April 13, 2024
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Back to School: This Year, in Israel

While waiting on line (a real line, not online!) at Manor Shoe Repair to have a Power bag repaired for one of my engineers, a proud grandfather with his grandson was getting taps on a pair of shoes. The grandfather asked me if I was going to write another column about back to school. Comments such as this one are humbling, as I know he is a reader. He continued to ask me questions on past issues of UnGarbled-Tech.

What this grandfather and others might not know is my column is polished before publication by the staff at The Jewish Link of New Jersey, who are talented and patient people. What the staff does every week to get The Jewish Link’s incredible paper published is remarkable. And having the opportunity to share my passion for I.T. is a blessing. Writing for the Jewish Link is a responsibility I do not take lightly. I feel blessed that the Jewish Link has such a great staff that edits my column’s terrible grammar. On occasion the editorial staff tolerates my urging to publish a time-sensitive piece that’s a bit late for the deadline (hint, hint!).

For the first time, my late summer column isn’t about back to school but about off to Israel! This year my eldest daughter is headed to the Holy Land. My son Mendy will be doing the same next year. Kayla will be attending seminary in Israel at Midreshet Tehillah.

I find it hard to believe that this is the same girl I dropped off at playgroup (against my wishes) at the tender age of 2. My wife Rachi had to work that day, and I was the one who had to drop her off. Of course, I was a mess, and she looked back at me with her baby blue eyes, sucking on her thumb and holding her blanket while the teacher closed the door and scolded me saying, “Daddy, time to leave,” and politely pushed me out the door.

I see that vision every time I look at my beautiful, smart, artistic and determined daughter. To boast a bit, Kayla has been accepted to NYU, Rutgers Honors, Queens and Stern College, just to name a few. She has earned every bit of her success. My wife Rachi is the champion here who drove Kayla to Long Island or took her to her tutor Mrs. Goldie Minkowitz’s home, so Kayla could achieve a very high score on the SATs.

And now, my dining room table is full of clothes and other items ordered on Amazon Prime for the upcoming gap year in Israel. While clothing might be important for her, here are some of my technology musts for Kayla while she is studying abroad.

First, speak with your children on the subjects that no parent wants to discuss, if you want to ensure your child is ready on all levels to study abroad safely while using today’s technology.

Make sure you scan all your child’s documents: passports, IDs, medical cards, both locally and in Israel. It’s easier now with the great advances in online documents and Google photos; all of the important documents can be stored online in your child’s Google Drive. (If you are fortunate enough to have close family or even a good friend living in Israel see if they are willing to have your child’s scanned documents as shared users. This way if needed these relatives or friends can print your child’s documents and have a copy on hand.)

It’s also a good idea to scan your child’s credit cards and banking cards, in the event that they are lost or stolen. A hard copy should be stored in one’s Tefillin bag or in something you know they will always have with them. Speak to your banking institution to verify if your banks allow a new card to be shipped to the Middle East. Make sure you and your child understand what the procedure will be if you need to replace some banking cards.

If you can afford it, give your child a credit card. I was able to obtain a credit card in my daughter’s name so she can sign her own name and has matching identification if asked. I recommend that you do not open a card in your child’s name as the primary holder as this could have long-term negative effects on their credit. If your child is under 18, this could be very problematic. In my line of work, I have seen disastrous situations. Some of the parents were not even aware that a credit card, paid late, could ruin your child’s credit. These are the types of questions to ask your banking institution.

PayPal credit cards are a great option but are not accepted by all merchants in Israel. Ironically, PayPal is an Israeli-based company. I have not checked recently if this is still the case. Make sure you find this information out before sending your child to Israel.

Smartphones are not a luxury but a critical part of your child’s safety in Israel. Most schools will use Whatsapp as a way to stay in constant contact with their students. I would opt to purchase a phone that has a SIM card. This is better than having your child search around for a store when they land. Many seminaries are supplying SIM cards to their students when they get off the plane.

Here are some tips and hardware purchases that might make your child’s Israel abroad experience that much easier and safer.

For a relatively low price, a messenger or rolling bag comes equipped with a built-in battery pack that fits all types of smartphones and laptops. We are sending our daughter with a Chromebook computer. Low prices and the small chance of having a corrupt drive, damage or a blue screen are attractive reasons to purchase a Chromebook. Chromebooks do not support Skype, but do have Google Hangouts. Other video-chat apps are available. My wife and I expect that our daughter will use her Smartphone for video chatting. If I have my way, I will be chatting with her every day.

Make sure that you purchase a backup battery with a USB cord that has a long enough battery life in case a smartphone needs charging. I opt for the battery chargers that use AA or AAA batteries. (These as well as most hardware items I write about can be purchased via Amazon Prime.) Please note Israeli voltage is different from American. These adapters can be purchased locally but can’t be tested until they arrive in Israel. YU Stern sent a SWAG adapter (kudos to them for doing so!) with YU’s Logo on it. Whatever laptop or Chromebook you purchase, try to get a spare power cord in advance. This way your kids aren’t hunting around looking for a store that will be triple the price to purchase from.

Map apps: I am not sure my daughter will be using these much without her school present, but I loaded the smartphone with WAZE and Google Maps. I assume that both apps may be useful if one needs to get around Israel. I took the time to put the school’s address in both apps as the home address to save time when she arrives at Seminary. I also plan to add to WAZE/Google Maps favorites to all the doctors and family members my daughter may need to visit while in Israel.

There are some other great apps that can be used to keep one organized. I highly recommend any Google product after Gmail. Google Keep (for keeping lists) is a great app. One can make notes with bulleted lists that you mark off when completed. Keeping lists, especially on the items your child needs to bring to Israel, can come in handy for school, work or to keep track of their belongings. The Google Keep lists can be shared with a parent, teacher or friend if needed.

Luggage tags are something that is needed, as you will see when your child arrives. At the luggage carousel, everyone may have purchased the same hot-pink duffle bag. Luggage tags now come equipped with GPS trackers if one can’t find one’s luggage. Most smartphones come with a tracking GPS as well. Make sure you enable this feature and practice this with your child. After all this talk about how critical smartphones are, imagine losing the smartphone and having to figure out how to get your child a new one in Israel.

Every teenager will claim they are super responsible and will never drop their smartphone. Well, we all know that is not the case (pun not intended). Purchase a new case; Otterbox is a good one. The case should be waterproof and have a protective skin that protects the screen as well as the phone. A new good case can make all the difference if your kid is clumsy.

Storage: I expect to see a daily log of pictures and videos from my daughter. If you have a Droid, an SD card can be purchased to store all of these large files. Droids and iPhones support Google photos. Google photos will store your pictures and videos in your Gmail account and will alleviate the need for local storage. The Google Photos app is now built into Gmail and is super useful and fun for organizing and creating albums. Make the time to load this on your kid’s smartphone before they leave for Israel. Make sure the backing up to Gmail photos in the cloud is working, so the pictures or videos will be removed from the smartphone’s memory and free up critical space.

Needless to say, all the technology in the world does not trump good sense and smart decision making, especially if this is your child’s first time abroad. As a Chabadnik, we leave our homes at 13 or 14, and I have done my own cooking and laundry since high school. Maybe in these last few weeks, have your child do their own laundry if they don’t already. Walk them through how to separate whites from colors and even to fold the clothes properly.

If there are any questions on how and where to purchase the items in this week’s Ungarbled-Tech issue, please reach out to me at [email protected]. Hashem should keep our children, people and the soldiers of Israel safe and they should have the experience of a lifetime.

(At the time of this column, the writer is at home, and his daughter is at home. In the coming weeks, this same writer may be caught crying and holding photos of his beloved first born. Do not be alarmed or try to make direct contact with Shneur Garb. Shneur is for sure the wimpy, crying, weeping parent when it comes to his children leaving the nest.)

Shneur Garb is the founder and CEO of The Garb I.T. consulting group in Teaneck, NJ. Shneur also gives seminars to parents and schools on internet safety. Questions or comments can be sent to [email protected].

 

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