Rituals from Afar Webinar

By: Rachel Levitt Klein Dratch
KC Topics: 
Coronavirus, Community Building Inside & Out

Notes from Rituals from Afar Webinar on April 2, 2020
Meeting run by Rachel Dratch
Notes by Sarit Anstandig

General perspectives to consider

  • We are not in an ideal situation and many of the resources that often connect us as a community are missing right now. 
  • Let us give ourselves permission to organize programs that are not what we ideally want them to be.  
  • Let us give ourselves permission to keep our programs simple yet meaningful.
  • Be thoughtful about the particular value that you want students to leave with from each program. 
  • Be thoughtful about the timing of your program. If it will trigger difficult feelings, it may be a good idea to give parents a heads up.
  • Some of us might be thinking about running the same program as we usually do, even if it is now virtual, so that students are prepared for next year’s program. But we are in a unique time, and it is probably best to free ourselves from that and focus on what students need now. It is okay to choose a different theme this year than we usually choose. We can then take time to revise what we do before next year. 
  • Be mindful of homework and expectations on these days.
  • If your school is doing something for US Memorial Day, some of these ideas can work too.


  • See “Yoms Ideas” for resources mentioned before the meeting.
  • Join the Prizmah Reshet in order to continue the conversation! You can join here.
  • The next webinar meeting will be on April 23rd. The topic will be about graduation.

Yom Hashoah Ideas

  • There is a lot of sadness and anxiety in people’s lives right now. Instead of focusing on death, it may be worth considering a theme of resilience. 
  • Consider how to “set up the room” in a certain way to create a certain atmosphere. Some suggestions are to do the program at night, tell students to come to the screen with a candle (or phone flashlight), or tell them to come dressed in a certain way.  
  • 10 day gratitude program in Israel from Yom Hashoah to Yom Ha’atzmaut
  • Instagram during the Holocaust
  • Zikaron basalon - invite a survivor to talk to an intimate group about his/her experiences or share advice. One suggestion is to organize school families so that they can be with other families that they have not necessarily met before. Another thought is to tap into the second generation of survivors and have them share the stories of their parents. 
  • There is a website to make your own yahrtzeit candle wrapper. Each student can make one based on the story of one individual. This gives students something hands-on to do from home. If you would like to focus on resilience, Yad vashem offers an easy way to find stories with that theme.
  • Centropa short films on resilience: https://www.resilience.centropa.org/
  • Righteous Conversations has beautiful cartoon videos of survivors’ stories. The videos are made by high school students in LA.

Yom Hazikaron Ideas

  • Instead of focusing on death, it may be worth considering other themes, such as kavod or having a community mindset
  • A short ceremony which can include school alumni or schlichim who have served in the IDF. One possibility is to organize into small groups, and have one person who served in the army talk to each group about their experiences. 
  • Mizrachi’s mishnayot project - students learn in the memory of fallen soldiers
  • Siren. You can enhance this with a current example that is similar: in NYC people banged on pots and pans from their windows to express gratitude. iCenter also has videos of something similar in Israel. 
  • Learning in memory of particular soldiers. For instance, there is a Yom HaZikaron Siyum HaTanach.
  • A discussion about ethical dilemmas in war
  • Have students read real letters that were written from related periods
  • Each class can learn about the life of a particular fallen soldier. One suggestion is to include the parents or other living family members in the program and they can share more about their loved one. 
  • School wide mitzvah program in memory of a particular soldier. 

Yom Haatzmaut Ideas

  • Be thoughtful about your goal. Is it to teach content? To develop students’ personal attachment to Israel? Or for students to just have fun? 
  • Family programming for the entire school at once. You can offer a potpourri of options for everyone to choose what most interests them. 
  • Live Israeli cooking demonstration from a chef
  • Chagigah for the entire school. Everyone comes dressed up in white and blue. Everyone can even decorate their homes with Israeli themed things
  • Every family sends up to 5 words of what Israel means to them, and all the clips are put together.
  • An Israeli flag show can still happen. Students can be given the motions in advance and practice them beforehand. 
  • Create a virtual tour of Israel. Lots of suggestions in this area:
    • Split students up into small groups and each group is responsible for presenting one part of Israel using any type of media. There is a community presentation at the end. 
    • Base it on Shvil Yisrael. On the way, you can stop at any places that people in your school might be personally connected to. It can end with a trivia quiz about the various places seen.
    • Avichai Pepper has a collection of videos done over the last few years that is a virtual tour of Israel. The school shows one video weekly, and on Yom Haatzmaut there is a trivia game from the entire year. This year, the videos include a scavenger hunt in which the students decide where to go next. He is happy to share more info or share any of the videos. They are currently on youtube, and will hopefully be moved to a blog soon. They are based on the Lookstein Center’s Israel curriculum. 
    • This might be an opportunity to support Israeli tour guides as they are struggling. While it might be difficult for schools to be burdened with additional expenses, some schools might already have investments with particular tour guides (for instance, from a school trip that was cancelled). Additionally, many tour guides might be happy to do it for free or for a minimal fee if they already have a strong relationship with a particular school. 
    • Ask students about the really weird or random details from the tour - just for fun.
    • For a more serious experience: virtual tour of what is happening currently in Israel. Students can appreciate the challenges there right now. While this will be difficult for some students, it might be meaningful for others. 
  • It can be meaningful to use this as a leadership opportunity for the oldest students in the school. For instance, 8th graders can give a virtual tour of Israel to younger students.
  • Even if shlichim and shlichot from your school returned to Israel, they can still be integrated into your program
  • Partner with a school in Israel and run a program together. Or organize something with other schools across the country, showing that even though we are in isolation, we can also join together in a very large way. 
  • For a class or smaller group: game of Clue in which each person needs to dress up as a particular character. The objects are Israeli-themed.
  • Offer students challenges in various disciplines and they can choose which one to participate in. Examples could be an engineering option in which students need to build a cord bridge or a cooking challenge with Israeli foods. A supply list just needs to be sent to parents in advance so that they can have whatever will be needed. 
  • Ir David has a virtual tour
  • It might be a struggle to keep everyone engaged when this might not be a required day of school. One tool is to offer several options so that students want to participate. You can send out a survey beforehand asking them which option they are interested in. Another tool is to use older students. For instance, they can make a “choose-your-own-adventure” game for younger students. The older students will likely be more invested because they made the game. 
  • Israeli dance class
  • Send out an Israeli song list to students for their drive through Israel. They must fill in what the drive looks like. 
  • Students have to photoshop themselves into famous Israeli scenes or make postcards with themselves in it
  • Hallel can be challenging to do over zoom and might require creativity in making it not feel awkward or anticlimactic. 
  • Minute to win it challenges that are Israeli themed. It could be exciting for students to compete against teachers. 
  • Online escape room
  • Ask seniors for ideas of what would be fun for them. Maybe a lip sync competition to Israeli music, or a music party where seniors DJ. 
  • If your school uses Schoology as your learning platform, you can harness this as an engagement tool. Use it to have students post, like, and comment on other posts. Tiktok and Instagram can also be other useful platforms.