Considering current events, I feel the need to share some words of advice to parents who may go through the yeshiva/seminary (or any post-high school program) selection process next year. In the coming fall, parents and students will listen to the presentations given by program representatives, at the school and at Israel Night events, with the intent of finding the program that is e best for them. The events are appropriately filled with a lot of excitement and inspirational talks. They have Q&A opportunities where parents can ask questions that concern them from assistance with Shabbat and Yom Tov plans to general health and safety policies.
I suggest that parents add another dimension to their research. When you and your child have narrowed down your choices, find out who attended those yeshiva/seminary programs in the 2019-2020 school year. Speak to their parents. Ask pointed questions about how the program’s administration responded to the COVID-19 outbreak, how they communicated with parents, how they supported the students and, if they came to the difficult decision to close the program, how they aided with last minute travel changes. You will be about 6,000 miles away and will entrust your child to flourish under their watch, but you will also have an expectation of care in the event of an emergency.
We tend to think of emergency situations as war and acts of terror when it comes to Israel, but the COVID-19 experience is teaching us that a crisis can come in other forms, which can result in global disruptions.
While I have no doubt that parents will be asking such questions at future informational sessions, also ask the parents who have had to live through the recent events. It has been my experience that some administrations talk the talk but fall short of walking the walk. I consider myself a level-headed parent. I have had older children flourish in their post-high school yeshiva/seminary programs and have had a child serve in combat in the IDF. This year was not my first rodeo with children overseas but I realized that not all program administrations are really equipped to deal with a crisis of this scope, and certainly do not understand the communication and assistance expectations of American parents during such times.
I’d heard from other parents with children abroad about COVID-19 update communications sent from other programs. There were differences, and some were more reassuring and definitive than others. It was concerning to see the differences, and disappointing to those who felt that support and assistance in these troubling times were lacking. It seems that some programs are quick to take the deposits and monthly payments, but slow to respond when you need them to help take care of your 18-year-old. Educate yourself on how the programs under your consideration reacted from those that know best, the parents of children who attended this year. Factor it into the final decision, in conjunction with the information you will receive via the normal routes. Make well-informed decisions that will also consider the safety of your child as well as your sense of trust as a parent.