the space to vocalize their feelings and their fears. We are providing tools and resources to parents and students alike and arranged for two additional social workers from within the community to come to address each and every grade on how to manage trauma and secondary trauma.

On November 14, with generous assistance from UJA, more than 150 students and accompanying faculty and staff committed to spending two nights on a bus and about 10 hours on the ground in Washington, D.C. for the privilege of joining 300,000 fellow-Jews and allies at the largest North American pro-Israel rally ever. Our group was proud to be there to support Israel, advocate for the release of the hostages, and speak out against antisemitism.
Chief of Police Myron Demkiw along with other officers from Toronto Police Services made a scheduled visit to the school in October. Partnerships with police and our other security advisors and personnel have been ongoing.

Shira Meirman, our Israel Engagement Shlichah, spoke during Generations Day in October. She reflected on the current situation and her experience of how our school community has responded.

Here is an excerpt.

On October 26, the 11th of Cheshvan, we marked the day of the passing of Rachel Imenu – one of the four matriarchs of the Jewish people and a tragic mother figure about whom it is told in Jeremiah: A cry is heard… Rachel weeping for

her children… who are gone. We were all Rachel in the last few weeks. And there are no words, not enough tears to illustrate the helplessness and sorrow we feel. But the prophecy continues: Restrain your voice from weeping, for there is a reward for your labour – they shall return from the enemy’s land.

There is reward and meaning to what we do.
And I must say that I am completely amazed at how much the Jewish community in Toronto, and in particular the TanenbaumCHAT community, does for Israel. From the day we returned to school after Simchat Torah, the school was filled with non-stop action, which taught me what solidarity is.

It is very difficult for me to be so far from home these days. But on the other hand, if I hadn’t been in Canada, I wouldn’t have seen the scope and size of the support of the community here. And I’ll never forget how my immediate family and I haven’t felt alone here for even one moment during this horrible and painful period.

I want to end with the culmination of the prophecy, which unequivocally states: And there is hope… Your children shall return to their country.