The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

The Student Newspaper of Poly Prep Country Day School

The Polygon

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DEIB Column: Jewish Caucus


A safe space. A place to feel comforted, seen, and heard. This environment is what Jewish Caucus’ faculty and student leaders are striving to provide for the Jewish community at Poly, many of whom have been emotionally struggling since the beginning of the Israel-Hamas war in early October, along with the rest of the Poly community. In the weeks and months afterward, the war has been a common subject spoken about in smaller groups within Jewish Caucus, where students can share their questions, feelings, opinions, and concerns. However, the affinity group has also started focusing on other activities that aren’t as heavy or emotional. This doesn’t mean that the war will never again be discussed in Jewish Caucus; Jewish Caucus student co-leader Kaia Scott ’24, said, “The other leaders and I feel a responsibility to keep the conversation going.”

The war has sparked controversy throughout the world. There have been protests from supporters of both Israel and Palestine, people have seen devastating images, and social media feeds have blown up with both news updates and extreme views. Some community members are more well-informed than others, have stronger beliefs or have been more affected due to relatives or friends living in Israel or Palestine. Jewish Caucus welcomes everyone, no matter how much knowledge they have on the conflict. Learning Support Faculty and Jewish Caucus faculty leader Sarah Bond commented that, “We wanted to make sure that everybody felt like they had someone to turn to during a difficult time.” With these complicated and different feelings the students were feeling, it took some brainstorming to figure out the best way to approach these conversations. The leaders said they want the students to understand that all feelings about this war are valid and they aren’t alone. Another Jewish Caucus student co-leader Jack Bogner ’25, said that one of his purposes as a leader “is to let people know that their family is there for them, and they have friends who are there for them.” 

According to Jewish Caucus student co-leader Hazel Budker ’24, after the events that occurred on October 7, the faculty and student leaders started emailing each other. They knew they had to do something to support the community. They were given permission to use the Legacy Gym for the entire DEIB block on Wednesday, October 11. The meeting was for all Jewish-identifying members of the community. According to Bond, once everyone gathered in the gym, the leaders used a group therapy model, inviting students and faculty to sit in a circle to feel closer, like a tightly-knit community. Instead of asking questions, the leaders had anyone who wanted to share discuss their immediate responses to what had happened over the past few days. Michal Hershkovitz, assistant head of school, answered some of the students’ history questions about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Bond said that for her, the most powerful part of the meeting was the end, where everyone shared their current emotion. It made her feel supported and less alone. 

According to Budker, the leaders also created a presentation they showed in Jewish Caucus about antisemitism on college campuses. Scott added that they also donated money to the Red Cross, which aids both Palestinian and Israeli victims, through the Poly for Good program. She suggested meeting with MENA (Poly’s affinity group for Middle Eastern and North African identifying students) and addressing the conflict together. Although Jewish Caucus was unable to schedule a program for the Upper School since the assembly program is packed, Budker mentioned how Director of DEIB Erika Freeman, mentioned the war in an assembly, trying to encourage the students to think before saying or posting any hurtful content. 

Scott believes that the Seeds of Peace assembly, held on Thursday, February 1, benefited the community. On the Seeds of Peace website it says “Seeds of Peace is a leadership development organization committed to transforming legacies of conflict into courage to lead change.” During the assembly, a Jewish man from Israel and an Muslim woman from Palestine spoke to us about how they try to end hate and bring people from different backgrounds together. Scott thinks “If Poly did something along the lines of Seeds of Peace, [it] would be a new way to show we are a community and we support each other no matter what.” 

According to Budker, more recently, Jewish Caucus has steered away from speaking about the war since they also want to focus on the positive aspects of being Jewish. The leaders agreed that if students still want to speak about the war, they are always welcome to. Budker said, “We want our meetings to be more lighthearted now, because the first half of the year was so focused on anti-semitism in colleges, around Poly, and the conflict.” Bogner agrees, saying they are now trying to “talk about Jewish traditions and anything we would normally talk about.” Recently, Jewish Caucus celebrated Tu BiShvat, known as the “New Year of the Trees.” The leaders brought in dried fruit and grape juice, which are the traditional Tu BiShvat food and drink. 

Another reason that Jewish Caucus paused formally discussing the war, Bond pointed out that “we are all at different places.” She emphasized that some of her friends are still really hurting, while others feel as though they need to move on with their lives. 

The leaders said they all felt a lot of responsibility to carry out these difficult conversations. Budker said that she and Scott “felt like it was all on us and we really wanted to be there to support everyone.” They knew “the Jewish members in our community were relying on us to take action.” Scott shared what she has experienced, seen, and heard to her group in hopes to make them feel more comfortable and open to sharing. The leaders of Jewish Caucus hope that all members feel like they have a place where they can talk about this war and where their voices can be heard. 

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