Tami Weiser, Head of School, Wise School

Tami has been at Wise School since 2010. She has a rich background of educational experiences, including serving as the Head of School at Heschel West Day School and Principal of Palisades Elementary Charter School. Mrs. Weiser worked in the Los Angeles Unified School District for 22 years as a classroom teacher, magnet coordinator, assistant principal, Annenberg Grant coordinator, and principal of a highly gifted magnet.

You Must Not Change, You Must Surely Change: Celebrating Yom HaAtzma’ut Now


At the recent Prizmah Head of School Retreat, we had a powerful session from M2 titled “From Grief to Growth: Rethinking Yom HaZikaron and Yom HaAtzma’ut Post October 7.” The presentation started with the facilitators asking us to stand up if:

  • You have been to Israel since October 7.
  • You wake up and check the news and social media every day.
  • You have adopted some new kind of practice or custom since October 7.
  • You are an Israeli citizen.
  • You lived in Israel for a year.
  • You know someone personally who has been injured, killed, is a hostage.
  • You have close family (children, parents) living in Israel.

It was not a surprise and very validating to see how many people stood for these prompts. This set the stage for a valuable conversation on how our schools can and must prepare for the upcoming “Yoms.” We heard the important message from Yehuda Amichai’s poem: “You must not change, you must surely change.”

The discussion at the conference was around the question, ”What is the big story we want to tell with these holidays?”  The areas we focused on, with conversation and text study, were:

  • Peoplehood
  • Pride
  • Memory
  • Gratitude
  • Resilience
  • Sacrifice
  • Community

We tried to complete the sentences:

  • As opposed to last year, our Yom HaZikaron/Yom HaAtzma’ut program this year is an opportunity to…
  • As a result, our students will feel/know/do…
  • And so we are going to…

At Wise School, a Reform day school at Stephen Wise Temple in Los Angeles, our fourth grade students have the honor and responsibility each year of presenting Yom HaAtzma’ut to our school community. It is always a highlight of our year. The driveway leading up to campus is filled with Israeli flags, we have a shuk during recess, each class enjoys Israeli food, the students dress in blue and white or shirts from Israel, there is dancing and joy throughout the day. We intend to keep much of these beloved traditions intact.

At the same time, as we focused on the questions of how this day should look this year, we realized our script would have to be different. We have to acknowledge the personal impact the war in Israel has had on the families and staff in our school. We need to think about the 17 Israeli students who joined our classes in October and left us in December. We need to think about our shinshin from Israel, Eran, who is a part of our community this year.

And so, our director of Hebrew/Judaic studies worked with her colleagues to rewrite this program. They included the history of Israel with lessons on Theodore Herzl, the audio recording of the vote of the UN on November 29, 1947, and an audio recording of David Ben-Gurion announcing the formation of the State of Israel. There is a section on the immigrants to Israel through Operation Magic Carpet and Operation Ezra and Nehemiah, which showcased the diverse community that added to the colorful fabric of Israeli culture—and the students will dance to “Im Nin’alu.”

The program continues with a celebration of Tzahal and resilience. Since October 7, we have embraced the phrase “Beyachad nenatzeach, chazak ve-ematz—Together we will win, let us be strong!” From this section, we transition to a celebration of the past six years of shlichim that we have welcomed, many who are now in the army, and a special video from Israel of one of our past shaliachs with his younger sister who will be our shinshin next year.

It is at this point that we have a significant change in our program. Rabbi Yoshi Zweiback, senior rabbi at Stephen Wise, wrote a song for the hostages called “We Are With You.” It is a beautiful piece saying “Acheinu, our brothers; achoteinu, our sisters, wherever you are, whatever we must do, we are always, always there with you.” As a school we had to make the decision of whether our students were developmentally ready to sing this song. We decided they must be, and they are. And our community needs to hear this message.

While Wise School made the difficult choice of not sending our sixth grade delegation to Israel this year, we end our program with the words Leshanah haba’ah biYerushalayim, Next year in Jerusalem.” It is our fervent hope that these are not just words from our Haggadah, not just words from our Yom HaAtzma’ut assembly, but words that become a reality. We look forward to standing together at the Kotel to put our personal and communal prayers in the wall.

Am Yisrael Chai!