Coronavirus pandemic has proven how extraordinary children are

We tend to forget in our desperate search to create a “new normal” in this crazy new life that our children are the real champions in all this.

A schoolgirl studied remotely due to the pandemic. (photo credit: CAITLIN OCHS/REUTERS)
A schoolgirl studied remotely due to the pandemic.
(photo credit: CAITLIN OCHS/REUTERS)
“My daughter Sara is a genius,” I think to myself as she joins a Zoom class at a neighbor’s house that was recently created by a few desperate mums who cannot stay home and follow their children every day.
My daughter is a genius, not because she gets amazing grades and is so smart; my daughter is a genius just like your child probably is, too.
We tend to forget in our desperate search to create a “new normal” in this crazy new life that our children are the real champions in all this.
Adults complain. We cry at night to our spouses, to our dogs, or to the moon with a cup of whiskey and a Tylenol. We complain to our friends about how tough this new corona life is and we go on.
Our children don’t complain. They understand without asking questions anymore. They understand that we don’t have answers so they no longer bother to ask us. They wear their masks and remind us, the adults, to take ours as we leave the house. They get up in the morning with nowhere to go and play with their toys in their room without complaining that they can’t go have coffee with their friends or at the shopping mall.
They get dressed and put on their uniform shirts and leggings, because in Zoom class no one sees if you are wearing a skirt or pajama pants, and this makes them happy.
They have more time to sleep in the morning because they don’t have to run to the bus.
They sit in front of their computers and enter their virtual classrooms. Some girls have changed their backgrounds and opted for some faraway beach scenery, so Mushka looks like she’s sitting under a palm tree, while Lea looks like she has a cat sitting on her shoulders throughout the whole class and Rivkah is sitting under strong neon pink lights. The girls laugh at each other’s backgrounds, and then all get muted by the teacher.
Class starts.
Sometimes, during a Torah lesson, it suddenly seems as if the teacher is stuck.
“Momomomoshe Rabenunununu.”
The connection gets tangled and the teacher appears to freeze and then move in slow motion and then freeze again.
My daughter laughs. I would be crying.
Sara is almost seven. She is in kita bet, second grade.
She has never complained to me about Zoom or about not having school, or having to attend school when classrooms were two-thirds empty and looked lonely; never said a word about having to start the year sitting socially distanced in small groups known as capsulot. Her enthusiasm has never waned, even when an entire class was forced to quarantine after one girl tested positive for the coronavirus. She boarded the bus every day excited.
Then school was canceled.
There were new ways of schooling to adapt to, new schedules, new laws, new teaching techniques and new ways of learning. A new life, yet not a single word of complaint from my daughter.
You do what you gotta do, as they say.
“Why can’t I be like her?” I think as I drink my first cup of coffee, alone, after dropping her off at her new Zoom mini-class.
Then I think of the children of Chabad shluchim (emissaries) around the world. If my daughter is a genius then these kids are superhuman.
I laugh at my own thoughts, knowing that I will not have to deal with a child who is a genius, and that she is likely just very average compared to these incredible kids.
I REMEMBER a long visit in Utah, where my uncle and his wife run the Chabad Center of Salt Lake City. That was 20 years ago. I was single and lawless, and they were a young couple with small children and a lot of work to do in a Mormon city with few Jews, lots of snow, and of course, no Jewish school for the kids.
The three young boys would get ready in the morning with their coats, boots and bags, kiss Mommy goodbye at the front door, leave and then literally go around the house, down the stairs to the basement entrance and knock on that door, only to be welcomed by their teacher – Mommy – who would greet them in a totally different manner, and to whom they would reply, “Good morning, morah (teacher).
Homeschooling had begun.
You gotta do what you gotta do.
That homeschooling system was followed before Chabad introduced the Chabad online school in 2006.
As the rest of the world was happily going about its business, and kids were busy buying backpacks and lunch boxes, children of Chabad shluchim in remote places, without access to Jewish schools, were invited to take part in a trial of online lessons organized by Chabad headquarters in New York.
I remember hearing about it and thinking, “These Chabad shluchim are totally crazy.”
With the incredible support of Rabbi Moshe Weiss and the late hassidic activist Reb Mendel Shemtov, known for his dedication to Chabad emissaries and their children, the Shluchim Online School was founded.
It started off as a telephone school.
Children from far-away countries would get on a conference call and listen to a teacher for an hour or so each day.
This eventually became the sophisticated school it grew into a decade later, with a full day of academics and even extracurricular activities.
The Shluchim Online School is now a multi-continental educational institution with an enrollment of students from 379 cities in 71 countries.
There you go, corona! Chabad figured it out long before the world discovered Zoom.
Children from Almaty, Kazakhstan, to Venice, Italy; the US Virgin Islands to Honolulu, Hawaii, and Saskatoon, Canada, were suddenly sharing a virtual classroom.
A Chabad girl in Georgia had her bat mitzvah party and her best friend, whom she had met through online school, surprised her and came from Australia. Finally, they were able to give each other a real hug after years of sharing the same virtual classroom.
For the rest of the world, it’s the opposite now: After years of hugging and sharing classrooms, our kids have to adjust to virtual hugs and online friendships.
Chabad has always broken barriers while the rest of the Jewish world caught on.
Chabad has always used technology to improve its outreach programs, to expand, to always be on the front line of new concepts and ideas, and to spread light and knowledge.
Chabad has always been a pioneer in fusing technology with Judaism, all thanks to the vision of the Rebbe.
Stay safe, stay Zoomed, and cherish your kids and their incredible strength and power. No battle is ever too big for them.
The writer is from Italy who lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five kids. She is the director of HadassahChen, a writer and performer, and heads the Keren Navah Ruth Foundation in memory of her daughter, to help families with sick children.
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