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Online distant learning & not-so-distant-learning

As we know, Pesach this year was difficult for almost every Jewish family around the world, and as a resident of Italy where the coronavirus hit particularly hard, my Pesach was challenging, stressful and, at times, even tearful. However, while my home sedarim with my husband and children were very pleasant, the online mock-seder that I organized for the day before Pesach was particularly special.

Five years ago, I founded Zehud — the online not-for-profit Jewish supplementary school for Jewish children in Europe. Though initially established to meet the needs of my own children, Zehud has grown rapidly and it now has students in six different European countries learning Ivrit and Jewish values online in small classes in Hebrew.

As you can imagine, running such a school has its own logistical challenges. However, there is something so truly magnificent whenever I see our students from different parts of the world coming together in virtual classrooms to learn about their heritage and to learn about each other.

But beyond the specific classes, Zehud endeavors to create special events that bring together our entire student population, and this is why, the day before Pesach, all our students came together from all across Europe came together to sing Pesach songs and learn about the Pesach holiday.

In this mock seder were children aged 3-13 from a huge range of religious and cultural backgrounds. Some spoke German as their first language. Others Italian. Others Croatian. Others Spanish. And others English. Yet when singing the Pesach songs together, those differences all melted away.

Online learning is often referred to as “distance” learning. But from our experience at Zehud, online learning provides the opportunity to bridge distances — i.e., geographic distances, cultural distances, and religious distances — through learning, and while such distances are bridged during each of our online classes, this was particularly evident during our online seder.

Corona has taught us many things, and of its many lessons is how technology allows us to connect with people beyond our borders. Zehud has been doing this before Corona, and will be doing so afterwards too. If you are interested in registering your child for the next academic year, please take a look at www.school.zehud.com

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