Emily Hausman accepted the position as the director of early childhood education at the Riverdale Y in June 2017, never anticipating the path her job would follow less than three years later. COVID-19 happened. Schools were closed on March 16. Hausman received a call from the Department of Education (DOE) asking if she could organize an emergency childcare program for frontline healthcare workers.
Hausman related, “I jumped in a little blind because I couldn’t imagine how people could fight COVID-19 in the hospitals every day while they had to patch together childcare.”
Following the news of school closings, the early childhood team worked to move to an online platform under Hausman’s direction. Within a short time, the Riverdale Y’s Early Childhood program switched to virtual online learning. Emails were prepared for each class with resources and teacher videos ready to be emailed to each family. Zoom accounts were created, class schedules organized, including class-specific Google sites, with Hausman’s staff working 18-hour days to get everything up and running.
After receiving the request to establish child care for healthcare workers, the team became the only site in Riverdale running programs for these frontline families. “We are running our program in a way that is safe and keeping everyone healthy,” explained Hausman. Funded by the DOE, the program received assistance from Congressman Elliot Engel, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Councilman Andrew Cohen.
Along with Mindy Gluckman, operations coordinator, and two early childhood teachers, Stephanie Patterson and Daynlees Salvador, Hausman’s team has stepped up, going above and beyond the call of duty to help establish and maintain the program. Hausman’s program includes running emergency child care from 7:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Monday-Friday, in addition to scheduling events and speakers two or three nights a week. Additional staff members are teachers from local preschools that closed and those who work in the Riverdale Y’s after school elementary school program. Children’s meals are provided by the Department of Aging.
Prior to moving to Riverdale, Hausman was the curriculum director at the Levite Jewish Community Center in Birmingham, Alabama. After accepting her position at the Riverdale Y, the position of director of community engagement was created for and accepted by her husband, Rabbi Joseph Robinson.
For the Hausmans, who have three children, a 4-year-old and 7-year-old twins, life became increasingly challenging when the children’s school, SAR, closed on March 2. The family remained at home until the SAR quarantine was lifted on March 16. Rabbi Robinson and the children moved to Allentown, Pennsylvania, to be with Hausman’s parents, so the children could have more space and a large backyard in which to play. Hausman remained in her apartment in Riverdale, working around the clock, making sure her programs were working efficiently and successfully.
While Rabbi Robinson works from home in Allentown, Hausman’s mom, Mary Ellen Hausman, “attends” virtual classes along with the kids. Hausman said she misses her kids, but knows “that they are doing great and have so much to tell me every night when I FaceTime them.” Hausman joins the family in Allentown on Fridays before Shabbat and returns to Riverdale early Monday morning, ready to work and provide much-needed help during the COVID-19 crisis.
By Yvette Finkestein