Staying in Touch: Building a Strong Alumnae Family
Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Finkle Program for overseas students harnesses the power of the internet to maintain warm, nurturing relationships with their beloved alumnae from all the years, all over the world.
“Midreshet Lindenbaum Alumnae Recharge Weeks completely lived up to its name; I really needed that ‘shot in the arm’ of shiurim from my former teachers and the personal meetings with my Midreshet Lindenbaum mentors,” says Rebecca Hyman of Westchester, NY, currently a junior at University of Michigan.
Typically, Midreshet Lindenbaum’s Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program welcomes back alumnae visiting Israel during winter break, providing them with free room and board on campus, and the opportunity to replenish their souls through specially-tailored classes, chevrutot in the beit midrash, tiyulim, chessed opportunities and individual meetings with their beloved former teachers. But this year, with travel curtailed by the pandemic and social gatherings impossible, the Finkle Program seized the opportunities afforded by the Zoom era to go virtual.
“Although we really miss seeing our alumnae in person, we are grateful for the technology that has enabled us to stay in touch and even broaden our reach,” says Director of Programming Cheryl Burnat. “Our online Alumnae Recharge Week enabled us to connect with members of the alumnae family who might not have been on holiday in Israel. We had participants from all the years, from all over the world,” she reports. “We were also able to coordinate individual ISP’s – the Individual Spiritual Programs that are a unique feature of the Lindenbaum year. That was also really special for the alumnae, who were able to reconnect and open up about everything going on in their lives today.”
Rebecca Hyman agrees: “As the person responsible for coordinating the Orthodox community on campus, this pandemic year has been even more challenging than usual. I am so grateful to my Lindenbaum alma mater for being with me and giving me the moral support and practical tips to continue.”
The Flip Side
Frankel also moderates a number of WhatsApp groups to share digital shiurim. “I love this chat!” wrote alumna Avigayil Altman of Teaneck, NJ. “I have been listening to all the shiurim. It is a great idea – such a simple yet effective way to access amazing Torah and feel connected to my teachers.”
Another popular WhatsApp group provides a forum for alumnae to ask halakhic questions, which are answered by Rosh Midrasha Rabbanit Sally Mayer, Rosh Beit Midrash Rabbanit Nomi Berman, Ramim David Brofsky and Yoni Rosensweig. “No subject is off limits,” says Frankel. Recent examples of questions from the 100-odd members include whether or not one needs to tovel a candy thermometer, folding laundry on Shabbat or opening a package on Shabbat with the intention of using the item within it.
“It used to be that we could fly in to various locations, give shiurim on college campuses and chat with our alumnae,” says Rabbanit Mayer. “While the personal component is definitely missing, the flip side is our newfound ability to reach greater numbers of former students and strengthen the Midreshet Lindenbaum family at large.”