Responding to Events in Israel and Gaza

12 October 2023

In the midst of the busyness of our own work and lives here in Northfield, few of us remain untouched by the horrific attack that has led to the death of thousands in Israel and Gaza, and the taking of some 150 hostages. The shock and suddenness of the attack is accompanied by the sad recognition that it takes its place within a long history of conflict that has produced many victims in the past.

As with many world events, our responses may vary widely across the community. For some, this is an intensely personal tragedy, as they hear from friends and family in affected areas and worry for their continued safety. Others may fear political and social repercussions for Jews and Muslims here in the U.S. Many will be horrified by the violence but uncertain of how to respond or support their friends and colleagues. All of us need to recognize and empathize with these different levels of distress.

As a college, our first response is always to reach out to students who may have been impacted. In this case, this has meant members of the Dean of Students Office and the Chaplain’s Office contacting students studying abroad in Israel, students with home addresses in Israel, and students with home addresses in Palestine, to make sure they are okay, to inquire about family, and to offer support. In addition, our Jewish chaplain and Muslim chaplain have both been in dialogue with members of their Carleton faith communities. The Provost’s Office has reached out to colleagues in the Middle East Studies program to offer support and discuss possible academic responses. 

In thinking about an institutional response, we appreciated the work of the Chaplain’s Office to prepare a joint message signed by Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky, associate chaplain of Jewish and interfaith life; Ailya Vajid, associate chaplain of Muslim and interfaith life; and the Rev. Schuyler Vogel, college chaplain. Their expression of shock and sorrow also conveyed an earnest hope that our community would find solace in each other and in our shared humanity, a message strengthened by their own thoughtful collaboration.

In addition, faculty colleagues in Middle East Studies are putting together an event next week that will provide an opportunity for community discussion. Our ability as an academic institution to provide a forum for analysis, commentary, and respectful debate is perhaps the most powerful response we can make.

I hope that in the coming days and weeks all of us will find ways to support those who are hurting, and seek to expand our own knowledge, understanding, and empathy. 

Featured in Carleton Today, October 12, 2023.