Hebrew College’s response to coronavirus

Learning Together from a Distance

As colleges and universities across the country braced for the impact of remote learning, we found our faculty and staff, ready, willing, and able to make the shift. Here’s what we did…

Watch “A Time to Mourn: Grieving Together In the Time of COVID”

On July 9, we paused to mourn those lost during the COVID pandemic thus far. We chose the 17 of Tammuz, Shivah Asar B’Tammuz for the event because this date is already a day of mourning in our tradition. The event video is available on demand.

timetomourn-sponsorsSpecial thanks to all our partners and sponsors: 2Life Communities, Combined Jewish Philanthropies. , Community Hevra Kadisha, Hadassah, Hebrew SeniorLife, JCC Greater Boston, JCAM, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Boston, Jewish War Veterans of the USA Foundation, Kerem Shalom, Massachusetts Board of Rabbis, SC Memorial Group, Slotnick & Cantor Monuments, Temple Beth Zion Brookline MA, and Temple Emunah Lexington.

We also encourage you to visit the JTA’s “Bonds of Life” website, which mourns members of the Jewish community from throughout the country, including Greater Boston, who have passed away during the coronavirus pandemic.

Torah for this moment

speaking torah logo

On Hebrew College’s Speaking Torah podcast, Jewish leaders from around the world read essays from Hebrew College faculty and rabbinical alumni about how Torah can help us navigate the most pressing issues of our time. After listening to the podcast, we hope that you will be left feeling inspired, uplifted, and excited to engage with Torah in a modern, transformative way.

Listen Now on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.

>> Read more Torah here

PsalmSeason Project

In response to the unfolding global pandemic and upheaval over racial injustice, on June 8, 2020 The Miller Center and Interfaith Youth Core launched a new digital initiative on the Book of Psalms entitled PsalmSeason: An Online Encounter with the Wisdom of the Psalms. The multifaceted project seeks to provide people with a creative context in which to explore their swirling thoughts and feelings through the prism of this ancient and beloved collection of prayer-poems.

The project began with an online  PsalmSeason Concert on June 8, followed by the launch of the PsalmSeason digital platform—an 18-week exploration of the Psalms focusing one psalm each week.

Listen to Rabbi Rose discuss the project on Chagigah Radio.

Sign up to receive the 18-week weekly PsalmSeason Digest 

Watch the PsalmSeason kick-off online concert, featuring performers and poets from several countries, representing different styles and traditions. Learn more about the 18-week PsalmSeason project and read the weekly offerings at ifyc.org/psalmseason.

PERFORMERS AND CONTRIBUTORS (in order of appearance)

Rabbi Or Rose, Director Betty Ann Greenbaum Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership at Hebrew College and Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush Senior Advisor for Public Affairs and Innovation Interfaith Youth Core
http://hebrewcollege.edu/miller-center http://ifyc.org

“Like Rain”
Lyrics and Music by Marty Austin Lamar Performed by Marty Austin Lamar Snokey Music, 2016 @martyaustinlamar

“Hesed” (Loving-Kindness)
Written and performed by Alondra Bobadilla Boston Youth Poet Laureate Psalm 10 Music by Jesse and Leah Roberts Performed by Poor Bishop Hooper Copyright Poor Bishop Hooper 2020
http://www.poorbishophooper.com http://www.everypsalm.com

“My Light” (Adonai Ori) – Psalm 27:1
Music by Beth Styles English lyrics: Beth Styles & Neshama Carlebach © Neshama Music Productions, LLC

“Hold The Things That I Can’t Carry”
Peter Himmelman Peter Himmelman/ASCAP Publishing administered by Primary Wave
http://www.peterhimmelman.com www.bigmuse.com

Composed by Max Richter Song: A Blessing Choreography by Elisa Schroth Performed by Paiter van Yperen

“Adonai Ro’i” (The Lord is My Shepherd) – Psalm 23
Lyrics: King David Music by Danny Maseng © D. Maseng Performed by Danny Maseng and Michael Skloff

Psalm 23
Performed and Arranged by Nóirín Ní Riain, Owen & Mícheál Ó Súilleabháin

“Min Hameitzar” (From the Narrow Straits) Psalm 118:5-6
Composed and performed by Deborah Sacks Mintz

Written by Amy Ziff, Alyson Palmer, Elizabeth Ziff, Betsy Hirsch Performed by BETTY ©BETTYRules Productions/BMI http://www.helloBETTY.com

“Lo Ira” (I Will Not Fear) – Psalm 118
Traditional Moroccan Jewish melody/Yuval Ron Performed by Yuval Ron Ensemble ©Yuval Ron Music (ASCAP)

“Searching My Rage”
Written and performed by Drew Drake

“Come Ye”
Written by Nina Simone Performed by SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK ®

“Shir Hama’alot” (A Song of Ascents) – Psalm 126
Music by Joey Weisenberg Performed by Joey Weisenberg © Joey Weisenberg

“East Jerusalem/West Jerusalem”
Written by David Broza and Wyclef Jean Performed by David Broza

Haleluyah (Hallelujah . . . Let all that breathes praise the LORD!) – Psalm 150
Music by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, as interpreted by Sheva Performed by Rabbi Roly Matalon (Vocals) and B’nai Jeshurun Musicians Dan Nadel (guitar and direction) Ismail Lumanovski (clarinet) Arun Ramamurthy (violin) Satoshi Takeishi (percussion)

“My Heart Leapt for Joy” – Psalm 122
Music and adaptation by Vince Anderson Performed by the Rev. Vince Anderson @reverendvince

“Hinei Ma Tov ” (See how good and pleasant it is for brothers and sisters to dwell together) Psalm 133
Composed and sung by the Abayudaya Jewish Community of Uganda Recorded and Compiled by Jeffrey A. Summit from the Smithsonian Folkways Recording CD “Abayudaya: Music From the Jewish People of Uganda” Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2003 All Photographs Courtesy of Richard Sobol

“Ben she’Hazar” (The Returning Son)
Lyrics and music by Ariel Horowitz PRODUCTION TEAM Kyle Homstead Video Editor (Laudable Productions) Aly Palmer Consulting Producer Marilyn Stern Project Coordinator Tom Reid Project Coordinator Leah Carnow Closed Captioning and Translation

On July 14, 2020, the Hebrew College-Interfaith Youth Core PsalmSeason project, with co-sponsors Jewish Women’s Archive and Lilith Magazine, presented the online event “Poetry in Times of Peril: Four Women’s Voices.” (Visit the PsalmSeason website at http://ifyc.org/psalmseason)

From the ancient Book of Psalms to contemporary hip-hop, poetry has served as a vital channel through which to express our deepest yearnings, frustrations, and hopes. How might words of poetry help us respond to the current crisis of COVID-19 and the national reckoning with racial injustice? Join us as we engage four outstanding woman poets from different walks of life for a cross-cultural and intergenerational reading and discussion.

Featured Poets:
Alondra Bobadilla
Marilyn Nelson
Alicia Ostriker
Alicia Jo Rabins

Moderator: Dr. Judith Rosenbaum, Jewish Women’s Archive

Sponsors: Jewish Women’s Archive Miller Center for Interreligious Learning & Leadership of Hebrew College Interfaith Youth Core Lilith Magazine To learn more about PsalmSeason visit: http://www.ifyc.org/article/intro-pro…


Alondra Bobadilla was born and raised in Boston, MA. Her love for writing emerged when she first learned her letters as a young cild. In addition to her writing, she has participated in multiple forms of performance art, finding different ways to express herself beyond poetry. She is a student at Fenway High School and was named Boston’s first-ever Youth Poet Laureate in January 2020.

Marilyn Nelson was Poet Laureate of Connecticut from 2001-2006, has been a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and Poet-in-Residence of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and has been awarded the Frost Medal, the NSK Neustadt Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.

Alicia Ostriker is a poet, scholar, and critic who writes Jewish feminist poetry. She has been called “America’s most fiercely honest poet” by Progressive. Additionally, she was one of the first women poets in America to write and publish poems discussing the topic of motherhood. In 2015, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2018, she was named the New York State Poet Laureate.

Alicia Jo Rabins is an award-winning writer, musician, performer and Torah teacher and the author of two poetry books, Divinity School (American Poetry Review) and Fruit Geode (Augury Books). Music/performance projects include Girls in Trouble, an indie-folk song cycle about women in Torah, and the forthcoming independent feature film, A Kaddish for Bernie Madoff.


[American Journal] Robert Hayden – 1913-1980 https://poets.org/poem/american-journal ON RAISING

CHILDREN IN A CRUMBLING WORLD Nikita Gill http://ebmultitudes.blogspot.com/2018…

HOMAGE TO MY HIPS Lucille Clifton https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem…

WON’T YOU CELEBRATE WITH ME Lucille Clifton https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem…

The Book of Love, The Magnetic Fields from 69 Love Songs https://genius.com/The-magnetic-field…

PIGEON AND HAWK Marilyn Nelson https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20…

ON BREATHING Alicia Jo Rabins https://aliciajo.com/pandemicpoems/

HESED (“Loving-Kindness”) Alondra Bobadilla https://ifyc.org/article/ps-133-hesed

CHILDREN’S BLOOD Alicia Ostriker

Updates from President Anisfeld

Hebrew College has worked to develop a fall plan that prioritizes public health and safety, while striving to create as many opportunities as possible for in-person community, connection, and learning. At the same time, building on the experience we gained last semester, we are committed to enhancing the learning experience for students in those classes that will continue on Zoom, and we are dedicating time and resources this summer to ensure that faculty are well supported as they prepare courses for virtual and hybrid settings.

We are grateful to be part of such a caring community, and confident that, together, we will be able to take on this challenge in a spirit of mutual responsibility and support.

Health & Safety Guidelines

Our partial return to campus this fall will require a deep commitment on the part of each and every member of our community to abide by health and safety protocols, both on and off campus. Preliminary information about the health and safety precautions for those coming to campus include:

  1. Wear masks at all times in the building.
  2. Practice social distancing at all times in the building.
  3. Stay home with any warning signs of COVID. Everyone entering the building will be required to answer a series of health questions to ensure that people who are experiencing any symptoms return home.
  4. All eating will be limited to designated areas with socially distanced seating.
  5. Daily cleaning of frequented common areas such as bathrooms and classrooms will be enhanced.

Community Education Programs

All of our Community Education classes and programs — including Adult Learning, Teen Learning, Miller Center, and Professional Development for rabbis and educators — will be held online for the fall semester, using Zoom and other resources for distance learning and community building.

Graduate Leadership Program

The Rabbinical School and the Cantorial Program will adopt a hybrid approach for the fall semester, with roughly half of the classes in person and half on Zoom. Any student who is unable to be physically present for classes due to health considerations will be able to take all of their classes online. All classes will move to a virtual format after Thanksgiving. Our online Masters of Jewish Education and Masters of Jewish Studies classes will continue in their online format throughout the year.

Faculty and staff

Faculty and staff will be able to begin to return to campus this fall, following the protocols outlined above, as well as other procedures that we will implement in accordance with state guidelines and recommendations from our medical consultants. To ensure effective social distancing, we will encourage those who are able to continue to work remotely throughout the fall semester to do so, and we will limit the number of staff who are on campus at any given time.

Dear friends,

I hope that you and your loved ones are healthy and safe, and holding up as well as possible during this time.

I’m writing to let you know that, as of yesterday, we have made the difficult decision not to gather in person for our Commencement exercises and Ordination ceremonies on June 7.

This is a real loss for all of us, but especially for those of you—our graduating students and your family members and friends—who have been looking forward to this moment for years. We are currently in the process of determining how best to mark these occasions, and will do so in close collaboration with you—ensuring that there will be a meaningful opportunity for us to gather as a community to honor and celebrate your accomplishments.

As I’m sure you are all aware, it has become clear that the current social distancing and stay-at-home measures being mandated in Massachusetts and around the country are likely to continue at least through early May, and quite possibly beyond. While none of us can predict the future, we are doing our very best to plan based on the information we have now. As long as non-essential businesses are asked to remain closed in Massachusetts, we will continue to operate remotely, in order to do our part to help reduce the public health risk posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. All of our graduate and community courses will continue to be taught remotely through the end of the spring semester. All of our public programs in April and May will be postponed or moved to a virtual platform.

This has been a challenging period, to say the least, and our uncertainty about what the future will bring only compounds the sense of unease that we all feel. At the same time, I have seen and heard countless daily examples of flexibility, resilience, understanding, and grace as we have collectively adapted to our new reality. I could not be more proud of the way that our community has risen to this challenge, not only sustaining our own teaching and learning with tremendous dedication, but also looking beyond for ways to be of service to the wider community. So many of you have offered your skills, your wisdom, your creativity, and your (virtual) presence to be of service at this time. I hear every day from people throughout the community who are moved by and grateful for your efforts.

Please continue to take care, and be well. And feel free to reach out to me at any time.

Warmly, and with all my very best wishes for continued health and strength,


Dear Hebrew College Community,

In light of Governor Baker’s “Stay at Home” advisory earlier today, effective at noon on March 24, the Hebrew College building will be closed at least until April 7. We will continue to stay in regular communication as we find ways to respond together to this challenging and rapidly evolving situation.

All best wishes for continued strength and good health.


Dear Hebrew College Community,

I hope that, wherever you are reading this, you and yours are safe and well, finding support, strength, and connection amidst the challenges and uncertainties of this time.

As all of us adjust to the rapidly evolving realities of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will do our very best to stay in touch with you, keep you informed about what’s happening at Hebrew College, let you know what resources are available to you, and give you a taste of the life-giving work our students, faculty, and alumni are doing as they continue to study and teach Torah, build community, and care for individuals throughout Greater Boston, all over the country, in Israel, and around the world.

For now, I am writing with an important update about our Annual Spring Event on April 29. While it has become clear that we will not be able to gather in person for this year’s event, we are already planning an inspiring series of virtual programs over the coming months, celebrating our honoree, Rabbi Rim Meirowitz, as well as Esther Award recipient, Jill Segal of blessed memory, and exploring this year’s timely theme: Leadership, Learning, and Love. Stay tuned for more information soon, and please continue to hold April 29 for one of the programs in our virtual series.

These are extraordinary times, and it feels like there is so much that is uncharted and unknown. And yet, such times can also help us focus on what matters most, and can remind us of what we already know—that we need dedicated leaders who are inspired and guided by a deep sense of service and love; that we need to continue learning, to stay connected to each other and to nurture a sense of history as well as a sense of hope; that, even as we are physically isolated from each other during this period, for the greater good, we urgently need to find ways to turn toward each other with love.

We will be following up soon with more details about our plans for virtual spring programming on the theme of Leadership, Learning, and Love. In the meantime, as a hint of things to come, and a treat for the spirit in these troubled times, I invite you to listen to this beautiful piece performed by Rabbi Jessica Kate Meyer, Rab`14, Rabbi/Chazzan at The Kitchen in San Francisco, CA.

Amar Amar on SoundCloud

I am so grateful to be part of a community where people are responding to this unfolding situation with such flexibility, patience, resilience, and shared concern. I look forward to staying in touch, and to hearing from you if you have questions or suggestions about how we can best be of service to you and your community during this time.

With prayers for health and peace,


Dear Hebrew College Community,

I hope that you and your loved ones are all well, and holding up amidst the stress and uncertainty of this challenging time. I’m so grateful for the many ways in which people have been reaching out—within our community and beyond—to offer help, acts of kindness, and both practical and spiritual support.

I’m writing with a brief update on our plans for this week at Hebrew College, as we continue to respond to the unfolding situation with COVID-19.

First and foremost, I am so pleased to share the good news that, thankfully, our adult learning student and her husband, who both tested positive for the virus last week, are recovering and doing very well.

As you have all likely heard by now, Governor Baker put in place this evening a number of public measures for the State of Massachusetts, including banning gatherings larger than 25 people, closing all public schools through April 7, and underscoring the need for as much “social distancing” as possible to try to contain the health risk posed by this pandemic.

We are now moving forward with the following plans for this week:

  • We will resume all courses online as of Wednesday, March 18, and continuing at least until after the Passover break. Graduate courses (rabbinic, cantorial, and education) will be using Schoology, and Community Education courses (adult learning, teen programs, and Miller Center programs) will be using Zoom. Many, many thanks to all of the faculty and staff who have been working so hard to make this transition as smooth and successful as possible.
  • Hebrew College will be closed all week.
  • All public meetings, events, and gatherings at the College are being cancelled or made virtual until further notice. We, of course, very much hope that we will be able to resume public gatherings later this spring, but we don’t yet know whether and when that will be possible. We so appreciate everyone’s understanding and flexibility as we continue to make decisions informed by the best guidance available to us regarding communal health and safety.
  • We are inspired by the wisdom and creativity of this community in response to this crisis—the beautiful teachings that have been shared by students, faculty, and alumni, and the many wonderful ideas for staying connected even while we have to be physically distanced from each other. May we continue to have the resilience to rise to this occasion, as individuals, and as a community.

With appreciation and admiration,


Dear Hebrew College Community,

I have been awed—over these last few days—by the dedication, resilience, compassion, and calm of our community in the face of this difficult and unsettling time. My deep admiration and appreciation go out to you all.

As we prepare to move into Shabbat, I am writing with a couple of important updates, and some very brief words of Torah.

Our commitment to learning continues

Our commitment to learning continues, as we move all of our classes to virtual learning environments until further notice.

As of Wednesday morning, March 18, we will be resuming all graduate classes (Rabbinic, Cantorial, and Education) through our online Schoology platform.

As of Wednesday morning, March 18, we will be resuming all community education classes (Adult Learning, Teen programs, and Miller Center programs) through Schoology and/or through the use of enhanced Zoom technology.

Thank you to the extraordinary faculty and staff in all of our programs for their tremendous efforts to ensure that—while we are physically separated for now—our dedication to meaningful, passionate Jewish learning and community is creatively adapted, yet undiminished. Thank you to our dedicated IT team for their tireless work to ensure that this transition is as smooth and successful as possible. And, finally, thank you to our students—we are inspired by your fierce commitment to and love of learning, and appreciate your flexibility and patience as we adjust to this rapidly evolving situation.

Our commitment to staying safe and connected continues

Our physical campus remains closed until further notice. We are in the process of doing a deep cleaning and disinfecting over the next few days, and hope to reopen for limited staff and faculty use by the middle of next week. We will, however, continue to urge people to work remotely for as long as necessary, both to prioritize the health and safety of our own community, and to do our part to help minimize the public health risk at this time.

That said, we are actively developing creative ways of staying connected—not only through online learning, but through virtual prayer, community-building efforts, special online programs, and more. Stay tuned for much more information about this over the coming days!

Our commitment to sharing Torah continues

We are blessed to be part of a community that is thinking about how to bring the resources of our tradition to bear on this moment—spiritually, intellectually, ethically, interpersonally. Please go to our website if you are interested in reading or listening to some of what our students, alumni, and faculty are writing in response to the challenges of this time.

For now, I offer just a few brief thoughts as we prepare to move into this Shabbat.


As we move into this Shabbat and beyond, many of us are—among so many other things—adjusting to the idea of davening alone, physically isolated from the communities that nourish us, and the sense of connection that helps lift and carry our prayers.

This midrash from Shemot Rabbah (Parashat B’Shallach) has been echoing in my mind as I think about the spiritual task before us. It is part of a series of sustained reflections on what it means for God to be “shome’a tefilah” (One who hears prayer).

“In the hour that Israel prays, you do not find that everyone prays as one – but rather each and every community prays in its own way and time, this congregation first and after that another congregation, and after all the congregations have finished all of their prayers, the angel appointed over all tefilot gathers up all the prayers that all of the congregations have prayed and makes out of them a crown and places it upon the head of the Holy Blessed One. Davar acher [another interpretation]: A human being can’t hear a conversation of two people speaking at once; but the Holy Blessed One is not like that.  Everyone is praying at the same time and God can hear and receive all of those prayers.”

Somehow, I am finding it comforting to keep this image in mind right now. I have loved it for a long time, this exquisite idea that God wears a crown made of human longing and praise. But, suddenly, the midrash also speaks to me in a new way in this moment – I think because it speaks to the sense of deep connection in the face of separation that many of us are aching to hold onto now.

As I wrap myself in my tallit tomorrow morning, I will be keeping all of you in my heart and in my mind’s eye—along with countless others around the country and around the world—knowing that wherever we are, in whatever small corner of the world we have each privately taken a few steps, bent our knees, and opened our hearts, we are standing together before a God who hears, receives, and holds us all.

With love and wishes for a safe, sweet, and peaceful Shabbat,


Dear Hebrew College Community,

I am writing to let you know that, unfortunately, we learned this afternoon that one of our community learning students tested positive for the coronavirus (COVID-19). Our thoughts are with her and her family and we wish them a quick and full recovery.

Because this student attended a class at Hebrew College last week, we made the decision, in consultation with local medical professionals, to close the building as of the end of the work day today for deep cleaning and disinfecting. While the risk of exposure remains relatively low, we are acting swiftly and prudently because the health and well-being of our students, faculty, and staff are the College’s highest priority. We also feel a deep sense of responsibility at this time to do our part to contribute to collective efforts to address and contain this serious public health risk.

This new development has accelerated our plans to move all of our graduate and community learning classes and Beit Midrash study to virtual instruction for the coming weeks. As of March 11, we are canceling all classes that meet in the Hebrew College building until further notice. We hope that it will not take more than a few days to prepare for a full transition to remote learning. During this time, staff will be working remotely. Please check this page for updates on our progress toward that goal, and our plans for ensuring that our teaching and learning as a community continues.

We also want to take this opportunity to remind you of the general precautions recommended by the CDC. For easy access to clear and detailed information, follow this link.

I am proud and grateful to be part of a community where people are responding to this unfolding situation with such flexibility, patience, resilience, and calm. I look forward to continuing to find ways to stay connected and care for each other, even as we take these precautionary measures that require greater physical distance for the time being.

With much appreciation,

Rabbi Sharon Cohen Anisfeld
President, Hebrew College