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This Dad and Rabbi Is Launching an Online Pluralistic Day School

This article is part of Back to School? a series on pandemic parenting and school reopenings, co-published by苹果beplayand the犹太通社.

The流行锁定was just weeks old when Jonah Rank first realized he wouldn’t be sending his daughter to kindergarten as planned.

Rank and his wife, both Conservative rabbis, moved from Nova Scotia to southeastern Pennsylvania a year ago, in part because they wanted to be able to send their children to a Jewish day school. But as冠状病毒pandemic hit the United States, the school — like nearly all others — closed temporarily.

Looking ahead, Rank concluded that because he and his wife work with many people who are immunocompromised, they would not want theirchildren in school直到疫苗可用。

In early May, he sent out a beacon to his thousands of Facebook friends.

“Are you worried about sending kids to school physically next year?” Rank wrote. “If you’re interested in Jewish education amidst all this, let’s talk; I’m building a network now.”

当时,排名可能听起来像一个悲观主义者:许多夏令营本来连been canceledyet. With the disease appearing to be in retreat in most places, the idea of an online fall semester seemed far-fetched.

But now, with the disease widespread and schools across the countryreopening online,排名看起来更像是一个预言家。他开始这一天的对话已经取得了一个在线的犹太小学计划的轮廓:耶索德, or “foundation” in Hebrew.

排名仍然是熨平各地耶索德的细节,这将是非教派,并从学前班到五年级运行。但他已采取措施将合法非盈利,召集11名董事会成员制定一个计划,他认为作为一个结构化的,支持的,而且,最重要的是,社会的方法ios下载beplay以在家自学. He’s also put out a call for teachers, for Jewish and secular studies.

虽然注册不会开了几个星期,排名说,数百名家长表示有兴趣。他预计,学生身体人数约为50 - 包括他的女儿,谁否则将不得不锻炼远程教学option for a day school that plans to hold classes in person.

“Knowing that we would not have our local day school quite be an option unless we were to have our eldest be possibly the only kid on a computer, which sounded like a terrible idea, I knew I had to do something,” Rank said.

耶索德represents one of countless efforts by enterprising parents trying to manage uncertainty around schooling that would have been unimaginable just six months ago. Driven by safety and financial concerns, some parents with means are forming micro-schools or“pandemic pods,”small groups of children learning together in private homes, sometimes with privately hired teachers. Others are exploring在家自学,第一次.

Many others are gritting their teeth and hoping for the best at public or Jewish day schools that are either seeking to open与注意事项,往往在一个有限的进度,或计划只在网上操作。


Until now, the only virtual school options for non-Orthodox students have been supplemental, not meant to supplant school enrollment. While Rank does not envision the one he is launching as a replacement for the traditional day school, the longer流感大流行穿着上,越有可能这可能是因为父母的经验上升空间,以帮助自己的孩子从事社区学习在线 - 特别是当它与最多$ 10,000相对较低的价格标签。

Paul Bernstein, the CEO of Prizmah: Center for Jewish Day Schools, which works with more than 300 day schools and yeshivas across North America, says he is encouraged by innovation happening aroundvirtual instruction在犹太人的教育环境。但他表示,虚拟专用的指令可以在许多方面功亏一篑,包括不能够为儿童提供社会或在人的人能以同样的方式创建一个社区。

“我拥抱创新,我只是鼓励那些提供的教育,也是家庭choosing education要真正考虑学者,社会,情感,和社区,学校代表的充分混合,”伯恩斯坦说。“此刻,我认为最好的模式是一所学校,因为我们现在知道,有物理和在线的混合。”

Most Jewish day schools are hoping to open for at least some in-person instruction in the fall, Bernstein said. But they know that could easily change.

“Everyone is planning for ideally being in person, being ready to在线either at the beginning or at certain points in the year, [and] even if you’re in person you need to be prepared for the fact that some of the faculty and some of the students may not be able to be themselves in person,” he said.



学生在耶索德一个典型的一天将是这个样子:学校将在上午09时50分东部时间开始,当学生将加入他们的队列 - 别人在他们的等级,也许另一个 - 与老师有30分钟的课。

They will then spend an hour in a “beit midrash”-style Zoom with students of all ages working on assignments they received in their lesson. Teachers will be available to provide assistance, and students can join smaller breakout rooms to work together with others in their grade.


Rank and the board members consulted a number of curricula when developing the plan for Yesod. They include standards for Jewish learning developed by Mechon Hadar, an egalitarian yeshiva in New York, and Beit Rabban, a day school in New York, as well as secular standards.

大部分的世俗subjects will have children examining their own homes and communities in a pedagogical approach that asks students to draw on their own experiences as they construct knowledge.


Designing the curriculum has come with a set of challenges, said Hannah Hofrichter, a Houston-based board member who works as a private tutor both in Jewish and secular subjects. The challenges include having to design a curriculum that will be taught completely online as well as having to do so prior to having an enrolled student body.


Rank will soon be hiring four teachers and four instructors who can provide guidance during the beit midrash portion of the day (some of the roles could potentially overlap, he said). But the rabbi says he is not planning to be part of the staff in the fall. Instead, Rank will continue to run the religious school at Kehilat HaNahar, a Reconstructionist congregation in the Pennsylvania town of New Hope. That, too, will be completely virtual.

One significant difference between Yesod and a traditional day school is the tuition. Yesod will operate on a sliding scale model with the full recommended tuition at $10,000 per child per year, less than half the average cost of $22,910, according toPrizmah’s 2020 report.


Those who cannot afford the recommended price will be able to pay less as well as receive financial aid. There will also be an option for parents to pay significantly less to just receive the curriculum and assignments and teach children on their own or participate in just some of the daily sessions.



最初,排计划Yesod只运行for the upcoming academic year. But he says it may run longer depending on how the pandemic develops.

“As I’m learning that it’s likely that vaccines might not even be a full solution, at least the first vaccines that will come out, I wouldn’t be surprised if the coronavirus is going to change life for the next four years, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Yesod lasts at least four more years,” he said.

But does he see Yesod outliving the pandemic?

“It would be lovely to learn that it’s such a powerful experience for the students to be in the particular [cohorts] that they will be learning in that they will want to stay learning peers with the kids that they meet through Yesod, and it will be lovely if kids really adapt to learning online very well and responsibly,” Rank said.


这篇文章最初出现在JTA. Header image by Grace Yagel.

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