On the front lines: Students share professional experiences during COVID

As much of the world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, Gratz students are finding ways to make a difference in their communities.


When cases of COVID-19 began to spike in New York City in March, Gratz student Lisa Aamodt faced some difficult decisions. 

As education director for a K-12 Hebrew school on Long Island, Aamodt (right) had to quickly shift all programs online. She also needed to find innovative ways to maintain a sense of community and keep students from falling through the cracks. 

“In New York, the virus hit us hard,” she says. “Not so long ago, there were more cases in my county than in most countries. It was really unnerving, but what was important to me as an educator was that we keep offering programs for our students.”

Aamodt immediately transitioned educational programs to online platforms like Zoom. She also launched a mentorship program so students who aren’t attending online classes still have someone to talk to.

When she’s not directing Hebrew education, Aamodt works as a 911 dispatcher, a job that can be overwhelming even in the best of times. A 2019 graduate of Gratz’s Master’s in Non-Profit Management Program, Aamodt is now working on her Doctorate in Educational Leadership, also from Gratz. 

“In New York, we’re still in the COVID epicenter,” she says. “I’m having tough discussions with people about loss but, thankfully, I’ve had the experience from my education at Gratz about how to work with people during tough times.” 

Aamodt, who is currently enrolled in online doctoral classes, says continuity is important.

“I’m really happy I can continue learning,” she says. “I feel fortunate because I have community and engagement through my learning.”

In another COVID-19 hotspot, Ilan Michael Aldouby (left) is doing “holy work” as a chaplain at a large hospital in Detroit. Aldouby, a student in the Master’s of Jewish Studies Program at Gratz College, works in a level-one trauma center, where the most serious patients are treated.

Within the past two months the hospital has been overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients, he said. In addition to working with patients, Aldouby says he’s also counseling nurses and doctors.

“Recently, I've considered nurses and physicians to be more my patients than actual patients,” he says. “Nurses fear they will get COVID-19 and spread it to their families. Physicians, in addition to this, fear having to decide whether to take someone off a ventilator and give it to someone else. Physicians worried that they would decide who lives and who dies. But who takes care of the caregivers? I do.”

Aldouby serves as a hospital chaplain because he believes it is a calling from G-D. While many of his colleagues at other hospitals have been told to work remotely, Aldouby is still on the job, as usual.

“For me, the most important time to be a chaplain in the hospital is now,” he says. “When I tell people what I do, many assume I am under horrible stress, and that I am carrying a tremendous burden. But I don’t feel this way. Despite all the death and sadness that I encounter, I feel rewarded when I can comfort my patients.”