M-A Jewish Community Shares Personal Impacts of Hamas Attacks

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This is the first in a series of articles on the conflict in Israel and Gaza.

On October 7, Palestinian terrorist group Hamas launched a surprise air and land attack on Israel. The brutality of the massacre “brings to mind the worst of ISIS,” including rape, abduction, beheading, burning, and torturing of Israelis. The psychological impact on the Jewish community has been astronomical as Jews experienced the most life loss in a single day since the Holocaust. As President Joe Biden said in his televised speech last Tuesday, “This attack has brought to the surface painful memories and the scars left by millennia of antisemitism and genocide of the Jewish people.” 

An anonymous M-A Jewish student was up at two in the morning after the first attack watching the news coverage and has been following it every day since. The attacks have deeply affected them. “I am heartbroken,” they said. “I have friends who are missing, who have been captured, and who have died. This feels very real.”

M-A Jewish Student Union (JSU) board member, junior Lainey Egnal, said, “I was in total shock and extremely upset when I heard the news.” Egnal’s close family has been impacted, “My aunt lives in Israel and we found out she has been going in and out of bunkers which is extremely scary.” 

Jewish senior Sarah Judas, who is also on the JSU board, has been personally impacted as well. Judas said, “I am so sad because I have a friend in Israel who lives 62 miles from the music festival where one large attack took place. Israel is such a small country so you know everyone there can feel it.”

Judas went on to share, “I was so anxious and nervous—I am anxious all the time.” 

Like many of her Jewish peers, Judas is feeling isolated right now. “It feels like no one is talking about these atrocities that are taking place against the Jews. We are looking for allyship and, instead, we hear nothing. It doesn’t even feel like our peers are informed,” she said.

Judas recounted that she hasn’t talked about the attack in any of her classes and that her non-Jewish friends were mostly unaware of what’s happening. She also feels increasingly worried there will be violence in our area. 

Egnal also noted that other disturbing current events have been handled very differently at M-A. She said, “Every one of my teachers discussed the Russia-Ukraine conflict but, in this case, not a single teacher said a word.” 

American Jews have already experienced heightened security measures in their synagogues and Jewish institutions in light of a national rise in antisemitic hate crimes and speech in the last few years. Jewish communities now feel the need to be even more vigilant after the massacre in Israel and many interviewed were disillusioned by the relative silence of their non-Jewish neighbors. 

Several Bay Area Jewish day schools closed on Friday, October 13th, after a Hamas leader’s rally cry—and the subsequent spread of the phrase “Day of Jihad” on social media—led to security concerns and fear for many Jews around the world. 

Regarding social media, Judas pointed out, “There is a lot of misinformation and disinformation going around and a lot of false stuff posted online which has me very worried.” 

Despite this, Bay Area Jews have been able to find connection with one another. Last Tuesday night, Jews in our area attended the South Peninsula Solidarity Gathering for Israel at the Palo Alto JCC to lean on each other with prayers and songs and find comfort in community as they confronted these recent atrocities. 

Josh Becker, California Senator and Vice-Chair for the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, is also a parent of a current M-A student and an M-A graduate. Becker spoke in front of a crowd of more than 2,000 at the gathering. 

He said, “In the broader community, people have really come together to support each other. I think it’s important to recognize the large scale of atrocities that were committed.” 

Three days after the attacks, Sequoia Union High School District (SUHSD) Superintendent Crystal Leach sent an email addressing the conflicts in Israel. Many Jewish parents and students did not feel the message accurately addressed the severity of the situation. 

Jewish M-A parent Sara Leslie shared, “I was disappointed by the email the District sent. I think there should have been a stronger statement around the inhumanity of this.” 

Leslie continued, “While our community acknowledges that students are hurting, they do not really acknowledge the level of violence taking place.” She explained why American Jews are so deeply impacted: “People in our community are connected to Israel emotionally and historically, and we also know people there. It’s our friends and our family.” 

Jewish sophomore Gabby Rothstein said, “The email the superintendent sent out barely even addressed the situation. Our District is not doing a good job of showing what is really happening.” 

The anonymous student said, “I saw the statement put out by the superintendent, and it was very middle ground—not in support of Israel—which was extremely disappointing.” They continued, “I feel afraid, unheard, and betrayed by the M-A community as I don’t feel like Jewish voices are being heard loud enough.”

M-A Jewish students and parents interviewed have felt largely unsupported within our school. Last year, swastikas were sharpied on M-A’s bathroom stalls, and students reported that antisemitic slurs were not uncommon on campus. 

Another Jewish M-A parent, Diana Blum, felt compelled to directly email back to the District’s message. She said, “For the first time in my life, I feel vulnerable as an American Jew.”

Last Friday evening, M-A Principal Karl Losekoot addressed the attacks in his weekly “Principal’s Update” email which was included in Sunday’s Bear Notes email to the community. Losekoot acknowledged the attacks, offered his support to families who are struggling, and reassured the community of M-A’s vigilance around safety. 

In response to his email, Jewish sophomore Ben Skirboll said, “I appreciate that the principal addressed Israel, but I still feel like more should be done to make sure everyone is feeling supported and people are aware of what’s really happening.”

Skirboll concluded, “After all of this, I hope our community can discuss antisemitism more, because it really is a big problem right now.”

If you want to learn more about the conflict please read:




Rose is a sophomore at M-A and this is her first year in journalism. She enjoys writing about pop culture and issues affecting the M-A community. In her free time, Rose enjoys exercising, going to concerts, and spending time with friends and family.

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