Running with Covid: How Mayanot managed to stay open throughout the Pandemic
At the start of the Covid 19 breakout, the uncertainty was unsettling. Students couldn't decide if they should stay or leave and almost all other Yeshivot were deciding to close and send their students home. Mayanot had that same choice to make, as the safety of the students was their number one concern. Ultimately, due to needs of the students Mayanot found a way to remain open according to Health Guidelines.
Rabbi Yisroel Noach Wichnin, Rosh Yeshiva at Mayanot shared, “We have a responsibility to our students and our duty doesn't end because there is Corona. We needed to keep in mind the best interest of our talmidim, their physical health definitely, but also their emotional, spiritual and intellectual health. That is why we at Mayanot decided to stay open.”
Rabbi Kasriel Shemtov, Executive Director stated, “Many of our students didn’t have Kosher for Passover homes to go back to and we had a dilemma, so we immediately got in contact with health officials and designed a plan to accommodate our students.”
“Thank G-d after thousands of hours of Torah learning since the start of the pandemic, we can proudly say that not only are we surviving during Covid, we are thriving!”, stated Rabbi Shneur Broh, Post High School Program Director.
For the students who stayed, they took upon themselves, to stay at Mayanot for an unlimited period of time. The setup of the program needed to change, as with the rest of the world, everyone was adapting. No one was coming in or out, to teach, cook, work or lead the prayers.
“The students had to make it happen, by themselves, from themselves and within themselves and they came through with flying colors. Every person felt how much they counted & mattered, it was a very special time and those that were here will probably cherish this time forever”, shared Rabbi Wichnin.
Mayanot leadership quickly pulled together an online program, and decided to open it up to hundreds of students from around the world. “If we couldn’t bring our students to Jerusalem, we were going to bring Jerusalem to them.” Rabbi Shlomo Gestetner, Mayanot Dean shared.
Mayanot’s Women’s program was in a similar situation. The group of female students who decided to stay over the summer were in a ‘bubble’ in a Jerusalem apartment, eating, learning and growing together. Rivka Marga Gestetner, Educational Director of the Women’s Program shared, “This time, although challenging, had an immensely positive impact on our students, I am glad we were able to keep learning regardless of the situation and simultaneously include hundreds of students around the globe, online”.
For the first time in Mayanot history the students made Passover Seders for each other, every student taking part, without the staff or host family’s involvement. The group came together to clean, cook and prepare for the entire Passover holiday. Our Women’s program also celebrated Passover together and this time was transformative for each of them.
The students all shared an appreciation for Mayanot, given the circumstances that allowed them to stay. They knew how lucky they were when the whole world was in lockdown, it was quite possible that they were participating in one of the largest and longest seders in the world.
Rabbi Shemtov commented, “The students here supported one another and grew tremendously. With the backdrop of Mayanot they were able to gain in their learning, connection, identity and brotherhood by leaps and bounds.
The plan of action after the summer was to give specific dates of arrival to allow new students to join, once lockdown lifted and once Mayanot finally received the definite go ahead from Masa and the Israel government, that they were again allowing student visas. Mayanot gave specific dates where new students could arrive and go straight into quarantine, while receiving meals in their area and joining the zoom classes online.
There was not one case of Corona at the Men’s or Women’s programs throughout this ordeal, thanks to the staff and student body being as careful as they were.
Currently, Mayanot is providing meals during the week, on Shabbat, and also for the students coming and quarantining separately. For the Women’s Program, the fifteen students are all coming out of quarantine, bonding like never before, making the most of this special time, and jump starting their journey in Israel.
Mayanot would like to thank all their faculty, staff and teachers, who continue to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly during these challenging times.