(Courtesy of Academies at GBDS) On March 17, Academies at Gerrard Berman Day School (GBDS) first through eighth-grade students, together with thousands of Jewish day school children from across the United States and from around the world, gathered online to celebrate the coming holiday of Passover. The event, titled “Seder Achim Gam Yachad—the Global Model Seder” featured art created by students, a virtual tour of the Bible Lands Museum, and the singing of Passover songs, including the world’s largest simultaneous singing of “Dayenu.” Special guests included the singing duo Yonina, and R. Gershom Sizomu, the chief rabbi of Uganda and member of Parliament, who told his story of Passover after the fall of the dictator Idi Amin.
The event is not connected to any organization but rather is the brainchild of organizer Eric Golombek. Golombek, an educator in Jerusalem, visited the Abayudaya Jewish community in Uganda, where he briefly volunteered at the Hadassah School before returning home to Israel due to COVID-19. Tragically, on September 24, Hadassah Principal Aaron Kintu Moses passed away from COVID-19, leaving the school rudderless at a time when it is facing dire financial needs. The Global Model Seder was created by Golombek in memory of Principal Aaron and also as a way to raise funds for the school.
“In a time when the world has felt small for so many people, we hope our event will remind children that we are not in this alone,” Golombek said. Sarit Ginzburg, general studies principal of academies at GBDS in Oakland, New Jersey, said: “This has been an incredibly challenging and isolating year for everyone, and this event allows our students to connect with their peers from across the globe. Prior to the pandemic we only dreamed of being connected to so many schools at the same time.”
Orly Bejerano, a Judaics teacher at the Solomon Schechter Day School in Boston signed her school up to participate. “It is an amazing opportunity for our school to connect with other children around the world,” she said. “Plus, the lead-up activities build anticipation. The children are excited.” R. Aytan Kadden, a teacher at the Keshet School in Jerusalem said: “How often do you get a chance to bring together children from all over the world, with vastly different backgrounds and different Jewish observances? Passover is something that unites us all.”
In preparation for the event, Academies at GBDS students used their imagination and creativity and worked with their class partners on writing a Passover play, song or poem using Padlet.
Over 3,000 children registered to participate from the United States, Canada, Israel, England, Ireland, Italy, South Africa and Uganda. Children in North America joined from their classrooms, where many schools have returned to in-person learning. Israeli, European and African children livestreamed the event from their homes in the early evening.
To learn about Academies at GBDS and to schedule a tour, contact Lina Shuster at 201-337-1111, ext. 208 or visit www.ssnj.org.