How Talmud Torah Of St. Paul Excelled Through The Pandemic

Andrea Freidberg had her kids in school at Talmud Torah of St. Paul for kindergarten and pre-K, but had been wanting them to have a public school experience. Which had been going well until last spring, when kids across the state were forced into distance learning.

“Nobody likes that,” Freidberg said. “We were trying to just find the safe, middle ground.”

Ahead of school starting this past fall, the Freidberg’s re-enrolled their kids at Talmud Torah, and they are thrilled with the move.

“It’s a small class, and our kids could be together so COVID-wise, we felt like that lowered not only their risk but everybody else’s risk because they came from the same house,” Freidberg said. “My second-grader, she doesn’t do well on Zoom. And my third grader is an extrovert. It was an easy decision.”

Since the current school year began, there have been no closures due to coronavirus., which is something that the director of education, Heidi Tarshish, said is a credit to the families who are enrolled in the school.

“Everybody has been very careful; it’s really a partnership with the parents, with the staff and faculty,” she said. “We’ve also taken precautions with the building and all kinds of safety measures we’ve put in place.”

Some of those measures have included a lot of purchases that wouldn’t be otherwise made and certainly weren’t budgeted for.

“We can’t share things as we would normally do,” Tarshish said. “So everybody’s got their own technology device. It’s been a lot of work to put everything in place.”

Reopening in the middle of a pandemic meant rethinking everything: from how kids move around the building, to how parents can pick up a student who has to leave early. 

“We started purchasing things that we thought we would need to make things safe to be open: Shields and masks and devices to be able to sterilize; those little things that you put on the floor for social distancing,” Tarshish said. “Because we share a building with another school, and we had to make arrangements to make sure we didn’t even come in contact with the other school, so we cordoned ourselves in a particular area and we only use one door that was an entrance and exit.” 

To help make all of that happen, the St. Paul Jewish Federation started its Yad B’Yad campaign to raise money for the local Jewish organizations, which have seen a significant upturn in expenses incurred because of the pandemic.

More than $400,000 has been raised and distributed since the campaign was launched in November 2020. Allocations include $80,000 to Jewish Family Service of St. Paul, $15,000 to Lubavitch Cheder, $22,000 to Minnesota Hillel, $135,000 to Minnesota JCC, $135,000 to Sholom, and $15,000 to Talmud Torah of St. Paul. 

“We are gratified that because of the generosity of our community, we’ve been able to help our neighbors in need and build community resilience during this challenging time,” said Jimmy Levine, Yad B’Yad campaign chair. “We are continuing to raise funds for Yad B’Yad because our partner agencies still face increased costs for providing social services, PPE and other safety measures, technology, and other needs.”  

Tarshish said that the allocation was greatly helpful.

“We have a lot of frontline health care providers at our school, and we really felt obligated [to open], and felt that it was really important that we’re able to provide their children with an in-person education,” she said. “Their program is greatly appreciated, I’m sure, by everybody who was a recipient of Federation’s generosity.”

This article is sponsored content from St. Paul Jewish Federation as part of TC Jewfolk’s Partnership program. For more information, check out our media kit.