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Social Justice Council, Administration respond to escalating violence between Israel, Gaza

Clara Martinez
Social Justice Council Co-Presidents Jemma Granite (’25) and Rudi Chamria (’24) facilitate dialogue on the conflict between Israel and Palestine Oct. 12 after school in the Boardroom. Faculty, staff and High School students were invited to attend.

The Social Justice Council hosted a forum for High School students Oct. 12 to discuss the impact of the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine. 

SJC Co-President Jemma Granite (’25), who helped organize the event, said she wanted to create a space for students to come together and share their thoughts.

“The first step in dealing with a conflict like this, especially in a school environment, is to just have compassion for people,” Granite said. “Understand people’s different perspectives, and also understand the fact that people in so many different ways are connected to this problem.”

For Tami Shasha (’26), an attendee of the forum, the initial “awkward” moments as students hesitated to speak lessened as discussion progressed.

“It felt safe,” Shasha said. “It was just a really good way to kind of feel compassionate for one another, especially when something like this is so tense.”

To steer the dialogue away from “debate” and “taking sides,” Granite said it was important to introduce discussion norms at the start.

“It made clear to people that this wasn’t going to be something where people were arguing or debating with each other,” Granite said. “Instead, it was just going to really be a place where anyone could share their reactions or feelings about the event, and then from there, figure out ways in which they can support each other.”

Prior to the forum, Head of School Matt Horvat and Interim High School Principal Jack Phillips each sent an email to the community Oct. 10 in response to the attacks and continuing violence in Israel and Gaza. Phillips notified students Oct. 12 of assemblies to be held that day: one for Grades 10, 11 and 12, and another assembly solely for Grade 9.

Phillips said “the preference would have been to have everybody together so we could all hear the same message at the same time,” but the High School cannot fit in the School Center. As Grade 9 has closed campus, their assembly was held during lunch instead of Conference B with the rest of the High School.

In a faculty meeting Wednesday, Phillips said he asked for input for the Thursday assemblies.

As a result, Phillips said some of the phrases he used to address the student body were “taken directly from staff or faculty members” after the meeting.

“While we certainly were getting a perspective of how students were feeling on Wednesday, teachers and staff were interacting with you all too,” Phillips said. “We used a large portion of the meeting to get ideas from the faculty and staff based on what they’re hearing, what are the messages that we need to give so that we can make sure we are taking care of our students.”

Shasha said the assembly contributed to the success of the SJC forum. 

“Everyone had a basic understanding of what was going on,” Shasha said.

Granite said leading the dialogue was “definitely nerve wracking,” but she was glad that it remained a safe space for all perspectives to be shared. 

“I was very happy with how it went in the end,” Granite said. “It really was not a debate at all. It felt really supportive of everybody’s voices in that room.”

Shasha said she wanted to attend the forum to share her thoughts from the past few days.

“I’ve had a lot of things in the back of my mind that I wanted to let out,” Shasha said. “I was given the opportunity and it kind of motivated me to say, ‘I’m gonna take advantage of this and kind of say what I’m feeling,’ because everyone there was supporting each other.”

However, in the assemblies, Phillips said he found out Wednesday – the day students returned from October Break – that a map in the Social Studies pod had been “defaced.”

In addition, Phillips said he used the assemblies as an opportunity to promote the forum for students to share their reactions and hear from their peers. 

“It was really important for me to have student voice in our healing process and it felt aligned with the messages that I was trying to give in terms of what our priorities need to be right now,” Phillips said. “We do not need a forum for debate.”

Moving forward, Phillips said additional discussions about the conflict should take place after more time has passed. 

“I am hopeful, and I think it is a goal for us to get to that place where we can have those conversations with one another,” Phillips said. “I don’t think I stated that strongly enough yesterday.”

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About the Contributor
Clara Martinez
Clara Martinez, Editor-in-Chief
Clara Martinez (’24) is the Editor-in-Chief for The Standard. She began journalism as an editor of the Middle School newspaper The Scroll and joined The Standard in Grade 9. Martinez is drawn to investigative news stories and profiles, although she does enjoy producing the occasional broadcast or photo gallery. In or out of the newsroom, she can always be found with a pocket-sized notebook and pen in hand.

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