Israel-Hamas War: School Calls for Compassion

Photo illustration of a teacher and students attempting to comprehend the current state of Israel.
Photo illustration of a teacher and students attempting to comprehend the current state of Israel.
Amelia Bowman

As fears and tensions rise around the Israel-Hamas conflict, adults and students alike are highlighting the importance of accountable online news sourcing, informative discussions, and showing support for community members. 

Fostering a Supportive and Caring Environment

“As we end a week filled with deep sadness and confusion, I feel thankful to see members of our community turn to one another for support,” Head of School Judith Guild wrote in the School’s Oct. 14 community bulletin. “We have worked toward the goal of supporting our students, faculty, and staff as they seek to understand a world where unthinkable violence can occur.”

School Communications
Head of School and DEIB Director's Oct. 9 letter
Dr. Jonathan Golden
Dr. Jonathan Golden

Dear Brimmer Families,

The news of the terrorist attack by Hamas, which included murder, assault, and kidnapping of children in Israel, followed by retaliatory airstrikes by Israeli military in Gaza devastated many in the Brimmer community. Innocent Israeli and Palestinian lives were lost, and we know that many in our community spent the weekend trying to connect with family and loved ones in that part of the world. Our hearts are with those of you who are hurting, and we recognize the sensitivity of this complicated issue.

We are providing some programming this week to help our community understand and talk about this long-standing Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Tomorrow, we have a speaker coming to talk with students who are interested in learning more about the conflict from a fact-based perspective. This is an optional session. Dr. Jonathan Golden has a deep understanding of the geopolitical and historical landscape of the Middle East and has been an educator for more than 20 years. He is known to teach “from the middle” with a fact-based approach. He is a sought-after historian in the Greater Boston area whose approach is to include voices from all sides and to be knowledgeable on all perspectives.

We are also providing affinity spaces for Jewish and Middle Eastern/Arab students during both Middle and Upper School lunches on Wednesday. If your student identifies with either of those groups, we encourage you to have them join. Middle and Upper School students have received an email with this information.

We know that this conflict affects families and students in our Lower School, too. The resource list below has been shared with teachers in all divisions. Though we are not holding programming specific to this conflict in our Lower School, teachers will address concerns should they arise.

Despite this targeted programming this week, the learning is ongoing, and the resource list will likely expand. Below is what we are providing to our faculty and staff.

Resources for Families and Educators to Talk about Israel and Gaza

Talking to Children About Conflict and War

Librarian Resources on Israel and Palestine 



Jessica Christian

Director of DEIB


Judy Guild

Head of School

Head of School's Oct. 13 Brimmer Bulletin letter
Head of School Judith Guild.
Head of School Judith Guild.

As we end a week filled with deep sadness and confusion, I feel thankful to see members of our community turn to one another for support. We have worked toward the goal of supporting our students, faculty, and staff as they seek to understand a world where unthinkable violence can occur. We are a community built on a foundation of Core Values that upholds mutual respect and kindness as two of our five values. As misinformation and hatred run rampant on social media platforms, we need to be resolute that forms of hatred have no place at Brimmer. The tremendous suffering of innocent people calls for us to be kind and careful with our words and actions.

Please take time to read the various letters in this Bulletin. Each Division Head provides families with guidelines for ways to support our students and manage media in our homes. We recognize the ethical challenge of staying educated and informed while protecting our mental health and that of our students. Please be mindful of what your students may be watching and seeing on their devices and on the family’s television. Common Sense Media offers guidelines for parent and educators on how to talk to your students about the news.

I hope to see you at Homecoming on Saturday when we can pause and come together as a community and support our student athletes as we cheer them on to victory.

Judy Guild

Head of School

DEIB Director's Oct. 13 Brimmer Bulletin letter
DEIB Director Jessica Christian.
DEIB Director Jessica Christian. (Gator file photo. )

It was a tough week in the Brimmer community as our faculty, staff, and students tried to process the news of war in the Middle East. We know from history that events like this overseas often increase hateful acts of bigotry here in the United States, including online. Brimmer condemns antisemitism, Islamophobia, and any form of xenophobia. These hateful beliefs can lead to dangerous behaviors that harm and hurt a community, and they go directly against our Core Values.

Our focus at Brimmer in the context of this war is to provide as much fact-based education as we can about the history of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and what is currently happening. We have work to do to educate ourselves as well so that we minimize the possibility of misinformation. This is extremely delicate work, and we must do it as thoroughly and thoughtfully as possible. Equally as important is the care we provide for our students, as they are moving through anger, fear, confusion, and a multitude of other feelings.

What we do know is that we will not stand for the mistreatment of any community members based on their religion, the country their family is from, or the political beliefs they or their families hold. This is a community of learning and inclusion. As educators, we help students understand the similarities and differences in their identities and beliefs with a blend of factual information and social and emotional learning.

To be sure, this is a complicated geopolitical situation to understand and to help our children understand. We encourage kindness and patience as you communicate with one another and with your children. We may not all agree, but we must all treat each other with respect and refrain from accusations or dangerous, hateful speech.

We hope for safety in our community and in the communities outside of Brimmer going forward, as we know that the risk of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and xenophobic acts are heightened right now. Please take a look at these resources as you navigate conversations with your children:

Jessica Christian

Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging

Upper School Head's Oct. 13 Brimmer Bulletin letter
Upper School Head Joshua Neudel.
Upper School Head Joshua Neudel.

Dear Upper School Families,

Like many of you, I have been experiencing a myriad of emotions ranging from profound horror, sadness, and grief stemming from the terror attacks by Hamas that brutally targeted innocent people. My heart is broken by the tremendous loss of life with the images permanently engrained in my mind. At times like these, I find myself drawn to those I have learned from over the years, whether they be teachers, authors, or trusted colleagues. This week, I’ve felt a pull to reread works by Elie Wiesel, who used his experience as a Holocaust survivor to act as a witness to the atrocities he experienced, while also standing up for injustices and speaking out against violence across the globe.

In the book Witness, Lessons from Elie Wiesel’s Classroom, Wiesel is quoted as saying “Maybe that is why I believe so deeply in education. If there is a solution to the problems humanity faces, education must play a central role in it. I know that learning saved me. And I believe it can save us.”

As a school, education is our primary purpose. Our goal is to ensure a safe learning environment for students. In this regard, we are focusing on the following:

Supporting Students 

We have many people in our community with deep connections to the Middle East, and we are working to support students in a multitude of ways. Emily Luckett, Upper School Counselor, is available to speak with students. In addition, Lower and Middle School Psychologist Dr. Talya Kagden is available to speak with Upper School students.

In addition to speaking with other trusted adults, Brimmer offered affinity spaces for Jewish students and Middle Eastern/Arab students in the Upper School. Over the coming days and weeks, we will continue to monitor the well-being of our students and work to support them.


There is no justification for the mass murder of civilians. And there is a long geopolitical and religious history in the Middle East. As we did with the war in Ukraine, we focused on providing education about the region.

As part of our immediate response, we invited historian and teacher Dr. Jonathan Golden to campus on Tuesday. Dr. Golden centered his talk around the questions posed by students. He provided some facts regarding the historical landscape that belies the longstanding conflict that began well before this past weekend and will continue into the future. One of the most striking takeaways from his presentation was how he asked students to frame their thinking and conversations with the question “Where do you start the story?” He did so to remind us all that there is no one simple explanation to explain how people feel and think and that understanding someone’s frame of reference will impact your understanding of their perspective and this complex conflict. He reminded students to always consider where their information comes from and what story the source is trying to tell as they work to develop their own understanding.

As we move forward, we will continue to look for resources outside of Brimmer through trusted educational sources and experts in the area. In addition to this, Elyse Seltzer, Director of MS/US Library and DEIB Curriculum Liaison, and Kelly Neely, History Chair and Director of Global Studies, are collecting and developing resources for teachers and will help guide us as we look to integrate the developing conflict into our curriculum.

Leaning into our Core Values 

Many people in our diverse community have direct ties to friends, colleagues, or family members in the Middle East who are being significantly impacted by the war between Israel and Hamas, either directly or tangentially connected to the loss of life in Israel or Gaza. For my family and other Jewish families, it has been nightly discussions with our children and close friends about antisemitism, while others in our community are living in fear of xenophobia. This is a time to lean into the beliefs that are the foundation of our community. In non-academic settings, students should live out our Core Values and be aware and sensitive to the personal impact many people are feeling.

To this note, we also ask that you be aware of how videos and images are passing through social media, predominantly Telegram and X (formerly Twitter), but also TikTok and Instagram. These can be highly graphic, violent images. The NY Times and other media sources shared this information earlier in the week. You can view the article here (Note: the article does not include any of the reported imagery.)

Elie Wiesel believed that the accumulation of knowledge would lead to compassionate behavior. This belief is closely aligned with Brimmer’s mission of developing “lifelong learners who are informed, engaged, and ethical citizens and leaders in our diverse world.”

During an Oct. 9 assembly, Upper School Head Joshua Neudel shared his observations about the prevalent use of social media among students to gather news.

He acknowledged the popularity of videos, memes, and photos related to the Israel-Palestine conflict circulating on these platforms. Neudel emphasized the importance of seeking information from credible news outlets before forming opinions or making statements about the issue.

He also called for communal support to those in need, emphasizing School values of respect and kindness now, more than ever.

We have worked toward the goal of supporting our students, faculty, and staff as they seek to understand a world where unthinkable violence can occur.

— Judith Guild

Library Program Director Elyse Seltzer, who is Jewish, appreciates the School’s support during these difficult times, especially in providing affinity spaces for both students and adults.

“Even though not many people went to them, I think that having affinity spaces can be very helpful,” Seltzer said. “As an adult, I really appreciated having the space to be an affinity,” Seltzer said. 

Global Studies Director Kelly Neely also emphasizes the importance of continued empathy and support.

“Right now I’m focusing on what Mr. Neudel was saying the other day about really focusing on just being supportive and caring to people— regardless of how you feel about the topic,” Neely said.

Neely has created resource guides for educators to foster informed classroom discussions and educate students about the conflict.

Accountable News Sourcing

Neudel highlights the importance of scrutinizing news sources, particularly on social media, to mitigate the spread of disinformation and misinformation.

However, he acknowledges that this isn’t an easy endeavor, as major news outlets offer different and conflicting reports of the ongoing crisis. 

NBC News

“How are [news sources] telling the story differently and how do we even make sense of that?,” Neudel said. 

For instance, there are conflicting reports surrounding the Oct. 17 explosion at the Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City, where hundreds are feared dead.

Palestinian officials and Gaza’s health ministry, controlled by Hamas, have attributed the responsibility for the deadly blast to Israel. However, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denied these accusations, stating that Israel is ‘not responsible’ for the incident. 

Adding to the confusion, there has been a rise in viral disinformation muddying efforts to uncover the truth behind the tragedy. Media organizations and researchers are actively investigating what happened at the al-Ahli Arab Hospital. Forensic analysis of images and videos is being used to ascertain the cause of the explosion.

While the investigations are ongoing, the situation remains unclear with no definitive evidence pointing toward the party responsible for the incident.

The School refuses to allow any kind of hate speech, Neudel said, no matter who it is directed toward. 

“I think we have to address antisemitic speech in the same way we address any other type of language that attacks somebody’s identity,” Neudel said.

Seltzer notes that some individuals may inadvertently perpetuate antisemitic remarks or beliefs, not out of malice, but due to a lack of awareness or understanding about what constitutes offensive content.

“But I think there are people who don’t even know that what they’re saying is antisemitic because it’s so much a part of the general media and what they’re hearing,” Seltzer said. “There are some times when people say things that are antisemitic or racist and it’s just, unfortunately, a part of our society’s lexicon.”

Especially when definitive answers cannot be found, Neudel also underscores the importance of delving deeper into sources rather than merely skimming quick headlines. This is crucial, he said, because many online platforms can exhibit bias, which might not be immediately evident in brief summaries or headlines alone.

Bharath Palanisamy ‘24 gets most of his news from social media. However, most of the content on his feed is reposts of other news sources like CNN or Al Jazeera. 

“I prefer to get my news from social media because if you look at a news source like The New York Times or BBC, you only get one perspective,” Palanisamy said. “But on social media, I can see a lot of different news sources with different perspectives.” 

Director of Global Studies Kelly Neely acknowledges that social media can play a valuable role in keeping the public informed with its real-time updates and diverse sources. However, she cautions that it can become significantly harmful if students depend exclusively on these platforms for their news.

I think there are people who don’t even know that what they’re saying is antisemitic because it’s so much a part of the general media and what they’re hearing.

— Elyse Seltzer

“Social media is not the place to be getting information about this,” Neely said. 

She attributes this to deliberate misinformation spread by some content creators and the widespread use of graphic imagery that may be traumatic for viewers.

Neely finds her news through NPR, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Boston Globe. 

Seltzer also does not rely on social media for accurate news or information. She teaches many lessons in middle school regarding how to know if a source is valid or not. 

“My first step is authority: who is saying it and how do they know what they’re talking about?” Seltzer said. 

Regarding news media bias, Seltzer uses a website called AllSides, and to determine the validity of different claims made on various social media platforms. 

“As a school, we try to work with students on media literacy and share out resources that they can use to find good news and think about the type of information they’re getting,” Neely said. “However, I’m also aware of the fact that most students don’t do that. A lot of students are learning about things on TikTok.”

Global News

On the contrary, Brooks Neufeld ’26 does not consume any of his news from social media, due to a disdain for the platform in general. He likes to follow current events by looking at CNN, The New York Times, or Apple News. 

“I personally don’t use social media platforms in general. I feel like they are ways to lose time,” Neufeld said.

Palanisamy has expressed frustration over the limited resources available to students. While he recognizes that social media may have inaccuracies, he also points out that even reputed news sources are not always reliable.

“I think that it’s bad to discredit the sources that people find online because, mainly, [Neudel] didn’t give any alternatives to social media, but also because even if you’re on an actual news source that doesn’t mean the source is credible,” Palanisamy said.

Neudel concurs that even historical sources can be contentious, as historians often disagree on the conflict’s origin.

“History is often taught through a certain perspective,” Neudel said. 

However, Palanisamy recognizes that this perspective is often the only lens through which many students learn about the conflict. 

“I think that many people only have a very surface-level understanding, or the understanding that they have is very skewed towards a certain perspective,” Palanisamy said. “I feel like there should be a specific few people who are knowledgeable about the conflict on campus who people can talk to if they have questions about it.”

He expressed a desire for a more complex examination of the conflict within the academic framework.

“I also think classes, like history classes in particular, or International Relations and Current Events should spend more time talking about the conflict because the conflict ties into the curriculum of past history and regarding the future,” Palanisamy said. 

Neely recognizes the importance of expanding perspective, which she does by letting students lead the way during discussions and encouraging them to ask questions about anything they see online. 

Tackling Challenging Discussions Inside and Outside the Classroom

“As young people, you’re trying to figure out your perspectives and ideas, so you talk them out. But [it’s essential] to be aware that just because you read one or things doesn’t make you an expert on something that’s really complicated,” Neudel said.

Palanisamy concurs with Neudel that open discussions currently are not beneficial for the community’s well-being.

“Talking about the conflict in unmoderated form can be harmful because the tensions are pretty high and it could lead to something hostile,” Palanisamy said. 

However, he believes that a moderated in-class discussion might be a good way for them to share different opinions. As a result, he believes that students will be able to understand more about the conflict. 

“I was pretty shocked that, when we had school after the conflict first happened, a lot of people didn’t even know very basic information about it,” Palanisamy said. “And I feel that people still don’t know a lot of information about it, so I think discussions are a very good way to make sure that people know what’s actually happening.”

During a class discussion, Neely was surprised to find that many students had a limited understanding of the Israel-Palestine war as a whole, but mainly the history of it.

As young people, you’re trying to figure out your perspectives and ideas, so you talk them out. But [it’s essential] to be aware that just because you read one or things doesn’t make you an expert on something that’s really complicated.

— Joshua Neudel

Seltzer also points to the fact that while teachers have been provided with more background information and resources, students are fully capable of discussing the topic in a civilized manner.

“I think when it comes to topics like this, it’s best to let the students lead based on where they’re at and what they need,” Seltzer said. “I think it is helpful to have discussions with people who might have some background knowledge and help it be a healthy discussion.”

Neufeld agrees that discussions with a teacher present are essential, and urges students to continue to be thoughtful and respectful outside of classroom discussions.

“I think it is good to have those conversations because it is one way we learn about it, but I think that we need to be sensitive about the topic,” Neufeld said. “Sometimes when we’re talking outside the classroom environment and just chatting with friends, you might be more likely to say something that could bother someone.”

He also feels that these discussions actively help him, and other students, stay focused.

Neely explained that she has not held discussions with some of her other sections because she is concerned about the emotional impact it might have on students. 

“I know for a fact that it is triggering for some students and I don’t want to bring it up in a way that’s going to make people feel like they can’t escape it,” Neely said. 

“I am well aware of the fact that it is such a sensitive topic and I don’t want to step in it [the discussion] and say something that, to me, might not be offensive, but perhaps somebody else who has a more personal connection to it might get upset about it.”

Neely emphasizes the need for educators to be mindful of the potential impact their words and actions may have on students who may have personal connections to the conflict.

She and other faculty members recognize the immense sensitivity and emotional weight of the Israel-Hamas War but maintain their commitment to demonstrate unwavering support for students and faculty alike. 

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Amelia Bowman
Amelia Bowman, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Amelia has been on The Gator for five semesters, since the start of her freshman year. She enjoys writing op-eds, current events, and reviews. In her spare time, she loves reading, watching movies, and rock climbing.  

Comments (0)

The Gator does not accept anonymous comments to any of its social media feeds or posts.
All The Gator Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *