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Jewish Programming With A Virtual Spin

Updated: Sep 18, 2022

By Raphael Englander

School News Editor

We are living in an unprecedented time. Because of the coronavirus, students all over the world are no longer going to school, and instead had to adapt to online learning. This was especially problematic for our school during the third trimester. How did Jack Barrack Hebrew Academy continue to maintain its Jewish community if we could not see each other? Luckily, Barrack quickly created much virtual Jewish programming so that we could stay connected during this turbulent time.

Morning Minyan was still happening. Not only was it still available for Barrack students every day before class, but there were a myriad of choices. Students could attend Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox shacharit (morning prayer) options, dive deep into the parsha (weekly Torah portion), and write a rap about the Torah. There was also a women’s minyan and a class where discussions were held about moral dilemmas.

Not only was shacharit still going on, but there were also lots of other Jewish events that could bring our community closer together (virtually, of course). The online Kabbalat Shabbat (Friday evening prayer) and Havdalah (End of Sabbath prayer) services were two notable examples. Dylan Mandel ‘21 thought that the online Kabbalat Shabbat services “[were] an amazing way for students to stay connected while staying safe… and showed that even during the toughest times we can truly stick together as a kehillah.” Mathew Garber ‘21 said that “the online Havdalah always made me happy because I truly loved seeing families come together, dancing and singing.”

Before spring break, there were a multitude of different learning sessions. JBHA students could learn to cook tasty food, discuss philosophical questions, and learn Talmud, all through a computer screen. There were also fun events like the Walk to Israel Challenge, where members of the Barrack community logged how many miles they walked or ran in an attempt to “make it” to Israel. Many hope to see these learning sessions and challenges continue in the future.

There were also many amazing programs devised by the JBHA community to continue to remember the Holocaust and support Israel. The Holocaust Education and Reflection (HEAR) club put together a wonderful livestream for Yom HaShoah that the entire school could watch. The assembly included remarks from many of HEAR club’s members and readings of the juniors’ journals from their trip to the camps in Poland. The ceremony featured Mr. Peter Stern, a survivor of Ravensbrook and Bergen-Belson, as he shared his incredible story of survival and his advice to all of us.

The Barrack community also worked to remember the deaths of Israeli soldiers who died fighting for the Jewish homeland, and celebrated the 72nd birthday of the Land of Milk and Honey. Israel Club put together a touching Yom HaZikaron livestream that commemorated the sacrifices of IDF soldiers. The ceremony included emotional videos and interviews, beautiful poetry and singing, and the whole Barrack community stood in their homes for HaTikvah. A Yom HaAtzmaut ceremony occured a day later, where multiple JBHA students lit candles for Israel.

The fact that all of this Jewish programming was still happening illustrates that the students at the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy are determined to uphold our Jewish values and carry on these meaningful programs, whether it is shacharit, services, learning sessions, or assemblies. Although we may not be physically together, Barrack is still a community; we will get through this pandemic, and maintain our Jewish identity.


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