July 17, 2024
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A Terrible Change in Lesson Plan

I had a lesson plan for my seventh period Jewish History class.

We were going to begin learning about Golda Meir. Instead a few minutes before mincha, our Judaics head Rabbi Mordechai Soskil’s voice came over the intercom system. A boy named Ezra Schwartz, someone the rabbi knew when he lived in Sharon, Massachusetts, was killed by a terrorist in Israel this day.

At the same time, my daughter Emily, a program staffer at the University of Maryland, College Park, let me know that one of Hillel’s student’s brother had been murdered in Israel. It was Ezra.

Our high school quietly assembled for mincha. Every seat on both sides of the mechitza were taken.

We davened and then said tehillim.

Students hugged, some couldn’t hold back the tears. I was one of those. I had to now face a class of high school seniors during their last class of the day.

I set up the video I was going to use on Golda Meir. I then put the video away.

There were words to be said. There were students who needed to talk it out, talk it through. I permitted them to use their phones to collect more information about Ezra. Some students knew his yeshiva, others wondered why this keeps happening. And still others talked about their own safety during their gap year in Israel.

I received then a text from my daughter, DeDe Jacobs-Komisar, who lives in Sharon and knows Ezra’s family. I never look at my phone during class, but I saw a text from my daughter who said that Young Israel of Sharon would have grief counselors available for the kehillah.

Somehow, this one hit way too close to home. I promised twelfth grade students that Israel is a safe place, and that it would be for them when they took their senior trip or attended yeshiva or seminary there.

I’m thinking about when we sent our oldest to Orot in Elkana in August of 2001, how worried I was that I wouldn’t be there to protect her. Yet, she knew how to navigate the Egged bus system like a pro.

I remember visiting her in January, 2002, when the world was still reeling from 9/11. The hotels were empty of Americans as were the restaurants and shops. I am certain that I was the only person on my entire hotel floor, that’s how empty the place was. It was eerie.

We had an unofficial “club” of day school/yeshiva parents who were missing their children in Israel. We’d provide therapy for one another. We kept talking about how quickly the year would go.

And it never ever dawned on any of us, that we’d never see them again.

So here it is 2015, and there is still unthinkable murder of Jews in Israel by Palestinian murderers.

I have to teach a seventh period Jewish History class.

Instead we talked to one another. Some held tissues to their eyes. Others just didn’t know what to say.

But we were together.

And at least until the bell rung, we held each other up.

Next week, we’ll go back to Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir.

The history of Thursday’s seventh period at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community Day School was awfully hard to understand. Ezra Schwartz became part of Israel’s history this day.

He had volunteered to take food to Israeli soldiers.

We will never forget him and this day.

We also know that by the time this comment is published, there could be more tragedy. So we pray for every Israeli’s safety. On Thursday, though, the lesson plan had to change.

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