The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East

Eastside

The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East

Eastside

The School Newspaper of Cherry Hill High School East

Eastside

Fostering Unity Amidst the Gaza-Israel Conflict: Cherry Hill East’s Response to School Tensions

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Lindsay Krieger (’24)
Students declare “Hate Has No Home” at Cherry Hill High School East.

Thursday and Friday last week witnessed students continuing to wrestle with the complex issues arising from the ongoing Gaza-Israel conflict, compounding what has been a very difficult school week for many students at Cherry Hill High School East this year. Following a series of meaningful collaborations between student leaders and members of the Jewish Student Union (JSU), Muslim Student Association (MSA), and Middle Eastern North African Club (MENA), however, feelings of apprehension and division seem to have, for the most part, dissipated.

Members from the three clubs met during lunchtime on Thursday to participate in an open conversation, hosted by Dr. Perry, to candidly express their experiences and emotions regarding recent events at East. The conversation, which Dr. Perry emphasized was aimed at fostering unity and addressing the concerning rise in division within the school, was attended by two Jewish community leaders and two Muslim community leaders, who helped further enrich the dialogue.

The meeting maintained a mostly civil atmosphere, with students willingly sharing their experiences and emotions related to the recent surge in islamophobia and antisemitism within the school. At the heart of the conversation was a unanimous agreement among the attendees that hate has no place at Cherry Hill East. Nevertheless, in an unfortunate turn of events, just a few hundred feet away during these discussions, a verbal fight erupted between Jewish and Muslim students, starkly contrasting the unity being passionately discussed in the room.

The unsettling confrontation, which has garnered coverage by Fox 29 Philadelphia News and social media outlets, was officially characterized in a recent district email as a “heated exchange” among students. Eastside has conducted a review of four distinct video recordings of the incident, revealing that it included the participation of at least ten students. While the confrontation did not appear to escalate to physical violence, those involved encroached into one another’s personal space.

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The confrontation overshadowed the ongoing discussions between the MSA, JSU, and MENA only for a brief moment, however. The students regrouped and later that evening issued a statement sent out by Dr. Perry, emphasizing the importance of “fostering empathy, tolerance, and peace within the diverse school community.” By that time, unfortunately, the statement proved ineffective in assuaging parents’ anxieties about student safety, especially after videos of the confrontation had widely circled around on social media platforms. Many parents ultimately chose not to send their children to school on Friday, which was also declared a global “Day of Jihad” by a former Hamas official, according to NBC News.

“I watched the fight occur, and it made me worried about what might happen at school. Actions can speak louder than words. I just didn’t know if I would feel safe going to school that day,” Jeremy Raden (‘24), who chose to stay home this past Friday, told Eastside.

Dr. Perry hosted special assemblies on Friday, which included all students, to discuss recent events within the school. He informed students of the need to come together and also avoid spreading misinformation on social media. He also discussed the impact of recent events on the school’s image and its potential effects on creating concerns for parents about school safety.

“The assembly [I attended] had a lot about how this week has affected… the public perception of the school, not just the students,” Jesse Sklar (‘24) told Eastside. “Some blame was placed on student behavior, but this week was also a product of some poor administrative actions… which is something the administration at the assembly should have acknowledged and apologized for.”

Many students share the belief that this past school week presented a unique opportunity for students to learn how to come together and set aside their differences. However, some students argue that the response from the administration was marred by a lack of urgency.

“The administration could have held an assembly on Monday, or Tuesday, or even Wednesday,” Aaron Mirowitz (‘26) told Eastside. “Instead, they chose to wait till Friday. By then, many students, like myself, were feeling unwelcome and unsafe in the school… It took a fight during lunch for them to finally do something.”

Ronak Pathak (‘26), President of the Class of 2026, agrees with Mirowitz. “An earlier assembly and more communication from the administration may have prevented more eruptions and conflict within the school. The East community should comfort and support all of those that are affected right away, when issues arise,” he added.

Ultimately, it was the tireless efforts of the JSU, MSA, and MENA, who, to a certain extent, received support from the administration, that took charge of addressing the situation and emerged as leaders at the end of this challenging week. Their initiatives outshone the administrative response, and they produced a powerful video proclaiming that “East has no place for hate,” in addition to their joint-statement. The video, distributed by the school on Friday, has garnered over 12,000 views on both Instagram and YouTube.

“The video demonstrated that despite any perceived differences we may have, the connection between the Jewish Student Union, Muslim Student Association, and all the culture groups at East is strong,” said Kyle Lehrfeld (‘24), who participated in creating the video and serves as the Region President of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, a Jewish youth group with more than 500 members in South Jersey. “Although political consensus may never be achieved, I feel confident in saying that the video offers some positive resolve to the past week’s events. Keeping the peace here at East is the most important thing.”

“I hope that everyone watches the video and takes something away from it,” Affan Rahman, Co-President of the MSA, told Eastside. “The video is more than an announcement… it is a demonstration of connection and bringing people together.”

As Lehrfeld and Rahman expressed, the video showcased the ability of students to come together, driven by the shared desire to learn and connect, rather than being torn apart by the Gaza-Israel conflict occurring thousands of miles away. The video serves as a poignant reminder that, despite political divisions, students can agree to bridge differences for a common purpose: calling out hate and disunity.

Yet, it’s essential for the East administration to continue to remain vigilant. The issues that surfaced this week could potentially resurface, if provoked. To maintain the “no place for hate” sentiment, the administration needs to further its commitment to acting promptly in response to issues and work to foster additional future meetings between cultural groups. The events at Cherry Hill East should also remind all of us of the importance of promoting unity and ensuring that every student feels welcome and safe in their school environment.

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About the Contributor
Asher Boiskin, Eastside Online Editor-In-Chief
Asher Boiskin is a senior and one of Eastside’s Online Editors-in-Chief. He loves participating in Model United Nations conferences, reading nonfiction, watching Netflix, and competing in trivia competitions. Outside of Eastside, Asher serves as President of the History Club and school-wide Vice President.

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