Diary of a Crisis Jewish Educator

 Diary of a crisis educator

Back in 2020, we thought that our ability to pivot from in-person to virtual was a turning point in our careers in which people would recognize the value of educators. We adapted lessons, restructured curriculums, and served as the unofficial support systems for our students who were struggling with the inevitable isolation of the pandemic. We showed up with a smile on our faces and held space for our students to have access to a semblance of normalcy.

There was this moment, around 3 days before October 7, 2023, when I thought we were finally back to normal life. I was recording an Instagram Reel with my class which, as it happens, includes my own son. It was about Simchat Torah and as luck would have it, it would be my very first time in front of an open Torah scroll and I would get to share this with the kids! Yes, I am a Bnei Mitzvah tutor, but was also raised very conservative (I know, shocking), so while I can read and chant Torah, I had not crossed that milestone yet. It was truly glorious; a moment of sharing Torah and tradition with these kids that would be forever etched as a fun activity and a learning opportunity.

Here we are, 2024, and we are back on the frontlines. Ever since October 7, we have once again found ourselves adapting lessons, restructuring curriculums, and holding space for students as they face a world full of hate and antisemitism. We strive to create safe spaces for them to learn and be their most authentic Jewish selves, however that may present itself.

There is a very specific bond that is created between a Jewish educator and their students. After all, we aren’t just teaching any subject; we are imparting generations of knowledge and ensuring the survival of our personal story as Jews.I don’t know if I speak for every Jewish educator out there, but I know that, at least most of us, would do this all over again if we needed to. We would do this all over again if asked without hesitation.

And as I walk the hallways of our Religious School, there is an eerie silence in the air. On one hand, I wonder how much of what our students learned they will carry with them as they go on their own to camp, both secular and Jewish, and if we did enough to provide them with a strong toolkit to face a world in crisis on their own. On the other hand, I notice myself shrinking, letting all the anxiety that I pushed away to focus on my students creep back in.

To be an educator in times of crisis is to take a multitude of additional roles that are most certainly not in our contracts, but we take it because we feel deeply the weight of our roles. But, like everyone else, there comes a time when we take the mask off and sit in silence for the first time in months and, if we are self-aware enough, we allow ourselves to feel everything. The weight of our words, the content we could have added, did we do enough? Did we convey enough for our students to love their heritage and enough for them to form a relationship with Israel?.

Let’s be honest, we didn’t sign up to be crisis educators, and yet, we have done so proudly and have used every ounce of strength and pride in our Jewish traditions and values to power through some of the most difficult times in our students’ lives. However, it is now time we start taking care of ourselves. This does not only mean to give ourselves grace and a time to rest, but to also consider ways in which we can do better at advocating for the resources and support that we need.


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