What would bring a family from Boston to Minnesota for Jewish education?
Meet the Dashevsky family from Boston. Parents, Zhenya and Anya, and their children, Ari, Eli, Liora, and Elisheva. They are a busy family. In addition to work and school, the three eldest children are highly competitive gymnasts, and they participate in Jewish life and learning.
The Dashevsky family actually began their journey into online learning a few years ago, before COVID, when the classes at their synagogue’s Hebrew school conflicted with the kids’ sports practices and other commitments.
They did not want their children to sacrifice either their athletics or their Jewish education. The Dashevskys needed to find a program that would fit into their busy lifestyle while still providing a high-quality Jewish education for their children.
In their search, Anya reached out to long-time friend and teacher Rabbi Yosi Gordon, and Rabbi Gordon connected them to TTSP.
TTSP offers an Individualized Study program with the option for virtual classes. This setup worked best for the demanding sports schedule of the eldest son, Ari, so he began taking Torah classes remotely with Rabbi Gordon. When Zhenya and Anya saw that Ari’s virtual Torah study classes were a success, they decided to enroll Eli in the same program.
Finding Good Jewish Education During a Pandemic
When the pandemic hit and most schools across the country moved their programs online, Hebrew schools and afterschool programs also had to switch to virtual platforms.
At the time, Eli and Liora were still enrolled in classes at their synagogue’s Hebrew school. After moving online, their local Hebrew school program was no longer able to meet the needs of the Dashevsky family. “Because they were spending so much time on screens, we wanted to have a more individualized program that would be able to fully engage them, even in the remote format,” said Anya.
They decided to take the kids out of their local Hebrew school and enroll the three eldest at TTSP.
The Remote Learning Experience
Last year, Eli and Liora took Hebrew classes, with Shira Lavintman and Rabbi Yosi Gordon, and Ari and Eli took Torah study classes. As Ari is enrolled in Midrasha, he was also able to take one of the elective courses, How to Bring the Messiah.
The Dashevsky’s have witnessed the learning and the progress that their kids have made studying at TTSP. “One night at dinner [Eli] looked at a candle and said, ‘Why does the candle say Have a Good Week?’ And it was just written in Hebrew without any vowels.” shared Anya.
What was even more encouraging to Zhenya and Anya was the enthusiasm that the kids were showing for their classes. “Every time Ari would come out of the [How to Bring the Messiah] class, he would be so excited and wanted to share what the conversation was about and their discussion,” said Anya.
All three kids agree that they have had an enjoyable experience taking virtual classes. “When I went to the Zooms with Yosi and with Shira, I felt like I was learning something. I felt like I was doing something interesting,” said Eli. “It really didn’t seem any different than it would’ve been learning in person.”
Even when they found Zoom classes tiresome during day school, they were still able to have fun learning at TTSP. “My two main problems in school are ‘I already know this’ or ‘this seems pointless,’” said Ari “And I didn’t come across those issues, ever, learning with Yosi.”
Being part of the TTSP community has been a valuable and rewarding experience for the Dashevsky family, especially during this time when connecting to their Jewish community at home and in person has been difficult. They are looking forward to returning to TTSP in the fall for another year of learning.
Working to Serve More Communities
“The Dashevsky’s experience is proof of the power and advantages to online learning,” said Heidi Tarshish, Director of Education. “We hope that by keeping our programs virtual, we can continue to reach further, and be a resource to Jewish families that might not otherwise be able to access quality Jewish education.”
The TTSP Afternoon School and Midrasha programs are currently open for enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year, with all classes offered virtually. If you are interested in learning more, visit www.ttsp.org.
About Talmud Torah of St. Paul:
Talmud Torah of St. Paul (TTSP) has been the central address for Jewish education in St. Paul since 1956. TTSP consists of three major programs that provide challenging and innovative curricula for all. The Newman School is the Day School program of TTSP. The Afternoon School and Midrasha programs offer supplementary education classes for students in grades 2-12 to learn Hebrew, Torah, and Jewish culture. Hineni is the Adult Education program, which offers a wide variety of classes and events to inspire and meet the interests of adults of all ages.