Jun 30, 2015
One Class, An Entire World
How do you have a graduation party when you are separated by seas and continents? A Yediot Achronot reporter joined a class of the Nigri International Shluchim Online School as they said goodbye.
Last Shabbos was the 21st yahrtzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, one of the greatest leaders in the Jewish world. Each year this day serves as an opportunity to evaluate the success of Chabad, and whether the Rebbe's vision continues to influence the world.
On Sunday, at 11 am, I received such an opportunity to see how the Chabad movement is alive and well, and how the extent of the Rebbe's influence has only increased.
It started with the link sent to me by email, to participate in a graduation party for a class of The Nigri International Shluchim Online School. I entered the password and within seconds I was in the virtual school of the Chabad movement.
It was the last day of school, and I joined the girls of seventh grade. It began with a roll call of the children in class. The teacher, Rachel Blau, was sitting at her computer in her home in Jerusalem. One by one the students screens began popping up; Devory Cohen from Almaty, Kazakhstan, Miriam Krichevsky from Omsk, Russia, Chasya Sudakevich from Tokyo, Japan, Ovy Solomon from Sofia, Bulgaria, Nechama Greisman from Stockholm, Sweden and Chani Wolff from Hannover, Germany.
This was just one class, but it was the entire world. It's a different time of the day for each of these children. For Chasya from Japan, for instance, it's five in the evening.
When I asked the students what it feels like to be children of Shluchim, they corrected me: they are not children of Shluchim, they are Shluchim themselves. From a young age, they have a full partnership in the Shlichus.
Each class day has an organized schedule. With davening in the morning and homework and tests as usual, but today was the graduation party.
But how do you have a graduation party when you are separated by seas and continents?
Each child simply uploaded photos from classroom life of that year. Pictures of their Purim party for example, show how all the girls "came to class" dressed up in costumes. Meaning, each one came in front of a computer, in a city where there are almost no other Jewish children their age, certainly not religious, surely not Lubavitcher - and showed their classmates how they are dressed up.
"This school gives me a lot of strength," says Chavi from Ukraine. "We have a common language, each one of us are Shluchim serving yidden all over the world world. We all have similar circumstances. This is true friendship, even though most of us have never met."
"I have been in this school since first grade," adds Mussia from Russia. "I have never been to any other school." It turns out that Chasya has also been studying in The Nigri International Shluchim Online School for the past eight years and next year will leave Tokyo and to travel to high school in Israel for the first time.
The teacher interjects and ads "I visited Chasya's house in Japan and we had a parents' night. Good for her. Chasya and her family are accomplishing a real Shlichus there. She has another five siblings who are also students in the Online School and each child has their own computer."
Suddenly the teacher apologizes. There is a knock at her door and she goes to answer it. The students, for some reason all seem to be smiling.
A minute later, the teacher returns to the screen with a gift box. "How did you all know the exact time to send me a gift for the graduation?" She asks, as she pulls the gift out of the package. Its a beautiful sweatshirt with the names of all the students on her class with the school logo. As she opens it, all the students immediately pull out for under their desks the same sweatshirt and put it on.
They worked on this souvenir during their class breaks, when the teacher was not with them, and each one printed the names and logo on the shirt herself, in her home town.
"Girls," the teacher says emotionally, "I want you all to imagine that I am giving you each a hug, and when we actually meet in person, it will be a real hug."
Two students begin the an end of year quiz before I ask them whether, despite being Shluchos, they are not sad. Regulars girls their age are all on stage now, with other girls in person, and not at computers.
But 21 years after Gimmel Tammuz, when these children have not even seen the one who sent them, their answer and goal in life is clear: "to grow up and continue on Shlichus, and enroll their children into the online school as well."