Adam Tilove is the Head of School at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy in Kansas City, where he has passionately led educational initiatives fostering unity and resilience. Adam is dedicated to building bridges between Jewish day schools and their non-Jewish partners, emphasizing the transformative impact of collaboration and understanding. Adam is married to Marni Thompson-Tilove and has three children; Naftali, Raviv and Yakir.

United Against Fear: Galvanizing Support in Jewish Day Schools


In the face of a chilling declaration by Hamas, designating Friday, October 13, as a “Global Day of Jihad” and a “Day of Rage,” our community at Hyman Brand Hebrew Academy (HBHA) in Kansas City transformed a potential day of fear into one of unwavering support, love, and communal embrace. The recent terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel on October 7 had already heightened tensions, casting a shadow of anxiety over our students, parents, and staff.

As the ominous date approached, threatening messages circulated through social media, intensifying the palpable sense of apprehension within our school community. Students and teachers grappled with the difficult decision of whether to attend school on that fateful Friday.

“Are You Okay?"

The narrative takes an inspiring turn with a pivotal moment within the Kansas City Independent School Heads Association (KCISHA), of which I am a member. At a meeting on Tuesday, October 10, just days after the terrorist attack in Israel, my colleagues asked me if I was okay. I told them, “No, I am not okay, and no Jewish person they know is okay either.” They asked if there was anything they could do to help. I thanked them for asking, but I didn’t know what they could do. I told them that if I thought of anything I would let them know.

On Thursday, I realized that indeed, there was something. I wrote them, urging my colleagues at local independent schools to stand with HBHA during the morning dropoff. This was not a symbolic call on social media but a request for a physical presence, a demonstration of unity wearing their school sweatshirts to show their community’s support for our community.

The response was extraordinary. By 7 am on October 13 over 40 people, including educators and administrators from nine local schools, clergy members, Jewish professionals, and local representatives, gathered in front of HBHA. Holding signs proclaiming “We stand with you,” “We’re in this together,” and “We are all God’s children,” they created a powerful tableau of solidarity. Our students walked into the building with smiles on their faces, while teachers and parents, touched by the outpouring of support, hugged one another with tears in their eyes.
In the faculty room after dropoff, staff told me, “This was just what I needed, and I didn’t even know it” and “It was like being given oxygen to breathe.”

We all know that sometimes it feels lonely and isolating to be Jewish, especially in times of crisis. This event demonstrated that we are not alone. There are thousands, or more accurately millions of people who are quietly supporting us and praying for us. Giving them an outlet to show that support, and have it seen and felt by our community, was incredibly powerful.

Publicizing The Miracle 

As schools started to respond to my request, we recognized that this would be an important and powerful event. As such, we reached out to our contacts in the local media, which had frequently featured us in their coverage. Three television news stations sent crews to capture the significance of this extraordinary display of unity. As the conflict continued to unfold, local media recognized HBHA as a prominent voice within the local Jewish community, with numerous direct family connections to Israel.

The impact transcended local borders. News of HBHA’s stand against fear inspired other Jewish schools across the nation to hold similar events. Saul Mirowitz Jewish Community School in St. Louis, Krieger Schechter Day School in Baltimore, Bornblum Jewish Community School in Memphis and more joined the movement, with supporters across the country showing up to express solidarity with their Jewish communities.

Moreover, because the event was publicized on television, we galvanized support from schools that were not part of the KCISHA group. For example, two weeks later, representatives from a local Catholic school came to offer us a 60 foot “prayer-chain” they had created for us. Weeks after that, another Catholic school delivered dozens of beautiful hand-crafted cards offering prayers for peace and support. 

Feeling empowered by the local response, we reached out to the Governor of Kansas, similarly asking her to come to our school and show her support through her presence. She visited the school and met with our high school students on October 30. Similarly, we are expecting visits next semester from the mayor of Kansas City and our local representative in the House.

While crediting the positive response to preexisting relationships, I acknowledged the need for further cultivation. Meetings with the CEO of the Kansas City Economic Development Corporation and the president and CEO of the Leawood Chamber of Commerce are steps toward broadening engagement. The idea of creating a workshop on the history of the Israeli-Arab conflict for non-Jewish schools showcases an innovative approach to community education.

The Power of Community Response 

This collective response, from our local Kansas City community to the broader network of independent schools, exemplifies the strength that emerges when communities unite against fear and division. The actions of the Kansas City Independent School Heads Association, moving beyond expressions of concern to a tangible demonstration of support, added a profound layer to this narrative. It stands as a testament to the resilience of communities in the face of global threats, showcasing the enduring spirit of hope and unity even in the most challenging times.

I recognize that all communities are not the same, and what is possible here in Kansas may not be feasible in other communities. Nevertheless, these are the elements I believe lead to our success.

Relationships: Preexisting relationships with the local heads of school enabled me to call on them. They know me, my face, and my sense of humor. When I asked them to come, I was not a starter asking for a favor. I was a friend asking for support. 

Timing: I wrote to my colleagues on Thursday asking them to come on Friday. I din’t have a plan, but I had emotion and a sense of urgency. I recognized that the timing was tight and I couldn’t set up everything, but there was a real deadline in Hamas’s “Day of Rage” and I used that to my advantage, moving without regard for fear or failure. 

A clear, tangible, easy ask: By asking people to simply show up, I kept it simple. They didn’t have to write or prepare anything.

During this painful time in our history, the Jewish community has mobilized strong to support the State of Israel and each other. My experience has shown me that our schools can also engage with a wide range of contacts in our localities for support and solidarity. Such engagement helps to reaffirm our sense of our common humanity and reaffirm our feelings of acceptance and belonging in our country.