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Learning Together from a Distance

Hebrew College is not just a building. It’s a growing community!

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.

graduate leadership programs

Hebrew College faculty adapted lesson plans, moved classes and Beit Midrash study to Zoom, and continued to support students from afar. Faculty from our Master of Jewish Education program, which has operated online for many years, were uniquely positioned to continue teaching online, and program faculty—who are well versed in facilitating and creating online learning environments—served as a resource during the transition. This fall, graduate students and faculty will have the choice of whether to teach and learn in-person or online.

  • Havrutot (study-pairs) went onlineOrdination student hevruta study continued to meet in our virtual beit midrash with faculty available for live questions and discussion.
  • Robust tefilah program. Small groups continued to meet both virtually and in person for socially-distanced prayer experiences. Students and faculty are creatively learning methods to sing in an online reality.
  • Community service. Ordination students course schedules were adjusted so our rabbinical and cantorial students had more time to be out in the community offering direct pastoral services to those impacted by COVID-19.
community education for adults and teens

prozdor grads on zoom

Community Education classes also quickly moved online. Faculty adapted their curricula and teaching styles to their new Zoom classrooms for Hebrew College’s more than 1,500 community adult and teen learners, who typically meet in synagogues, homes, and community centers throughout Greater Boston.

  • In March we moved 91 active Adult Learning classes—containing approximately 600 Adult Learning students—to remote learning platforms in two weeks. We also moved 30 teen learning classes online during that two-week period.
  • With generous support from anonymous donors, we created a free online summer class series which 240 adult learners attended.
  • We developed summer online teen learning experiences through our Prozdor, Jewish Teen Foundation of Greater Boston at Hebrew College (JTFGB), and Teen Beit Midrash programs.

Community & Connection

person with laptop on fall grassStudent Support
  • Faculty provided (and will continue to provide) compassionate, “whole-human” learning in a virtual setting, and have extended online office hours to provide additional academic support, as well as online job placement support.
  • Graduate students were given the choice to learn either in-person or online in fall 2020. We recognize that this is a personal decision and that everyone needs to honor their own personal needs this semester.
Online Learning
  • Staff and faculty focused on creating meaningful community education experiences and continuing to build community for our adult and teen learners.
  • Faculty attended professional development seminars to hone their online teaching skills.
  • Staff transformed and equipped Hebrew College classrooms to accommodate socially-distanced learning for students joining both in person and online.
  • Hebrew College continues to provide creative and meaningful beit midrash prayer and study experiences for students
  • Hebrew College is conscious of screen fatigue not weighing on mental health.
  • Hebrew College published “Torah for the Moment” which included essays and artwork for spiritual nourishment.

Fostering Community
  • Rabbinical, rav-hazzan and cantorial students had gatherings and weekly small-group reflection opportunities with faculty. Similarly, Prozdor teens and faculty converted “Bayit home room” to “online community time.”
  • We held commencement ceremonies for the College, Me’ah graduates, Prozdor graduates, and a grant ceremony for JTFGB teen philanthropists and their awardees—all of which were filled with ruach, student voices, and a warm sense of community. We even delivered blessings and individual “Rabbi” and “Hazzan” cakes to every ordainee, from Boston to Canada!

Community Partnerships
  • In July, Hebrew College partnered with several area Jewish organizations, including CJP, JCAM, MBR, Hebrew SeniorLife and others, to host “A Time to Mourn: Grieving Together in the Time of COVID.” The online event offered members of the Greater Boston Jewish Community an opportunity to pause, reflect, and mourn those lost during the COVID pandemic thus far. The video has more than 2,100 views.
  • With support from generous anonymous donors, we created a free online summer class series which 240 adult learners attended.
  • In response to the global pandemic and upheaval over racial injustice, The Miller Center partnered with Interfaith Youth Core to launch a new digital initiative on the Book of Psalms entitled PsalmSeason: An Online Encounter with the Wisdom of the Psalms, which included an online concert and an 18-week exploration of the Psalms focusing one psalm each week.

Feedback We Are Hearing

Eric Feld, Rabbinical student

“When Hebrew College transitioned to online classes at the beginning of the pandemic, I was devastated not knowing when I would be together again with my friends and teachers. That same community of dedicated learners and teachers that was so hard to leave, however, also made the prolonged transition to online learning a positive experience. I credit the personal phone calls that I have had with professors, the daily check-in opportunities during class, the continued helpful feedback in courses, and the creativity of our administrators with helping me to navigate this difficult time in the world. While I would much rather be learning on campus right now, I take tremendous comfort knowing that Hebrew College has done so much to bridge the distance by bringing the beit midrash and the classroom close to me in a way that feels very socially connected while physically distant.”

Hebrew Language Ulpan students

“I really enjoyed the class! I was surprised by how smooth the breakout sessions were…they felt so much like our work in pairs in הכּיתה. I’m looking forward to next week!”

“My favorite things about this semester were still getting to see my classmates on Zoom twice a week! It was fun to still stay connected and learn together, and it gave me something to look forward to. I’m also so impressed with how quickly my teacher learned the Zoom technology and how she is using it to teach us so well.”

Open Circle Jewish Learning student

“Our mussar group is continuing to meet on Zoom, and it’s meant so much to be able to connect and process during these uncertain and unprecedented times.  The mussar perspective, too, is also extremely helpful in offering us a lens through which to understand what we are going through and to handle it as best as we can.  We are currently focusing on the middah of bitachon (trust in G-d).

Me'ah student

“It was a seamless transition and I appreciated how quickly Hebrew College was able to make it happen.”

Prozdor parent

“[My children] take several of your classes on Sunday mornings at Prozdor. My husband and I want to thank you for not only teaching our kids in person, but also for your continued efforts online. They have learned a great deal from you, things we cannot teach them at home.”