The website of the University of Georgia student newspaper, The Red & Black, tells it all: In the middle of the page is a constantly updated COVID-19 Case Counter. With statistics provided by the Georgia Department of Public Health, the University Health Center and the Athens-Clarke County Coroner, the counter displays how many COVID cases and deaths there have been in Georgia, in the county and at UGA. Fortunately, there has only been one death resulting from the virus at the university, but there have been 3,894 cases as of the end of the first week of October.
This already is a school year like no other. Overshadowed by the raging pandemic, life at all the Georgia universities has changed in every way, from classes to social life. But Jewish students on the campuses seem to be taking it in stride.
“Most students that we spoke to said the situation is not ideal, but they understand the world is very different these days,” reported Hillel UGA director Roey Shoshan. “Many of them have moved to a hybrid model of in-person and online classes, and they said that UGA has made it clear which classes should be in person and which classes will be online and, for the most part, they feel it is organized and transparent.”
Like other campuses in the Hillels of Georgia system, the Hillel at UGA decided to “move all our programs online and to create a variety of virtual programs like cooking classes, Jewish learning fellowships, Israel learning fellowships, Kahoot games and also individual coffee dates with students, with an emphasis on freshmen,” Shoshan said.
Jewish students at Emory Hillel are benefitting from its hybrid model, reports director Lauren Blazofsky. “Students are enjoying the opportunity to gather safely in outdoor spaces, really fulfilling their desires to have person-to-person interactions. Our in-person socially distant Hillel programming has really given the students a break from their Zoom classes and the ever-so-present Zoom fatigue. We have found students to be extremely grateful for our approach to programs this semester.”
According to Blazofsky, Emory Hillel is following the university’s rules that require students to wear masks and socially distance while in its building or at one of its programs. “Additionally, we are contact tracing and taking temperatures at the door when students enter the building.”
Although Emory University opened with the “strictest of rules,” they have loosened up as the school year has progressed, she said.
Meanwhile, Hillel students at Kennesaw State University and the Georgia Institute of Technology have adjusted to accommodate the new reality while still finding ways to enjoy socializing on campus, according to Amel Alyamani, a publicist for Hillels of Georgia.