It was back in 1956 when Rav Moshe Feinstein ztzl made it clear that for Jewish schools, there was no question as to whether or not to remain in session on December 24- 25. While fulfilling this charge has sometimes posed a staffing challenge, Yeshiva parents were always ready to step in and help! This year posed a new challenge to keeping school running, as due to COVID, we could not allow parents to enter the buildings. The challenge became an opportunity thanks to technology, and all of our divisions were able to provide rich, engaging programming with speakers from across the country and across the globe!

Mr. Nachliel Selevan, born and bred in Jerusalem’s Old City, utilized technology to blend Tanach, virtual museum tours, artifacts, and maps into one amazing learning experience. Israel came to Pittsburgh, allowing the high school girls to learn in-depth about the times of Bayis Rishon, while the mesivta was able to see the second Beis HaMikdash, its times, coins, and more.

Ms. Paula Riemer bravely took up the challenge of representing her father, Mr. Jack Sittsamer OBM, a survivor from Poland, who lived in Pittsburgh. Ms. Riemer spoke to the high school girls about her father’s experiences in six different concentration camps, and at age 19 weighed just 72 lbs. She shared how her father came to America and built a family here, and touched on her experience as the child of a survivor.

Mr. Akiva Shapiro, Mrs. Shollar’s brother, a lawyer specializing in Constitutional Law, spoke to the boys about the recent Supreme Court case he successfully litigated dealing with First Amendment rights and NY Governor Mario Cuomo’s restrictions on religious gatherings. Speaking from Teaneck, NJ, Mr. Shapiro explained the importance of religious freedom, and how that is balanced with public health needs, and ended with encouraging the boys to consider a career in law.

Mr. David Coe, Mrs. Shollar’s brother in law, shared his journey from being the son of a Chrisitan minister to a Ger Tzedek, and how attending a magnet school for languages exposed him to Hebrew, laying the foundation for his connection with Judaism and Eretz Yisroel. His humor and warmth reached across the state from Elkins Park, PA, clearly touching the boys. Mr. Coe, an architect, emphasized the importance of making a personal connection with Hashem. Rabbi Mordechai Lightstone, the social media editor at, (previously also a senior staff writer for and founder of TechTribe, where he brings together Jews in tech and digital media, spoke to the boys high school from Crown Heights, about blending chassidus and technology.

Ms. Margie Pensak, published author in Ami, Hamodia, Mishpacha, and numerous other Jewish publications spoke to the middle school girls from Baltimore about being a writer. Mr. Joel Cohn, all the way from Yerushalaim, shared pictures, history, and music about Yerushalaim, and prepared students for Assara b’Teves.

Girls and boys from grades 3-8 learned about how Yerushalaim is a central focus of Yiddishkeit. Mrs. Sharon Cooper gave a presentation about oceanography. Mr. Dovid Taub enlivened the day with a Zoom presentation on his puppets and puppeteering. Mr. Tamir Goodman, Yeshiva Schools graduate, spoke to the boys’ mesivta about balancing sports and Torah, joining us from Israel, where he now lives.

We thank all our presenters, as well as the staff members who moderated these sessions, giving our students food for thought, as well as inspiration. On the Monday following these sessions, one high school student shared, “In the dorm, we’re still talking about [his] presentation. It was amazing!”