As schools worldwide shut their doors in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, the Nigri International Jewish Online School is stepping in to help Jewish students, parents and schools continue their education. The Nigri Jewish Online School, a project of Chabad-Lubavitch’s Shluchim Office, has long been a pioneer in online Jewish education, and runs both the International Shluchim Online School, for children of Chabad emissaries stationed around the world, as well as the Online Hebrew Academy, which is geared at Jewish children of all backgrounds wherever they may be.

Now, tapping into its vast knowledge of the often-complex world of online education, the Nigri Online School is stepping up to offer institutional advice for Jewish schools suddenly searching how to move their studies online, a platform they can potentially use and practical tips. At the same time, the Jewish Online School is seeing its own enrollment skyrocket as they open their doors to families and children seeking to safely continue their Jewish education

“It’s a time of need, and we want everybody to be able to continue learning Torah and for children to continue their education. We have the ability to help others, and we have to do that,” says Bassie Shemtov of the Shluchim Office.

More than 156,000 people worldwide have been diagnosed with the coronavirus—almost 2,800 in the United States, a number that has been rising in recent days.

Shemtov and other officials with the Nigri school, which has been providing online Jewish classes for 14 years, have been working since last week to ensure that they would have the capacity to deal with an influx of new students and new schools.

The situation is a rapidly changing one, and whenChabad.org spoke to Shemtov on Saturday evening shortly after Shabbat, she was getting calls from around the United States, as many schools announced closing on Friday afternoon. At this point about 100 Jewish day schools around North America have reached out to the Shluchim Office seeking help and information, their calls being patiently fielded by the Nigri school’s staff.

To best serve established Jewish schools, Nigri is offering them the opportunity to use the same base school platform as the international school. Each school, however, will be able to run its own classes with their own teachers and curriculums. While North American schools are still in the process of learning, a Jewish school in Paris, France, started school using the Nigri Online School’s platform this morning.

“Our technical director, Yossi Goodman, was working all night to find a way to put as many schools in a short time,” she says. “Yossi is training other employees on using the platform so they can provide tech support, and help schools and teachers and students get on.”

The Nigri School is also stepping up to offer institutional advice for Jewish schools searching how to move their studies online.
The Nigri School is also stepping up to offer institutional advice for Jewish schools searching how to move their studies online.

Goodman has in the last few days recorded a number of tutorial videos to illustrate to school administrators how the platform works, while the Hebrew Online School’s principal authored an eight-page document with practical tips for online education.

“We’ve been doing this for so long so we knew we had to just put this information out there. We know we can help an entire school, class by class, go online,” explains Yossi Goodman. “At this point we’re all fielding emails and phone calls from parents and schools admins looking for help, and we’re trying to help them navigate.”

“The program and the resources the Shluchim Office has put together is really amazing,” wrote a Judaic studies teacher at a modern Orthodox day school in Toronto in an email on Sunday. Her shuttered school is still trying to figure out what their next step will be, but she knew she could reach out to the Nigri Online School to answer her questions. “Thank you!”

For families whose schools are not providing an online option, children can join classes in the already existing Nigri’s Jewish Online School. At least 125 students from Europe and Israel have joined in recent weeks, and 10 new students joined on Monday. That number is expected to rise in the coming days.

The international school runs several different divisions, including one in Hebrew for Israelis and Europeans, and an English-language school for kids in the United States and elsewhere.

Shemtov believes that they can currently accommodate another few hundred students, and will work to add more teachers as the numbers rise beyond that.

The online school is interactive, and students are able to see both their teacher and their classmates in the virtual classroom.

“On Monday, when the new kids joined, our current students saw a new name coming up on their screen as they logged into class,” explains Shemtov. “They are also seeing their new classmates on camera, and the morah [teacher] will welcome the new students into the class. The idea is that we welcome everyone, just like when you go to a traditional school. Now we’re the ones opening the door to welcome the kids who need us now.”

Click here to watch a video tutorial of the online classroom:

School administration interested in transferring their classes online can contact Leah for more information at 347-698-4915 or by email at: Outreach@JewishOnlineSchool.com.

For families whose schools are not providing an online option, children can join classes in the already existing Nigri’s Jewish Online School. At least 55 students from Europe and Israel have joined in recent weeks, and 10 new students joined on Monday. That number is expected to rise in the coming days.
For families whose schools are not providing an online option, children can join classes in the already existing Nigri’s Jewish Online School. At least 55 students from Europe and Israel have joined in recent weeks, and 10 new students joined on Monday. That number is expected to rise in the coming days.