What ‘Back to School’ Looks Like In 2020

In communities around the world, educational frameworks opened this month with in-person, online, and hybrid learning models. Read how Federation overseas partners invested time and thought into planning quality educational opportunities while remaining compliant with Covid-19 precautions. 


The Jewish Agency for Israel


Despite travel restrictions, The Jewish Agency will be sending out approximately 200 new Shlichim (Israeli emissaries), including 100 ShinShinim to Jewish communities around the globe. Shlichim and ShinShinim will abide by local coronavirus safety guidelines as they serve the communities and reside within them.


In the former Soviet Union, Jewish family learning programs continue to take place in-person where possible, while those that are unable to meet face-to-face will be moving to online.


In Israel, all of the Jewish Agency’s Mechinot (pre-army academies) began at the end of August/beginning of September, with young adults from every facet of Israeli society. This year boasts a record number of participants and all of the Mechinot are completely full! The Mechinot are operating according to strict guidelines, dividing all lectures, studies, meals, and trips into two separate groups, keeping strict distancing and ensuring masks are worn at all times. 


Youth Futures
A recent study of Youth Future's families emphasized the vital importance of the program’s Mentors. Youth Future’s Mentors, a key component to the success of the program, are adapting their work with children and families  and are receiving specialized training. 


Absorption Centers
The Jewish Agency’s  has opened  supervised "study centers" in each absorption center to support and enable children to join their online classes with a teacher physically present to help with technical difficulties and ensure active participation. The teacher also provides the children with face-to-face Hebrew lessons and assists them with their homework assignments. 


World ORT


The majority of ORT schools re-opened their doors to students, staff having planned over the summer how best to serve them in every scenario. Most schools have shown great resource to plan and implement hybrid systems,  of in person and virtual studies. World ORT schools across the globe in France, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria, Russia, Ukraine, Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Panama, Columbia, Singapore and South Africa (to name just a few…!) are working within the regulations and restrictions of the home countries. This means some schools are fully open for in-person learning, some are operating in hybrid models, and others remain closed pending the rate of infection in the specific locale. 


World ORT is proud that in a traditional annual event to formally open Israel’s new academic year, Education Minister Yoav Galant chose to visit the ORT high school at Kfar Silver in recognition of its academic excellence.




Youth Villages
JDC continues to work together with Israel’s Ministry of Education to optimize social mobility for Israel's most vulnerable and promote equity for all children in Israeli society, especially during this time of protracted distance learning. Among the various JDC field programs, 360 students returned to their youth villages before settling back into their "Youth Village Venture" program's business initiatives. In the rural Negev, some 70% of Bedouin students, escorted by parents, registered for the opening of school. JDC continues to actively work with hundreds of Negev officials and leaders to upgrade distance learning options. 


In Belarus, the Minsk Volunteer Community launched an online campaign to collect much-needed goods for school children. Within two weeks they collected enough school supplies to pack 30 sets for the first-graders from Jewish Family Service clients of Minsk Hesed, many of whom struggle with financial difficulties due to the pandemic, are single parents, or are bringing up children with disabilities. 



While the Coronavirus pandemic has hindered many in-person experiences to connect the global Jewish people, it has also provided opportunities to strengthen Jewish communities and continue educational programming in new enriching and valuable ways. The Jewish Agency for Israel, JDC, and World ORT remain committed to continuing to create impactful experiences and changing lives.