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Dear friends,

Still processing the recent deaths of Penn students over the past weeks, I want to reach out and “huddle up” with you.

As Melanie Wolff wrote in her DP reflection, loss “create[s] a ripple effect” — and it’s so absolutely important that each of us is sensitive to how these ripples might lap against the shores of our own hearts. Even if we didn’t know these students personally, we shared the streets they walked on, the classrooms they sat in and the hopes and concerns we all have in common. In times like this, we have all lost, and we all grieve.

It goes without saying that these are not days for stoicism. Even if we were never taught to share what’s going on inside nor encouraged to earnestly ask the well-being of our friends, we must, nevertheless, courageously do so. Check in with three of your peers — see what they’re thinking about — and share what’s going on for you. It’s a small gesture with huge potential.

And one final thought.

Our life, the beating of the heart, the joy of friendship, the peace of well-being — these are the most precious gifts. Nothing is more important than them. No exam, no recruitment, no rush, no anything is more important.

There is no celebrating a culture of exhaustion and stress. And if you feel like you are being forced to compromise the ultimate value of health and well-being — whether physical or emotional or spiritual — you have an obligation to say “No.” And if you can’t do that alone, then please, please seek counsel and help.

May the Spirit of Consolation send comfort to the families and friends of those we have lost, and peace to each of us.

Rabbi Josh

Rabbi Joshua Bolton is a senior Jewish educator for the Jewish Renaissance Project and Penn Hillel. He can be reached at

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