Pittsburgh’s three Jewish day schools all have taken giant leaps in upping the protection for their teachers and staff against COVID-19. Officials from Community Day School, Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh and Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh have confirmed that all or the vast majority of their building staffs have received vaccines to ward off the virus.
“What feels nothing short of an obvious miracle is that 100% of our Community Day School faculty and staff are now fully vaccinated for COVID-19, have a first dose of vaccine already, or have a vaccine appointment scheduled in the next few days,” Head of School Avi Baran Munro said in a March 12 email to parents. “I am thankful to the scientists, volunteers and funders who made this miracle possible for humankind and to our government leaders for prioritizing the essential role of educators in our society.”
CDS expects all of its staff to be immune against COVID-19 by mid-April, said Jennifer Bails, the school’s director of marketing and communications.
CDS’ accomplishment is primarily due to the work of three CDS staffers who, when they heard teachers had become eligible for the vaccine, spent a full weekend on their computers, scheduling appointments one by one, ensuring everyone on the roughly 90-person staff would get a shot in the arm.
“It was a lot of sitting in front of the computer and refreshing and refreshing,” laughed one of the staff members, who preferred to remain anonymous. “We didn’t do this for the attention.”
At Yeshiva Schools, “the overwhelming majority of our teachers have been vaccinated, which is a great, great accomplishment,” said Rabbi Yossi Rosenblum, CEO of Yeshiva Schools of Pittsburgh.
Most of Yeshiva’s staff received Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 shots through the Allegheny Intermediate Unit school consortium, Rosenblum said. That staff includes more than 100 people, most of them teachers.
“It’s very good because our teachers are in front of a lot of people,” Rosenblum said.
Hillel Academy staff — about 70 people — also received their Johnson & Johnson shots through the intermediate unit. Rabbi Sam Weinberg, Hillel’s principal and education director, said many on the staff who had not previously been vaccinated got the shot during a recent event at Obama Academy, a public school in Pittsburgh.
“Thank you to all the people who made this possible,” Weinberg said. “There’s definitely a higher comfort with the shots. But people are still being careful.”
Oriyah Sandefur teaches early childhood education at Community Day School. She’s receiving her second dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine on April 1.
After getting her first shot, “I just was filled with a lot of joy and gratefulness, gratitude,” she told the Chronicle.” I kind of felt like a small part of a whole … like I was contributing to getting us back to some sort of normalcy.”
Brian Gerard, who is in his second year as an English, social studies and STEM technology teacher at Yeshiva Schools, said his Johnson & Johnson vaccine makes him more comfortable in front of his students.
“It felt pretty good,” he said. “It’s another layer of security.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.