Our Stories

Our World Since October 7

By Hadas Rave, Director of Education at Temple Sinai in Oakland, CA.

Hadas Rave is one of the bright lights of Bay Area Jewish education. She currently serves as the Director of Education at Temple Sinai in Oakland, and spent 14 years at Contra Costa Jewish Day School, teaching Hebrew and Judaic studies, and coordinating both the school’s service learning curriculum and Israel education. Hadas is a recipient of the Helen Diller Family Award for Excellence in Jewish education. Hadas lived in Israel for nine years and grew up in the Midwest as the child of Israeli immigrant parents. She recently shared her thoughts on her work since October 7, at a briefing for Jewish LearningWorks’ leadership.

I really appreciate the opportunity to speak to you all – writing has always been an important way for me to process, and in writing out what I wanted to share with you today, I had the space and time to reflect as I continue to work to comprehend what is happening in my heart and head and neshama/spirit as we all work and live through one of the most difficult times in modern Jewish history. 

It also is such an honor to get to share with you some of the ways in which I have felt supported and held by Jewish LearningWorks during this challenging time – full disclosure, I am a total Jewish LearningWorks groupie and have benefited greatly from the gifts of this organization in so many ways, both professionally and personally since coming to the Bay area sixteen years ago. They are my go-to for all things Jewish education related and I am so glad to speak to their immense contributions to our field and how fortunate we are to have them in this community. 

I was barely four months into my new position as director of education at Temple Sinai on October 7. On the night before, our religious school community had just celebrated Simchat Torah together in a ruach filled Friday night event of prayer, singing, dancing – we were at least 250 people joyously gathered in celebration. Then we all went home and the unthinkable happened.

On October 8, Sinai hosted a community gathering to provide comfort for one another and pray for peace. Myself and another longtime educator on our youth education staff, facilitated a space for parents, grandparents and anyone looking for support in discussing the ongoing emergency with children of all ages during the vigil. 

Due to the holiday, we did not have religious school planned for the following Sunday, but we did have our teen program the following Tuesday. Gathering and planning with our teen teaching staff to create a safe space for our teens to process the emergency felt so important, like avodat kodesh – holy work. The planning for the following Sunday, when we would have more than 230 K-5th graders and 50 teen and adult staff with a whole spectrum of feelings and experiences to hold, felt daunting. 

Jewish LearningWorks was there right away to help us navigate with resources that I was able to share immediately with my teaching staff, who were looking for guidance and then also with our parents, who were desperately searching for answers and information about how to navigate these uncharted waters with their families. I was so very grateful to have Jewish LearningWorks to lean on – writing to our community that these resources came from Jewish LearningWorks felt solid, trustworthy and credible during a time of such deep confusion and pain. I knew that I could stand behind the sources I was sharing – that our colleagues at Jewish LearningWorks had chosen these resources thoughtfully and with intentionality.

At Sinai, I experienced a great amount of tenderness in our community during those first weeks – people reaching out to check in on me and my family – there seemed to be a renewed sense of urgency and appreciation around being in community. Our parents had questions – many came to me with a sense that they themselves did not have the knowledge base that they needed about the historical conflict to speak intelligently with their children and to answer their questions. 

Our amazing Sinai clergy offered an “Israel 101” workshop on a Sunday morning, and mental health professionals amongst our Sinai families held listening circles for parents during religious school. We continue to share resources for parents, as they navigate unprecedented anti-Semitism with their families and try to make sense of a world turned upside down.

We have all struggled with feelings of safety during this time and I have to say that at the synagogue, I feel the safest – not only physically, but emotionally. I feel grateful to be in a space where I am understood, where people are sensitive to one another and I don’t have to explain or defend my feelings or my identity. I continue to realize, again and again, that no matter how challenging, there is actually no place that I would rather be right now professionally and personally than in a Jewish setting – no other place where I could imagine myself.

In the days following October 7, I appreciated the personal outreach from Jewish LearningWorks staff, and then, the most precious question: what do you need? 

In late October, after reaching out to ask us what we needed as Jewish educators and administrators working in the field, Jewish LearningWorks put together a workshop called “Working Through War” with Israeli- American educator, Dasee Berkowitz. During her sessions, Dasee introduced the concept of Jewish paradigms of resilience. The two that spoke to me most were: Protection/setting boundaries (shamor v’zachor – keep and remember the Sabbath) and Creating a circle of support (kneh lecha rav, aseh lecha chaver – make yourself a rav/teacher and acquire for yourself a friend.) These Jewish frameworks granted me permission to set boundaries for myself – giving myself time to grieve and heal and struggle, while also drawing strength from my community. 

Jewish LearningWorks helped me with tools to see the opportunities to heal and support one another during this time of tragedy, whether gathering strength and inspiration from Sinai’s teens, bravely still wearing their magen David necklaces and standing up to online anti-Semitism, or holding space for teachers and parents to talk and cry and hug.

Moving forward, I know that there is so much work to be done in thinking and rethinking about how we teach Israel in our communities. I know that the new directors group that Jewish LearningWorks has been convening for myself and other new religious school leaders in the community will continue to be a source of support and strength – a safe space to ask difficult questions. Similarly, new teachers on my team have had the amazing gift of Jewish LearningWorks mentors helping them in so many ways throughout this year.

The thoughtfulness, rigor and relevance Jewish LearningWorks brings to the table for us, all the time, is such a profound source of support and a nurturing force in the challenging field of Jewish education where it has never been more important for us to invest and sustain our efforts at excellence.