Our Stories

October 20, 2023 Shabbat Message

October 23, 2023 by Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn (Faculty and Staff)

Dear MILTON Families,

Being an overly early riser – a ‘gift’ that has come with my current role – does have one upside. 5:30am here is midday in Israel. Kids are still in school there and I can sometimes reach one of my dear friends for a check-in during a quieter time of their day and before my house wakes up and the school day begins. While I don’t always reach them, it’s part of my morning routine and ritual to call to check in. I know many of our staff members and families likewise use the pre-dawn hours to bridge the time difference and, of course, these check-ins have taken on even more urgency in recent weeks.

This morning, I spoke with a friend in Jerusalem as she was preparing for Shabbat. She reflected that while last Shabbat felt like a small exhale, she was holding her breath again for this one. They are digging in for the long haul. With so many hostages still captive, reservists called up (and therefore much of their world closed), and school happening only in fits and starts, life is truly on hold. 

This national pause is shown so poignantly in the Tel Aviv Museum of Art’s outdoor exhibition, “The Empty Shabbat Table,” which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a massively long table draped in white, beautifully set for 200, with empty chairs all along it. One angle even included empty high chairs, which gutted me and will haunt me this Shabbat and many to come.

Despite usually waking up while it’s still dark outside, working in a Jewish school has the benefit of offering countless points of light each day. Today, we added our 468th point of light, a new student from Israel who is here with her older brother (a JPDS alum) for the time being. This feels like something small that our school can do to support our extended Israeli family. Please connect us if you have friends or family who are sheltering here in the DC area and looking for school for their kids.  


Empty Shabbat Table Exhibit

This week, we also had a pre-scheduled visit from Dr. Mary Alvord, an expert speaker who joined us for the 9th Annual Zymelman Parenting Lecture on raising resilient kids and helping them to focus on all the light in the world. Her message was especially needed right now and we’ve compiled resources from her talk and other trusted experts which we hope will be useful to your family. 

And today, we had a pre-Shabbat pop-in from Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff who showed solidarity with our students, staff, and community, sharing a message of empathy and deep support. He described feeling raw, and encouraged students to keep supporting each other and their teachers just by showing up for each other. Despite the careful, minute-to-minute orchestration of his visit, the high point was when he told the Grade 1 and Grade 2 students that today is the Vice President’s birthday. They immediately broke out into a chorus of HaYom Yom Huledet, an upbeat Hebrew birthday song, which his office recorded to share with her. Our Vice President will get a dose of MILTON light on her birthday, and you can see the video here, too!

Our staff have felt your incredible support and generosity, nourished by the food you have all sent and by the messages of gratitude and love. One teacher wrote: “During this time of sadness and grief for Israel, the MILTON community has given me the strength to come to work each day to teach our students about Ahavat Yisrael (a love of Israel). At this moment in time, nothing could be more important.”

We are all privileged to not be alone through this, to lean on each other, to have our sparks tended by the lights that your children bring to school each day. I look forward to being together with hundreds of you on Sunday at Camp MILTON and to sitting in this moment as a community. In the meantime, I hope you can find a bit of peace this Shabbat, even as we continue to keep in mind and work for those whose chairs remain empty.

Shabbat shalom,


Dr. Deborah Skolnick-Einhorn

Head of School