One of the more striking byproducts of the Covid-19 pandemic is the toll the virus has taken on our mental well-being, to various degrees. Those who have been sickened by the virus, lost loved ones to it, or are risking their lives to save others are suffering to a degree most of us don’t know.
But even for those who remain unscathed by the illness, we should not discount the trauma each of us has experienced since the start of the crisis. At the outset we realized that for everyone’s sake we would have to stay apart from our families on Passover, a holiday that Jews around the world look forward to spending together. Synagogues cancelled services, initially by choice, and soon by government mandate. Rather than being associated with the frivolity of Purim, masks are now a necessity in the tri-state area — crucial to our safety and to the safety of those near us in line at the grocery store, on the street, or in a train.
Some of us have been forced to take pay cuts, and some of us have lost our jobs altogether. In place of the last third of the school year, our children were told that they needed more screen time, not less, and their playdates and social interactions — so important for their development — went virtual. Most sleepaway camps are canceled and day camps are operating under a new normal.
We miss our friends, our families, our coworkers, our classmates, our fellow congregants. We long to touch them, or at least to stand at arm’s length, our faces uncovered, our health and theirs barely a consideration.
Perhaps worst of all, we can’t escape. Covid-19 is undeniable. Not when we can’t leave home without a mask and hand sanitizer. Not when we must be hyper-aware of how close we are to passersby. Not when it’s jarring to see actors on TV sitting in a booth at a restaurant. Not when every media outlet, every headline, every story is laser-focused on the pandemic. The coronavirus is ever-present and impossible to forget.
With this in mind, NJJN decided that, aside from this editorial, every story in this edition is focused on something other than Covid-19. No, it’s not feasible to leave every mention or reference to the pandemic out of the paper altogether, but we can try to minimize it.
Our stories this week are devoid of illness, hospitals, and disease. Rabbi Clifford Kulwin writes about teaching an impressive crew of rabbinical students in South America (Long-distance learning bolsters Jewish community in Latin America); and Senior Writer Johanna Ginsberg introduces us to a Livingston native who’s harvesting a new crop of Jewish farmers (Livingston native digs into Judaism’s roots).
Editor Gabe Kahn laughs with a South Orange comedian who needs to reassure her audiences in Florida that she’s happy with her life (‘We can laugh at ourselves’); Deputy Managing Editor Lori Silberman Brauner takes readers on a journey from Portugal to the Palisades (When travel dreams are put on hold); and Managing Editor Shira Vickar-Fox reveals that knitting is now a hobby for bubbe AND zayde (For the love of knitting).
Sadly, there is ample time for Covid-related news in the weeks and months and maybe even years ahead. For now, let’s spend the weekend of Independence Day celebrating our country’s freedoms, honoring our essential workers and military personnel, and making a l’chaim to the joys of how we continue to live our lives Jewishly.