Yesterday we received the tragic news that Naftali Frenkel, Gilad Shaar, and Eyal Yifrach will not be returning to their families alive. For the last two weeks we have felt these boys to be our own. We were unified in solidarity with them and their families, and we are unified in our grief.
As educators and as parents, these events pose challenges to us - how do we address such tragedies in our teaching? What do our students need from us?
We've compiled a few resources that may be helpful to teachers, camp counselors, youth group leaders, and parents. Some of these address helping young people cope with loss and terror, and some of them help to address some of the toughest questions this tragedy raises. Many of these are not explicitly labeled for specific ages - so we must use our judgment as to what is age appropriate.
I'm sharing this with a wider list than only our educators for a couple of reasons. Many of us are parents and these resources could be helpful to parents as well as educators. And, I suspect that young people are not the only ones who may have some difficulty in sorting out their thoughts and feelings. In my experience, we often feel frustrated and powerless in the aftermath of such events, and those feelings of powerlessness can take us in many directions. Not all of those directions are healthy or useful. Some of these resources may be of help to all of us.
And, there is one other reason.
That all of us are in some state of shock or mourning for three boys we never met says something about us, and about our relationship with one another. We all feel this loss; we all feel, in some way, that we lost family. Because, in some way, we did.
We don't have a shiva service to attend and we are not in direct relationship with the Frenkel, Shaar, and Yifrach families. And yet, most of us feel the need to do something, to reach out to someone. I've been struck by all the emails I've received from Jewish organizations mourning the loss of these three boys; and all the Facebook posts of friends. I think, in some way, we all have a need to grieve together, to give and to receive strength and comfort from each other. That is what happens with families who experience loss. That is part of what peoplehood is about.
So, here's our expression of condolence. Because we are educators, we honor their memory by remembering them and by sharing what knowledge and wisdom we can gather. If you can use these resources - please do so, and, in your teaching or parenting - honor the memory of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal. For those of us who are parents, we might use this opportunity to embrace our children and remind them that they are loved and that they are safe. And for those of us who whose hearts have been broken yet again, may we all be comforted among the mourners of Zion, may we comfort one another, and may the memories of Naftali, Gilad, and Eyal be as a blessing.
From our colleagues at the Jewish Education Center of Cleveland, this excellent compendium for Responding to Crisis.
From our friends at the iCenter, this guide with resources for discussing tragedy in Israel.
From the Lookstein Center for Jewish Education at Bar Ilan University in Israel, this Islands of Resiliency site focuses on dealing assisting children in dealing with crisis and tragedy.
From Yeshiva University - this article on helping children and adolescents cope with loss and terror.
We hope some of these may help. If you know other other good resources, please let us know so we can share them with other educators.
Jewish LearningWorks | Chief Executive Officer