SAR, one of country’s first schools to close, celebrates Covid-19 ‘heroes’


A Jewish high school in the Bronx that became one of the first schools in the country to close due to Covid-19 has created a video to honor the “heroes” of the coronavirus pandemic.

SAR Academy and SAR High School shut down for in-person classes on March 3, 2020 after a New Rochelle student’s family member became the second diagnosed case of Covid-19 in New York.

Nearly a year later the SAR High School choir created the music video for a virtual fundraising dinner held on Jan. 14.

The students sing a Hebrew adaptation by Israeli singer Shiri Maimon of the 1984 song “Holding Out For a Hero” by Bonnie Tyler. The camera shows off the school’s safety adaptations and features its support staff. A comic-book effect underlines the superhero theme.

“We wanted our medical staff and the people who stepped up along with the students and faculty to be honored in a creative way,” said Rabbi Kenneth Birnbaum, chair of the performing arts department and the school’s choir. “We’ve made it through the first half of the year with zero in-school transmission of Covid” since reopening in September. “I think the video shows the things we do and it also shows how the students are acting responsibly.”

Before and since reopening, the Modern Orthodox school has adapted to the ever-shifting challenges of the virus, including building outdoor classrooms and limiting the number of grades that meet in-person each day. There are markers on the floor where students can stand to make sure they are at least six feet apart. Touchless faucets and other appliances were added to the rest rooms.

Students are required to have their own thermometer, sign a health form each morning and report any symptoms.

New York CIty’s public middle and high schools remain closed for in-person instruction. Private schools tend to have more resources to spend on mitigation and smaller class sizes to begin with, according to several reports.

Reut Cohn, a freshman soprano who appears in the video and sings on the track, says the video is meaningful and younger people shouldn’t be apathetic toward the virus.

“The reason our school is open is we are following the guidelines, wearing masks, trying to be responsible and sitting six feet apart,” she said. “Our Zoom day is Tuesday and they do that so it’s less students in the building.” Cohn, 14, says the students know that their behavior is crucial even if some youngsters across the country aren’t taking the virus as seriously as they should.

“Covid is real and you should wear masks and take it seriously,” Cohn said. “For anyone that thinks it’s not real, I can tell you we can even meet together as a choir.”

Nathaniel Ribner, who leads the choir with Birnbaum, said it was important to pay homage to those who enabled the school to be open.

In addition to the video, SAR collaborated with five other Jewish schools, including the Yeshiva of Flatbush, to film students actors as part of “The Brothers Grimm Spectaculathon” which aired Sunday night.

“We had industry professionals that came in and showed students how to act for the camera,” Finkelstein said. “When you have a challenge, instead of thinking you can’t do it, you have to think about re-imagining it and being creative.”