When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools nationwide to suddenly close their doors, the entire Chinuch community met the crisis head on with a surge of adrenaline.
The urgent challenge mobilized our community like never before to address the immediate educational needs of our children. Teachers and principals across the spectrum of Chabad Chinuch collaborated to create new opportunities for learning. Parents were moved to take on radical responsibility for their own children’s Chinuch in a way that we have not seen in generations.
It seems fitting that this dramatic shift took place during preparations for Pesach, as parents very literally took on the Pesach Seder’s fundamental mitzvah of “V’higad’ta Livincha” – you shall tell your children. This mitzvah, at its core, is the transmission of our values to the next generation. Like never before, parents and teachers worked together to fulfill this mission, by planning and implementing innovative ways to keep their children learning.
As our community adjusts to this new reality, the tone has started to shift, with discussions of reopening non-essential organizations and businesses and getting back to “normal”.
But how do we simply revert to our former “normal” school system?
We have seen extraordinary efforts in the world of Chinuch – how to reach every child in every home; how to engage students even through distance learning; joining forces with parents on key educational goals; and bringing an active and energized community together for the singular goal of maintaining Torah-true education.
If we do not consciously harness this energy to expand these critical efforts when we return to physical classrooms, it would be a missed opportunity.
We now find ourselves celebrating Pesach Sheini. In the words of the Frierdiker Rebbe, Pesach Sheini means that “עס איז ניטא קיין “פארפאלען”, it is never too late.
Perhaps these school closures and forced innovation represent OUR second chance to create a Chinuch system that does reach every single child. One where we are always concerned about student engagement, and parents are our consistent and equal partners in meeting educational goals. It is now that we must challenge ourselves by tackling forward-thinking questions. How do we retain this passion for Jewish education and this same sense of urgency to educate every precious child in our care at the highest level?
When the external barriers to education started to close in on us, parents and educators alike sounded the alarm, looking to innovative solutions like technology and new formats of learning to be there for our children. As a community, we need to now look at other, internal barriers to education to discover what innovations may be needed. How many more children can we reach, and how can we reach them more effectively? How do we fulfill the mitzvah of “V’higad’ta Livincha”, of educating our children, not just during a pandemic, but on every day of the year?
This crisis has forced our schools to close their doors. When the day comes for us to reopen them, אי”ה very soon, let us throw those doors open wide to EVERY child who deserves the highest quality Chinuch we have to offer.
This Pesach Sheini, let us harness this opportunity for change and growth. Let us redouble our commitment to creating a greater, more inclusive, more successful Chinuch system than ever before.
May our efforts in this regard bring about a trueYetzias Mitzrayim, with the coming of Moshiach.
Rabbi Zalman Shneur
Rabbi Zalman Shneur is Founder and Executive Director of the Menachem Education Foundation. Since the outbreak of Covid-19, Rabbi Shneur has been working tirelessly to coordinate and support the efforts of Mechanchim and Mechanchos to maintain high quality Chinuch for all children.