Reflective Practice March 3, 2022: Processing World Events and Holding Space for Ukraine
“Who knows, perhaps you have attained a special position for just such a crisis!?”
- Mordechai to Esther in Megilat Esther (Esther 4:14)
Are we put in certain situations in order to pursue justice?
This past Thursday, our community came together for a program focused on what is happening in Eastern Europe. The idea behind the program was that specific times in history call for creativity and pivoting and learning, and our students deserve the opportunity to discern where they want- or need- to grow. With a sense of the importance of the moment, Oliver Cashman-Brown, history teacher, offered a deep dive concerning the events of the last days, weeks, and months. At this point, he and Dr. Josh Krug asked big, reflective questions for students’ consideration. Some of these included:
What do we do when we feel fear?
What do we do when we do not know what the future will hold?
Can we make a difference?
Next, Krug introduced and sang a song associated with a Ukrainian rabbi, Nachman (of Braztlav): “Gesher Tzar Meod”. The lyrics of the song translate, “The whole world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing is not to be afraid.”
At this point, students chose breakout rooms in which to join with facilitators and peers to broaden their understanding and deepen their insight. Students explored the words of Ukrainian poets, delved into facets of the history of the region, learned “Ukrainian Torah,” employed an economic lens on the crisis, considered the practice of Jewish leadership with a focused analysis of Vladimir Zelenskyy, explored questions about the power and limits of international institutions, investigated emergent anti-war movements in Russia and resistance movements around the world, joined safe spaces for processing feelings and question-asking, and MUCH, MUCH more.
To learn more about the situation in Ukraine, please see:
- Russia’s War on Ukraine, resource guide, by Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University: https://huri.harvard.edu/russia-ukraine-war
- The Choices Program – Brown University – The Ukraine Crisis (includes student readings and short videos I have found helpful in the classroom this week): https://www.choices.edu/teaching-news-lesson/the-ukraine-crisis/
To learn more about opportunities to donate and otherwise give back, consult
Crisis in Ukraine | Jewish Community Federation (jewishfed.org)
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Dear Kehilah Families,
As you know, last week the Russian government launched a brazen attack on Ukraine, marking the beginning of “the most significant European war in almost 80 years,” according to David Leonhardt from the New York Times. After months of Russian military escalation on the border, the invasion represents a profound violation of international law and a threat to democracy throughout the world.
Since February 24, the world has witnessed an ongoing assault on Ukrainian cities and the nation’s sovereignty. Reporters are telling the stories of remarkable acts of bravery and resistance against overwhelming odds. The global community has responded with a breadth of economic sanctions and consequences for Russia’s actions.
We know that several Kehillah families and staff members have connections to people living in Russia and Ukraine. With one of the world’s largest Jewish populations, Ukraine is also led by the first Jewish president in the country’s history, Volodymyr Zelensky, a model of bravery and inspirational leadership in this crisis. President Zelensky grew up in what was the “Pale of Settlement” –the only area Jews were allowed to live during the late 18th and early 19th centuries and where generations of Jewish families were terrorized by organized attacks, known as Pogroms. Later, his family, like so many, fought the Nazis and suffered great loss during the Holocaust.
As an academic community it is our responsibility to promote civil and intellectual discourse and to help students become informed, engaged citizens of the world. Towards this end, we have already held a series of drop-in opportunities for students to discuss the crisis, along with discussions that are naturally taking place in classes. Additionally, we have planned a program for tomorrow, Thursday, March 3, for students to connect as a community, hear a brief overview of the crisis, and to join breakout groups to dive more deeply into the issues. We look forward to these discussions and invite you to reach out if you have any questions
Daisy Pellant, Head of School
Patti Carbery, Assistant Head of School
Josh Krug, Director of Jewish Life and Learning
Rabbi Dennis Eisner, Director of Advancement