March 2020 - Corona - Keren Hayeled

With all of the uncertainty regarding the Coronavirus, we want to update you on what’s happening in Keren Hayeled, to assure you that we are doing everything possible to protect the children whose well-being is so important, and to give you a glimpse of how the crisis is affecting them and how you can help them get through it.

The children take a permitted small break outdoors. Note the plastic gloves (L).

Unlike schools that were closed, Keren Hayeled is open, and more than fully operational! In fact, once rumors spread that schools would be closed down, the children were really scared of what would happen to them. They knew they could not go home, nor did they want to. Many students actually pleaded that our boarding house is their home and that we must stay open! One student whose parents are divorced and whose already dysfunctional mother is currently sitting shiva literally broke down in tears, crying that if she and her sisters are turned out of Keren Hayeled, they will literally have nothing to eat at home and no one to take care of them!

Impromptu morning prayers at Keren Hayeled rather than at school.

But at Keren Hayeled, we have expended great effort and cost in order to remain fully staffed around the clock to provide material and emotional support for our children during this special time of need. The needs of such children are so important that our employees are considered essential workers who are permitted to work despite the state of emergency. Our staff arrives to care for our children despite leaving their own children at home from school, and despite increasing their chance of exposure by doing so. These devoted emissaries are nevertheless mobilized, connected, committed, loving, caring, and creative, and are working over-hours, even talking with the children till late at night to make sure they get through these difficult times as calmly and safely as possible.

Studying in small groups with a tutor throughout the premises, even in dorm rooms.

Of course, the crisis requires us to make special preparations and incur additional costs in order to remain fully supplied and prepared to safeguard our children’s health. We purchased large amounts of food and beverages as well as sanitizing materials and paper and plastic goods which need to be on location in case of emergency. In addition, we have arranged for a nurse to regularly brief the students on what becomes known of the virus, what precautions are needed, and how to maintain proper hygiene – all with an emphasis on maintaining calm. Additional resources have also been dedicated to regularly update and reassure parents that we are doing everything possible to keep their children healthy and happy.

Counselors lead creative activities to keep the students occupied and happy.

As part of the effort to help them through this period, we implemented an educational theme which we called “The Corona Campaign”. Since in Hebrew “corona” can be understood to mean “Hashem conducts the train”, the campaign conveys the idea that as the coronavirus steams forward through the world, we must remember that it is God who conducts the train. Thus, alongside being taught personal and communal responsibility through strict adherence to the health and safety rules, the children are also taught that ultimately everything is from God and every virus has an address. This reinforcement of faith in God’s providence and encouragement to strengthen their Yiddishkeit has been very comforting to the children.

Hashem (the Hebrew letter ‘Hey’) conducts the train (in Hebrew ‘coron’). He will protect us!

A major way the crisis has affected our children is through the cancellation of their schools, placing upon us the responsibility and expense to provide alternate studies and activities – not only after school hours, but also during the mornings. This burden is multiplied by the requirement to separate into groups, requiring even more staff.

For the morning hours when the children are “home” from school, we initiated the “Corona School”, i.e. – “God is the Conductor” School. We recruited teachers and assistants, and divided the boarding school into small groups based on age. We stress to the children the need to make the best of each situation in life. To not waste time, but rather to seize opportunities to grow and improve. In the absence of formal schooling, our goal is to advance the children as much as possible in both Jewish and secular studies such as Math, Science, and English. As an extra incentive for motivation and interest in Jewish studies, we announced a special quiz competition with prizes to be held before Pesach.

Dining hall turned classroom (L). Director Leah Davidowics visits special teacher and class hosted in her own office (R).

For the afternoon extracurricular program, we prepared an especially engaging program for the children wherein all events are done indoors, with interactive crafts, activities, and competitions. We also enlisted the specialization teachers to expand their activities and hours within the boarding school to accommodate the entire group, in smaller separate sessions.

Interactive arts and crafts to add happiness and color to the lives of our children.

In this way, for example, the drama teacher does activities to invigorate all the students. Similarly, the sewing group has been extended to all the other students, creating an important diversion from the crisis for all. And the athletic group’s activities are also accessible to all, which helps them relieve stress, raise morale, and maintain their physical and emotional health during this period when their movement is so restricted.

Dearest partner, you can be sure that since Keren Hayeled cannot and must not close its doors to these children who have nowhere else to go during this crisis, the extra costs of supplying the institution for their protection and staffing these programs for their stability are enormous! The children plead of you, and we implore, please contribute your utmost to Keren Hayeled at this difficult time, and in this merit, may God guard and protect you and your loves ones from all harm!

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