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Greetings from the CEO, Shoshi Becker

Greetings from the CEO, Shoshi Becker


March 26, 2020

Dear Friends,

How is this Pesach different from all other Pesach holidays?

This Pesach, we celebrate under the shadow of a frightening public health crisis. The world is going through a most challenging time. We all pray for a full recovery of those who are sick, and for a speed end to the pandemic.

From Isaiah the prophet, we learn that the meaning of the word Pesach is not just to “pass over” but also compassion and protection.

“Like the birds that fly, even so will the Lord of Hosts shield Jerusalem, shielding and saving, protecting and rescuing.” (Isaiah 31:5)

This line teaches us this meaning of the word פסח as it relates to the protection of Jerusalem against Sennacherib, the Assyrian king.

These last several weeks, we have had the privilege of providing a sustainable, engaging learning environment for thousands of Jewish children who are restricted to their homes because of the virus. They have continued with their Judaic studies as if school is still open and their teachers are sitting with them in the same room. There has been a rapid increase in the number of learners using iTaLAM, and we have made extraordinary efforts to extend support and training to teachers and principals, and assist them in providing distance learning in the most effective manner. We have made it possible for our teachers to extend protection – to encourage children to sing, read, meet, and tell about their Jewish heritage, in Hebrew, even in these difficult days.

First, I want to express my hope that you and your loved ones are all well. May you continue to stay safe and well.

This is an extremely work-intensive period for iTaLAM, as our team – in a matter of days – has rapidly created new activities for online learning; digitized numerous student workbooks and other blended learning materials; and designed and deployed an exceptionally relevant and highly popular series of webinars for our teachers, to provide them with direct guidance as they adjust to remote teaching.

Our team has been providing untold hours to develop new activities and materials that enhance iTaLAM learning in this new era. I’d like to share with you some key achievements that have resulted from the very hectic pace of work by our educators and developers over the past 20 days:

  • The average daily number of students using iTaLAM has doubled from 4,500 to 8,600. This is based on a comparison of analytics from November, which was a full month of school, and the first three weeks of March. This has been due in part to a huge response to our offer of free and discounted access to current and new schools for additional materials and units: 66 of our schools so far have opted to add grades and/or content areas; and a first wave of five new schools are now using iTaLAM materials at a discounted rate of $18/license. We expect these numbers to grow, as word of iTaLAM’s offers facilitating increased access to digital materials continues to grow. These accommodations will be in effect until July 1, 2020.
  • A full suite of PDF files of printed workbooks and other blended learning materials have been uploaded by our educators for virtual classroom use and for individual learning at home.
  • Four teacher training webinars are running each week, to ensure that every iTaLAM teacher is well-prepared to teach students the iTaLAM materials at home. The training is familiarizing teachers with the Pesach content materials and activities, as well as Hebrew, Tora, Shabbat and other curricular materials.
  • A rich iTaLAM Youtube channel enabling students to watch instructional videos, books, and songs.
  • As part of our partnership with Better Lesson, we are offering new, three-session virtual workshop series (two hours per session) to support and coach our teachers as they make this rapid shift to distance learning. The series will include hands-on guidance in managing synchronous and asynchronous distance learning; building community at a distance; and monitoring and improving each teacher’s distance learning plan.

As our educators shift to this new mode of working, we have received numerous emails from across the globe, thanking us for providing this exceptional level of support, and enabling them to move quickly into a new virtual classroom space where students continue to be fully engaged with the iTaLAM curriculum. We would like to share some short excerpts from their feedback, below.

Thank you all for the important role you play in supporting iTaLAM and encouraging the support of others, particularly at this time of crisis for our schools and communities. We could not fulfill this historic role at this time without you.

With appreciation and warm regards,

Shoshi

“Because of superstars like iTaLAM’s Dafna, we literally set up an online virtual school in 24 hours. You would think our students are attending HANC University. Truly inspiring! As a school that has benefited from iTaLAM, we feel that when it came to distance learning we were ahead of the game. Our students have been working on the iTaLAM online platform with their teachers all year long, which made it very easy to transition to learning from home. The teacher uses the wonderful LMS system to monitor students' work and give them real time feedback. Having the iTaLAM platform helps our students stay engaged and excited about continuing learning Hebrew. They feel more connected to their virtual classmates, as they are now in the virtual reality as well. Thank you iTaLAM for making our kids virtual schooling so seamless and enjoyable!”
Rabbi Yaakov Sadigh
Head of W.H. Campuses, Hebrew Academy of Nassau County
“I would like to thank you on behalf of all Jewish Day Schools in Australia for your dedication, commitment and support in this difficult time. We are all in the process of building our resources and program for distance learning. The iTaLAM leadership team, coordinators, and administrators all do above and beyond to assist us as we plan and deliver online lessons in the most efficient way. The feedback and appreciation of the Heads of Hebrew and Jewish Studies and the teachers is overwhelming, and they are all committed to attend Zoom meetings and learn as much as possible. The iTaLAM team works long hours to help, guide, and assist coordinators and teachers. Their dedication is admirable and we couldn’t have offered such quality program without their commitment and support.”
Hagit Bar-On
Emanuel School, Sydney, Australia, and iTaLAM national rep
“The Bar-Ilan school is one of the partners of this teaching platform, which inspires its students to develop their Jewish identity through innovative Jewish study units in Hebrew. During this global crisis, new tools and strategies are being proposed by iTaLAM so that we can seek solutions and improvements in distance learning. Today, our morot Vanessa, Bina, Brenda, Betty, and Teka participated in a video conference with the iTaLAM team, making it possible for teacher training to continue online at a time when we cannot meet in person. We are always seeking professional improvement so that, even in an emergency situation, iTaLAM is making it possible for us to acquire knowledge and offer higher quality teaching to our students.”
Bar-Ilan Jewish Day School
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
As teachers around the world transition to home-based e-learning, an invaluable resource for our school, the Ramaz Lower School, has been using the iTaLAM program. In the past few weeks, the iTaLAM team really stepped up and helped us in many ways. They created ad-hoc training for our teachers, expanded their materials, and helped us carry our mission of teaching Hebrew and Judaic studies. Our teachers are committed to providing lessons that continue to advance the Hebrew language skills of our students, even remotely. iTaLAM has been a critical partner in allowing us to achieve our goals. Their remote learning classes are focused, fun to use, and allow our teachers to spend their time on teaching and leverage their own lesson plans for online classes. The material is easy to teach even over video. These aren’t easy times for anyone, but iTaLAM made our job a little easier. Our students are ready for Pesach, even in these hard times when everyone is secluded in their homes.
Hedva Ofek-Shai
Director of Hebrew Language Curriculum and Faculty Supervision, The Ramaz School