I hope that you and your families are safe and well at this difficult time. If you or any of your loved ones are ill, we wish you and them a Refuah Shleimah from Jerusalem.
As we prepare for the second Yom Tov in Israel, I wanted to send you a brief update about the four Schechter non-profits:
The Schechter Institute Graduate School has been running all of its M.A. and adult education courses online since right after Purim. After the first day of classes, a student named Gila wrote: “I have been in isolation for a few days and the situation is not simple. The classes at Schechter lit up my day. They made me forget what is going on in the world. Yesterday was simply amazing thanks to your courses. I know that it was not simple to organize distance learning so quickly. Kol hakavod! The smiles of the lecturers induce tremendous optimism and give inspiration.”
In a course on “Remembering and Forgetting in Jerusalem”, team-taught by Graduate School President Prof. Doron Bar and artist Hadassah Goldwicht, a student named Mili Ettinger — a video artist — took the attached photo, writing: “The picture is entirely spontaneous, and stemmed from an everyday situation which has become rare – to leave the house. I took, via the Mezuzah, something with me for the journey”.
The Schechter Rabbinical Seminary has been running all of its classes – Rabbinical School, Mishlei, Ashira and Torah Lishmah in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv – via Zoom. In addition, SRS Dean Rabbi Avi Novis Deutsch, Reb Mimi Feigelson and other teachers have added many additional Zoom lectures for the general public. A highlight was a live broadcast on Facebook of Rabbi Novis-Deutsch discussing the current crisis with a Reform rabbi and two Orthodox rabbis.
The TALI Education Fund cannot run its programs in the schools, which are closed, but the Halleli program for principals is going strong via Zoom — at the request of the principals; TALI has opened up a huge database of its materials which is being updated on a regular basis; and new textbooks are being written. The bestselling TALI Haggadah was made available online free of charge for the week of Pesah. In addition, incoming Scott and Susan Shay Director General Dr. Peri Sinclair is working closely with outgoing Director General Dr. Eitan Chikli, in order to ensure a smooth and effective transition.
Neve Schechter, our Tel Aviv campus, is temporarily closed, along with all synagogues and galleries, but Curator Shira Friedman has been leading virtual tours of the studios of some of the artists who have exhibited at the Schechter Gallery.
Midreshet Schechter’s adult-ed courses continue to operate all over the country via Zoom. Indeed, some homebound elderly who could not attend the physical classes now attend online.
Finally, Midreshet Yerushalayim led by Rabbi Irena Gritzevskaya in Israel and Rabbi Reuven Stamov in Ukraine have added a wide range of lectures, including multiple workshops to teach the Jews of Ukraine how to run their own Seders. As a result, many Ukrainian Jews ran their own Seder for the first time in their lives. I had the privilege of giving a lecture in Hebrew with simultaneous translation into Russian; 35 people watched on Zoom and 500 more via Facebook.
Needless to say, the current crisis has made fundraising more challenging, but with the help of God and our many generous supporters, we will get through this difficult period — together.
Beginning on April 19th, we will be offering an online lecture series via Zoom – “From Redemption to Revelation” — taught by the leaders of the Schechter non-profits. Each class will discuss one of the spring holidays. A notice will go out shortly.
I will conclude with one more story. On Erev Pesah, a WhatsApp was sent around Israel: At 8:30pm go out on your porch and sing Mah Nishtanah together with all your neighbors. So we did! It was amazing! We sang Mah Nishtanah together with dozens of neighbors, and at the end, we sang Am Yisrael Hai!