Most Israeli students are currently attending classes virtually – but many teachers and staff members have been called up for reserve duty, leaving a huge void in the country’s education system.
Nike Silberstein, an Upper West Sider and Israeli-American with an extensive background in education, stepped up to help fill this void as soon as news of the Hamas terror attacks hit the airwaves.
“I am putting together an emergency online school for Israeli kids,” Silberstein wrote to her network on Sunday, October 8. “The school system in Israel is closed for at least the next 48 hours. Teachers in Israel have their own worries and cannot focus. We need to step up now and help engage children’s minds and hearts. We need to alleviate even a tad of stress parents are dealing with by helping them in the ways we can with child care and engagement. Our online school will start tomorrow. It is called “Sha’agat Arieh,” the Lion’s Roar. Links will be distributed to schools all over Israel. I need Hebrew Speaking teachers or people who can teach in all subjects.”
Since announcing this program, Silberstein has recruited educators from South Africa, Australia, Singapore, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, the U.K., Canada and the U.S. – including several from NYC schools.
There are lessons for students from Pre-K through high school, with a curriculum including everything from math to yoga to comic-making and music appreciation. The schedule of classes is currently being organized through a shared Google Doc.
Silberstein – whose resume includes teaching in Israel and working for the Board of Jewish Education in New York (now the Jewish Education Project) – tells us that while it’s crucial that kids continue to learn, it’s just as important that they have a sense of community and togetherness during this difficult time. She launched her initiative to offer Israeli students a “way to connect, distract and stimulate.”
While the schedule is filled with classes, everything is a bit tentative given the current state of things.
“I’m so proud to be part of this group of teachers and givers!” said teacher Maya Koenig. “I taught a bit of art this week and ended up with one family I really connected with. The boy is 6 years old and he’s just so articulate and kinda stoic and pretty analytical, so he was describing that he’ll have to leave if there’s a siren. He was embarrassed to share his dad is in the army but he mainly wanted me to talk in English so he could practice. When I told him my favorite color was green he then asked ‘green like autumn or green like summer?’ I was speechless.”
“I offered an English reading class,” said another volunteer teacher. “As the week went on this class became young English speakers who told their friends. Today I had six students and each parent thanked me, practically with tears in their eyes, for doing this. Such gratefulness. I’m sure many of us are feeling like we need to do something. I wasn’t sure what skill/superpower of mine could be beneficial or contribute in any meaningful way given the circumstances. Hearing the ‘thank-yous’ helped me understand how important this is as part of the war effort.”
If you’re interested in learning more, please contact Nike at email@example.com.