We used to think that Corona was a brand of beer. Now, almost a year later, we have all experienced this devastating pandemic on some level.
When NYC locked down and students were subjected to learning from home I was fraught with anxiety. How will this EVER WORK? But thanks to the outstanding efforts of Yehuda’s yeshiva, it was a lifesaver.
The principal displayed optimism and leadership from the start. He calmed the parents with his even-keeled demeanor and level-headed approach through this uncharted territory. He greeted the students on Zoom with his quintessential smile, and encouraging words.
The Rabbeim were simply incredible. They came onto Zoom every morning with an enthusiasm for learning that was infectious. They rose to the challenge day after day. The Rabbeim not only taught the boys academics, but many times I would hear singing coming from Yehuda’s room (computer), as they encouraged the boys to join in on Shabbos zemiros on erev Shabbos.
My son, Baruch Hashem, was hooked. He sat glued to his computer from 10:00 am until 5:00 pm with some breaks in between. I, along with the rest of the world had no idea how long this lockdown would last. It really was the best that could be expected despite the surreal situation we found ourselves in. It wasn’t always simple. It wasn’t always smooth. We hit technological snags. There were scheduling changes. But we all got through it. It was simply amazing to watch the students’ excitement when they were interacting with their friends and Rabbeim of Yeshiva Bonim Lamokom.
At times I sensed that Yehuda was lonely. He missed his friends. His only reprieve was Zoom, and the flat screen that was his makeshift conduit for companionship. Unfortunately, some of his friends were hospitalized with the virus. They were in critical condition. They were vented. Everyone davened for their wellbeing. There was a sense of uncertainty and sadness hovering around. Baruch Hashem, with time they slowly improved.
As for school, the weeks morphed into months. Everyone I knew was exhibiting anxiety from the pandemic, but not Yehuda; he was content to be zooming.
As June rolled around and the ‘school year’ was coming to a close, we were informed that his yeshiva was inviting all the boys to partake in an end-of-year event to be held in the parking lot of the yeshiva. We went.
And then I broke. I completely fell apart. I stood watching while all the boys ran to each other embracing their friends and hugging their beloved Rabbeim. They couldn’t let go. They just kept hugging and hugging. They had missed each other so much! Their smiles were as wide as the ocean.
I was shaking. I couldn’t stop crying! As I thanked every Rebbe personally I broke into tears. I couldn’t hold back my emotions. They worked so hard!
They were the Heroes of the day! They rose to the challenge day after day after day. They saved their beloved talmidim.
It was then, while watching the boys dancing together to the lively blaring music and enjoying their ice creams did I fully appreciate what was stolen from us during those difficult months: love, hugs, laughter, friendship, plain old normal human connections. All that had been taken from us.
I don’t think I will ever forget that day.
I, along with the other mothers witnessed the most beautiful scene imaginable. Our boys with Down syndrome were doing what they were created to do – loving each other, embracing life, spreading Simcha, and dancing, dancing… dancing through the darkness.
Rana Reisman can be reached by contacting this magazine