Westchester Torah Academy in New Rochelle was one of the first schools to close in early March because of COVID-19. Deganit Ronen, the school’s principal, has seen firsthand how the Jewish community mobilized with a quick and caring response.
“By the second week of no school, there were parents who were quarantined and couldn’t shop for Shabbat,” Deganit says. “Children stayed at home while parents tried to work from home as well. It was more difficult to find time to cook a Shabbat meal.”
To help lighten the load for some families, Deganit reached out to UJA in Westchester. She received a call back immediately from Tali Strom, Westchester Community Mobilizer, who said that Shabbat meals could be provided.
“There were 10 families who could benefit from Shabbat meals,” Deganit says, “And all were very grateful. I felt so relieved that there was support from so many people around us.”
This community response of generosity and support mirrors the principle of a “joyful mindset” that Deganit and the school’s Jewish educators strive to instill in students. This means seeing a challenge as a teachable moment: a time to turn struggle into opportunity.
“’A joyful mindset is seeing what we can do to make a difficult situation better,” Deganit says. “During this crisis I believe as individuals, organizations, and as a Jewish community we are drawing strength from that core value of lovingkindness. We’re coming together to figure out what to do and how to take care of each other.”