Written with Emily Fox, Director of Jewish Education Initiatives
I just got off the phone with Michal. She and her family arrived here on October 15 to stay with relatives in Livingston after the attacks in Israel on October 7. They felt that they needed to be away from Israel for a while. The children (ages 10, 7, and 4) speak minimal English, so they knew they needed to send them to a Jewish school where they would feel at home. All three are now enrolled and once they realized that the school didn’t even have a bomb shelter, they were able to relax in their new environment. “The community, the parents, the teachers, and everyone at the school have been incredibly warm and supportive,” she said. “Please express my gratitude to the community. This situation could have been so traumatic for the kids, but they feel so comfortable here.”
Educators in Greater MetroWest early childhood centers and Jewish day schools continue to inspire us by “answering the call,” whatever that call may be. Three years ago, teachers stunned us with their compassionate and heroic response to the pandemic. Now they have responded again. They provide the highest quality care and education for our students, all with smiles on their faces and the resolve to keep our classrooms thriving, no matter the outward challenges.
Since October 7, our schools have sprung into action, welcoming and supporting new Israeli arrivals to their halls. These students and their parents have been buoyed by community members, but most significantly, by their new teachers and administrators. One director shared this moving response: “It all brings tears to my eyes. I am so glad we are able to help. I do not know how long they will be here.”
The four area day schools report that nearly 75 to 100 students may be enrolled across our community by next week. The exact number is dynamic and changes from day to day. ECCs are reporting increased enrollment as well.
Schools are working swiftly with families to provide ESL services, supplies and technology, mental health services, and additional school security to make these families feel comfortable. We have been amazed by how quickly our local schools have said yes first—and then expedite the admissions and enrollment processes, to provide some “normalcy” for these children. Most schools have waived tuition for the time being.
Our Federation is supporting the schools by convening them to share best practices in welcoming families. The majority have traveled here to find comfort with loved ones. It is truly unknown how long many of them will be here, but while they are, giving them a home away from home in our schools and in our Greater MetroWest community is our priority.