Yes! We plan to begin the academic year in person on August 31, 2020. If we are unable to do that, we will begin the year using an online learning format and start in-person learning as soon as we are able to from a safety and legal perspective.
The vast majority of our student body opted to shelter in place. Not a single day of classes was cancelled, and we transitioned quickly to virtual learning. Intensive hevruta pair learning with the help of teachers remained the norm using breakout rooms. Pardes was a model community, supporting one another and continuing to practice intensive Jewish communal life, including davening, Rosh Chodesh celebrations, communal havdalah, tisches and much more. We yearned for the bet midrash, but we felt that Pardes learning and community helped us make the most of these difficult times. We put together a short video showing how we successfully transitioned our community to online learning and communal activities. Check it out here.
You can join the semester a little bit late if necessary. When classes reconvene after the High Holy Days, on October 12, is another opportune time to join the Pardes community.
We understand that many people are facing increased financial stress and an uncertain job market. Together with our funders, we are developing generous scholarship and living expense packages to help our students attend Pardes. More details will be announced soon.
While it is never easy to lose a job or face an uncertain job market, we believe that this can be an opportunity to invest in your own Jewish learning and literacy. Immersing yourself in our Beit Midrash and engaging with our faculty will help you grow personally, as well as develop a variety of learning and interpersonal skills that can translate to any field, both within the Jewish professional sphere and beyond. Additionally, our fellowships offer a chance to specialize in a particular area of focus, which can help enhance your resume upon your return to the job market.
We are working with our agents to get as much information as possible. At the moment, we have a contract with Harel Insurance, which should allow for students starting in the Fall to sign up for the full academic year of health insurance at the same rates we have had until now. For a young person without pre-existing conditions, that is about $1.40 a day.
We cannot guarantee that this situation won’t change, but that is the current outlook we have received from our agents. We will keep all of our accepted and prospective students updated in a timely fashion with any new information we receive.
We understand that your personal situation might change, even at the last minute. We have updated our cancellation policy so that the deposit and all tuition payments are fully refundable until August 16, 2020, two weeks before the start of Fall semester. Your application and acceptance can also be deferred until the following year if need be.
We expect the government to give special consideration to students coming to study with long-term visas. MASA is lobbying on behalf of all long-term programs, including our own. However, in the event that foreign entry is still prohibited, we will make plans to transition the Year Program to an online learning setup until that policy is changed.
In the event that some countries do not allow travel and others do, we will plan on a case by case basis. Possibilities include having some classes live-streamed until you can arrive. We will continue to consider this and update our plans as needed. This academic year, a handful of our students were caught abroad and unable to return to Israel, and a small group of students decided to return home. Most of these students were able to participate in online learning even from different time zones.
Coming to a brand new country for a semester or a year can be hard, and having to start out in isolation can make that transition even more challenging. We will set up a robust system of support for our students in the event they are required to isolate for two weeks. This will include helping facilitate food and other needs. These two weeks could provide a great opportunity to study in an online ulpan prior to the beginning of the academic year.
Situations like this have unfortunately happened, and our students were able to successfully return home even during the period with strictest shelter-at-home restrictions. There are no guarantees, but United Airlines has maintained at least one daily flight from Tel Aviv to New York City throughout the crisis and we expect that there may be additional flights in the future.