My Students

It is one thing to read the news. It is an entirely other thing to know people directly affected by the news.

For example: a former student of mine is Palestinian. One of his friends from Gaza has lost 47 relatives, and others have each lost 10 to 50. A friend’s two relatives (a mother and her 12 year-old daughter) were kidnapped when they were visiting a kibbutz. Many of my students are the descendants of Holocaust survivors. A classmate’s relative is from Gaza, and that person has recently lost many family members.

I have learned that the current war also can reactivate old memories: a friend serving in the IDF was badly injured by a mine, and a student lost a grandparent during an IDF air strike.

During times like these, honestly, I feel quite powerless. We are on winter break right now, but my thoughts continue to circle back to my students and friends. I have tried the past few days to be available and present to those for whom the current war is deeply personal: texting with students to see how they are doing, communicating with Sectionmates, and contacting friends. Is it enough? Is there anything I can say to alleviate their stress and pain? I doubt it.

On the last day of class recently, one student came up to me and said: “We’re going to miss you because you have been a father figure to us.” I certainly didn’t expect to hear that.

I have learned that teaching at HBS means not just being an instructor but serving in a pastoral capacity as well. And, if I were in a tough spot, I’d want a parent to reach out. It’s a long story, but coming back to a school that changed the arc of my life to me is meant to be a good deed, a mitzvah.

I’d like to finish by referring to a recent article that David Brooks wrote (full version here). During inhumane times, I find it easy to be less human. I found this excerpt from the article to be helpful:


May this holiday wish one day truly come to pass: “peace on earth and good will towards all.”

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