9 months ago • Oct 11, 2023

Talking to teens about Israel

Rabbi Ronit Tsadok, Tamara Joseph and Rebecca Berger

Dear Parents,

Our hearts are shattered by Hamas’s brutal coordinated terror attacks, including the slaughter and kidnapping of hundreds of Israelis.  Click here to read Rabbi Brous’ Reflections.

As parents, it can be difficult to know how to speak with our teens about what is happening especially as we ourselves are trying to make sense of the continuing tragedy. We recommend reading Dr. Sivan Zakai’s article, How to Talk to Kids about What’s Happening in Israel Right Now, for suggested language for talking to children of all ages, including teens. You might also check out this fact sheet. Here are some additional suggestions for how to engage in conversation.

Talk to your teens 
Ask your teens what they know. Ask them what else they want to know.  Some teens won’t want to know more; others will. Talk to them about how they’re feeling. Share your feelings too, but be mindful of how much you are sharing so as not to increase your child’s distress.  Remember that your teen is encountering a range of opinions and terms on social media and in social groups that they may need help making sense of. Invite open and honest conversation. Help your teen understand that we are capable of holding multiple truths at once.

Prioritize teens’ mental and physical health  
As much as possible, preserve normalcy and routine, while also giving your teens space to feel and express their feelings.  Teens are still learning how to cope with big feelings. Here are some tools that will help them recognize when they need support or a break from social media:

  • Check in with your body. Does your body feel tense? Do you feel a tightness in your chest? Are you hunched over?
  • Check in with your mental and emotional state. Am I feeling angry? Anxious? Sad? If so, it might be time to take a break.

Help teens consume media intentionally 
Help teens navigate the world of social media.  Especially at this moment, videos are being shared on social media that can be traumatizing and are impossible to “unsee.” The ADL has shared that Hamas will likely release videos containing disturbing content. Parents may want to take extra care with their children’s media consumption, especially on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, in the coming days.

Validate your teen’s need to know about what is happening and help them set limits to prioritize their well-being. If you are able to limit your child’s exposure to social media, do so. If not, be sure to check in regularly about what they are seeing and reading. Show your kids where you go to get reliable information.

Remind teens that it is okay not to watch. You might say something like, “Of course we care about what’s happening in Israel and we have a need to witnesses. But we don’t need to show our support by watching videos that have been created just to terrorize us.” Instead, encourage teens to reach out to their family and friends in Israel to show their love and support.

Help teens identify how they can help 
Ask your teens what they want to do to help and share what you are doing as a family. Rabbi Brous suggests these tzedakah organizations:

  • The New Israel Fund, engaging in critical emergency efforts to meet the moment, providing basic services, including mental health and trauma counseling for those left most vulnerable from these attacks, and preventing flare ups of inter-communal violence in mixed cities by supporting the social infrastructure.
  • United Hatzalah, which offers emergency medical treatment across the country.
  • And Zion, one of many local community efforts to get resources directly into the hands of those in most dire need, including clothing, food and diapers for those who fled the kibbutzim at the border that were attacked.

Support for teens at IKAR 

On Saturday, October 14th we’ll gather with teens and Rabbi Jensen in room 308 during Shabbat lunch (12:30) for an opportunity to process together. We are grateful to be in community with you.


May the one who brings peace on high bring peace to our people and all people.

With love,
Rabbi Tsadok, Tamara and Rebecca