The Plan B for Opening Yeshivos in September


    By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for

    No one really knows what is in store for the coming school year. Will schools be able to fully re-open?  Can you get COVID-10 twice?  Will there be a vaccine or a strong treatment?

    And is there a Plan B?  Is social distancing feasible?  How will the classrooms be able to fit the students?

    And while Zoom classes, generally speaking, are working far better than what was originally thought –  an unspoken elephant in the room is that the weaker students are suffering greatly and not really learning.  The long-term repercussions of this can be devastating.

    Often, students can be divided into 3 categories: 1] Those that get the new material right away 2] Those that take up to a week to get the new material 3] Those that take longer than a week to get it – if at all.

    Category 2 and 3 children – can, generally, be caught up either by very dedicated parents or capable tutors. All this was before COVID-19.  The educational devastation that this pandemic brought on – has affected these children even more.  Thus, the need to open up in September is most acute.

    A Rosh Yeshiva once asked Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita for a bracha that he should merit to have good and outstanding students enrolled in his Yeshiva.  Rav Chaim responded, “The Tafkid of a Yeshiva is not that at all.  The tafkid of a yeshiva is to take weak students and make them good students.”  [Minchas Todah page 107.]

    The Alter of Slabodka, Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel, once asked Rav Yisroel Salanter for advice: “I wish to establish a Yeshiva that can produce true Gedolei Torah- what should be my tafkid in going about doing this?”  Rav Yisroel responded, “Your tafkid is to fulfill what the Navi says (Yishayahu 57:15), “lehachayos ruach shefalim ulehachayos laiv nidkaim – to revive the spirit of the humble and to revive the heart of the crushed.” [Zichron HaMeir p. 321].

    We cannot ignore the needs of the Category 2 and Category 3 children.  Ask around.  The reality is that we have not been prioritizing these two groups of students.


    The largest problem is that there is limited room in our schools to facilitate proper social distancing.  One idea that is floating around is to divide the student body in half and institute a Yom Aleph/Yom Bais program – where half the students physically attend school on even numbered days of the month and half physically attend schools on odd-numbered days.  The days that they are not physically in school – they will Zoom the other days.

    The problem with this is – who will cover the Zoom days?  The Rebbe, Morah or teacher cannot teach both at the same time.  There are a number of possibilities to address this:

    • The Rebbeim and secular teachers can be employed full-time instead of half time – and they can Zoom in the afternoons, for the half of the student body that is home every other day.
    • An assistant can be hired to help in the Zoom instruction and the Rebbe or Morah will oversee the specific tasks that the assistant will perform.
    • A technological solution can be employed where a video camera will be directed toward the teacher which will move around – the very expensive HuddleCam HD is one option and there are probably more economical options as well. Although $3000 is expensive – if it will do the trick it might be a far more economical option than the other alternatives.
    • One teacher suggested implementing a form of chevrusah learning or catching up where the class is divided up into 2 or 3 teams and the Yom Alef kids of each team call the Yom Bais kids of that team and make sure that they know the material. The teams will be divided equally and the Rebbe or Morah would prepare packets to help in the after-hours “tutoring.”  The winning team receives motivational prizes.

    Regardless of which option is chosen, it might be a good idea for the general curriculums of each teacher to be re-tooled or tweaked in order to maximize real learning in the new reality.  Of course, we all hope that the Corona virus will go away, but just in case, we really need to think of a viable Plan B.

    Rav Shmuel Vozner zatzal once remarked on the pasuk in Daniel (12:3), “Umatzdikei HaRabim k’kochavim l’olam vo’ed” – “Why does the Pasuk make this statement about the Mechanchim – those that teach our children – that they are likened to the stars forever on?  Because the tzidkus – the righteousness of our nation – is placed in their hands.  It is these Rebbeim and Moros who form and shape the yorei shamayim and the future tzaddikim and nashim tzidkanios of Klal Yisroel.”

    The Plan B for the coming school year in case, chalilah, Corona does not go away by then – should be one of our highest priorities.


    The author can be reached at [email protected]

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    1. If this gezeira of no yeshiva does not warrant a yom taanis – what does?
      The klal & yochid cannot have 4 more months of semi-shimum
      rebbes & moros are trying very hard , and our newspapers can put cute pics of “distant learning” that’s exactly what it is ” distant from real school.” There are many ramifications & side effects and although to some extent we are getting used to the new normal- it’s totally not.
      Most of the frum community is ready to open up … the question is what avenue of shtadlanus has a chance of working with the current governor – if any.

      • Quite the opposite. A taanis is absolutely wrong when weakening the body increases susceptibility to disease. Erev Pesach, numerous rabbanim paskened that no one should fast: any bechor who could not attend a siyum was to redeem the fast with tzedakah to cover the cost of the meals.

        Conditions today are not a “new normal,” but a stage. We just experienced fundamental changes in the world in the course of one month. Going forward, I expect these changes to occur repeatedly. Hashem told us that the “old normal” was unacceptable. Let’s see what May brings.

    2. rabbi hoffman i am suprised at u that u even r talking about ZOOM its part of klei hashchsa: EDITOR: There are completely kosher zoom devices without any internet access. Many mosdos are using them under the guidance of leading Gedolim

    3. How about this, lets the yeshivas work this out by themselves with guidance of the State Departments of health in whatever state they reside in. A real novel concept,

    4. Whatever!
      The fact that Yeshivas,Talmud Torahs,Kollellim,Shulls etc are all on a lock down is one of the biggest tragedies now. The existence of Klal Yisroel depends only on this.

      We all know that Venishmartem Meod Lenafshtechem comes before everything. But how interesting that liqueur and hardware stores etc which Cuomo decided that it is “essential” everyone understands but when it comes to Rochnies (spiritual Judaism) we don think as essential.

      We must stand up raising our voices that Yeshivos, schools etc and all of Rochnies is as essential as anything else. If business can go back to normal so can we Yidden

    5. We will go back Iyh asap to open up all Yeshivos and Shulls. We will fight this liberal Cuomo tooth and nail. His orders will probably not hold up in court.

    6. WE need to rally, build support and advocate for ways that chsools can open.

      At minimum kids under ten need it. They cannot learn at home. Its impossible. Early education is so important for a child’s development. How can you you wreck millions of kids lives for this? This is skills that you can never replenish. (Thats why De Blassio started PreK.) Little children cannot follow lessons remotely with out in an in -person feel

      Furthermore, parents cannot work nor function well. Kids will starve to death and become homeless. And the danger of no structure if CVS a kid is hit by a car bec parents can’t balance it all and watch them 24/7, is very scary.

      Now lets analyze the risks,
      1) Do kids get it as much as adults? It looks like they get it less
      2) Are kids hospitalized if they get it? So far one or two stories within our community is all I heard.
      3) Do kids transfer the disease? Some studies say no
      4) The curve is down for a month already.
      5) Many of us got it already. 75%. ((Based on a nurses tests and this based on an inofrmal survey of asking around who had fever before pesach?)
      6) There are enough tests. A few weeks ago, I tried getting a test and was told no there aren’t enough. Now anyone who wnats can get it. Over the next few weeks there will be so many tests produced (and the curve down so far fewer test takers) that they will have ample reserves by sept
      7) this one is most important. ONLY THOSE UNDER 55 would be allowed into schools. prieciplas can still work remotely or in a desantized office with glass windows. Please go and tsudy the mortality rate for those in this age group and corona. I’d be willing to take that risk. Its like .00001% of getting both covid and dying.

      The risk is so low while the need is enormous. the repercussions from not reopening would be so harmful. Kall yisroel need to rally around whatever we can, political clout, etc.. and demand an end to this madness now. The world has gone insane. Enough is enough. Stop punshing and depriving our kids. Are we crazy? Where are our people withs echel. Now is the time when we still have ample time to make sure and demand a reopening of schools. Stop this madness now

      • Lets make a committee, Educated Archy, Rabbi Hoffman and Dr. D , I am sure the corona will come to a complete stop, then they will solve middle east peace


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