Dean Simons’ Email to Students Regarding Hamas Attack on Israel

October 12, 2023

Dear students,

It has been five days since we awoke to news that Hamas had launched an attack in southern Israel—killing hundreds of civilians and kidnapping dozens more. As more details have emerged about that attack, the scale of the horror has only grown. And now, as the conflict escalates, there is little doubt that the days and weeks to come will see additional suffering and loss of life in Israel and Gaza. The historic conflict in the Middle East is complex and multifaceted. But there can be no ambiguity that the targeted killing and kidnapping of civilians is morally repugnant. Closer to home, the conflict has raised understandable fears of increased anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

I write to acknowledge these events not because I have any particular expertise, insight, or authority when it comes to events in the Middle East. Rather, I write because the events of the past few days have had a profound effect on many members of the St. John’s Law community. Many have close ties to the area, and some have family members and loved ones who have been or will be in harm’s way.

The conflict in the Middle East directly implicates important questions of international law and human rights—questions about which I know there are deep divisions. As a law school, it is part of our mission to examine those questions. But we are also a community of human beings, many of whom are hurting right now. As a community, we can support and value one another, care for each other, and respond to each other with kindness. I want to encourage you to be sensitive to the pain and distress your classmates and professors may be feeling.

I also encourage you to attend to your own wellness. The Student Services department is sponsoring events throughout this week in recognition of World Mental Health Day and to encourage reflection on wellbeing during law school and beyond. I encourage you to stop by and to chat with a member of the Student Services team in the first-floor hallway if your schedule allows. And, if you ever feel as though you need direct support regarding mental health, there are always no-cost, confidential resources services available both on- and off-campus. On-campus resources include:

· Law School Counselor Tanya Weekes, LMSW, SIFI, in Office 1-19 ([email protected]); and

· University Center for Counseling and Consultation, 718-990-6384 (after-hours helpline: 718-990-6352).

Off-campus resources include:

As a law school, it is important that we foster a learning environment in which everyone feels safe and respected. As a community, it is important that we come together to bear each other’s pain and lift each other up. I am grateful for—and inspired by—all the ways you do that for each other.