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October 10 Letter to Duke’s Jewish Students Regarding Israel

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October 10 Letter to Duke’s Jewish Students Regarding Israel

The following message was sent to Duke’s Jewish students on October 10, 2023 from Jewish Life at Duke Director Joyce Gordon:

October 10, 2023

Dear Students,

Every time I sit down to write this message to you, it’s already outdated. The number of identified victims of the Hamas terror attacks in Israel over the weekend keeps rising; the names of the missing and those taken captive keep being released. The horror is ongoing. Whatever I write to you will be old news by the time I hit “send,” and for that, I am sorry.

What is not old news, however, is the love and care that our entire Jewish Life at Duke team has for you, our Duke Jewish student community, for our alumni, and for our collective Jewish family in Israel.

I know that many students are affected by these terror attacks in profound ways. Many of you have shared with our team that you’re struggling with balancing your deep sense of sadness and grief with the fact that it’s midterm season, and the work of being a Duke student continues.

It has been personally meaningful to me to see the many ways that the student community – that you – are caring for one another in this crisis. I want to share some resources with you, and to encourage you to not only use them – but for you to encourage your friends to do so, as well, as you care for one another.

First, Jewish Life at Duke is here to support you through this challenging time – now, after Fall Break, and beyond. Come by the Freeman Center, or reach out to us to meet one-on-one. Here are our links to book a time with any one of us:

  • Rabbi Elana
  • Assistant Director Rebecca
  • Heyman Winter Israel Fellow Orel
  • Springboard Social Justice Fellow Seth
  • Me (Director, Joyce)

Next, your Academic Dean is the person you should contact for support with an absence, missed work, academic planning, course withdrawals, and more. I believe it is a sign of strength and resilience to not only realize, “hey, I cannot actually focus on this test/paper/class right now,” but to act on it by reaching out for help navigating extensions, drops, and academic support. Here’s the link to the Trinity Academic Deans, and here’s the link to the Pratt Academic Deans.

I have been in contact with many professionals from CAPS (Counseling and Psychological Services) over the weekend and this week. They are available and ready to help you. CAPS has 24/7 support, in the following ways. You can call 919-660-1000 to speak with someone confidentially. You can walk in (CAPS is located in the Wellness Center), Mondays 9 am – 6 pm, Tuesday through Friday 9 am – 4 pm. You can get 24/7 tele-mental health service through Timely Care.

The Freeman Center for Jewish Life is your space here at Duke. Drop by to simply be in the space, grab a snack, and be with us and one another. I also invite you to join us on Thursday, October 12 between 3-5pm for a Support Space, when our Jewish Life at Duke team will be available for processing, conversation, and comfort. Dr. Lisa Adams, the Director of Duke Counseling and Psychological Services will be with us from 4-5pm. Join us for any portion or all of this time. 

Our tradition emphasizes the importance of peace in our liturgy and in our texts. If you’re an alum of the Jewish Learning Fellowship, then you’ve studied this text from Pirkei Avot 1:12:

Hillel used to say: be the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace[.]

I invite you to pursue peace for yourself this week and in the weeks to come. Some suggestions for how you might pursue your own peace: engage in deep, meaningful conversation with friends. Donate your money or time to organizations that are meaningful to you. Turn off social media for an hour or two, to give your soul a chance to recharge from disturbing online rhetoric and imagery. Better yet – delete social media for a week or more! Walk in the Gardens with a friend. Visit puppy kindergarten. Give yourself enough time for some restorative sleep.

In the days ahead, I hope for peace – for our own hearts and wellbeing, for those suffering in Israel, for our worldwide Jewish community. Know that you can call on me and our team for support or just a hug.



Joyce Gordon

Director, Jewish Life at Duke

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About Jewish Life at Duke

Jewish Life at Duke (JLD) is the hub for all things Jewish on Duke’s campus. An accredited Hillel as well as a department within Duke University’s Division of Student Affairs, Jewish Life at Duke is guided by a mission to empower Jewish students to learn and grow intellectually and spiritually; to inspire and nurture personal paths to Jewish identity; and to cultivate community and friendship. Comprising the Freeman Center for Jewish Life and the Rubenstein-Silvers Hillel, JLD takes a pluralistic approach to Judaism to ensure that all Jewish students, regardless of affiliation, are welcome and included.

100% of JLD’s operating budget comes from donations from alumni, parents, and friends.
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