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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

We requested, you answered: Right here’s how JTA readers skilled a historic, tumultuous yr

(JTA) — A lot has modified within the Jewish world since COVID-19 burst onto the scene. How may we on the Jewish Telegraphic Company sum it up?

Now we have marked the one-year anniversary of the pandemic in the USA with tales, memorials and reside occasions. However even our greatest efforts may by no means seize the vary of feelings, modifications and experiences that ran by way of our group over the previous yr.

So we turned to you, our readers. Becoming a member of forces with our colleagues at 70 Faces Media’s different websites — My Jewish Studying, Alma, Kveller and The Nosher — we requested you in regards to the good, the unhealthy and the revelatory in your pandemic yr.

Hundreds responded, pouring their hearts out. Right here is a few of what you advised us.

If you happen to may describe your pandemic expertise in a single phrase, what would it not be?

(Shira Feder)

Right here’s a phrase cloud we created out of your solutions. “Lonely” was the most typical phrase used, adopted by “remoted,” “bored,” “pissed off” and “quiet.” From “unusual” to “stress” to “traumatic” to “drained,” the temper within the Jewish group appeared bleak. 

However others discovered alternative to reevaluate their methods of dwelling as they stayed at dwelling, utilizing phrases like “bliss,” “household,” “slower,” “instructional” and “enlightening” to elucidate what their lives seemed like.

If you happen to look nearer, you see much less frequent phrases like “rollercoaster,” “bearable,” “unnerving” and “hermit,” offering a window into the collective moods of the Jewish group.

We requested what you missed most about your pre-pandemic life — in-person Jewish group dwelling ranked on the prime.

So many talked about lacking the power to pop into synagogue, in addition to in-person occasions like bar mitzvahs, funerals and weddings. Shedding Friday night time Shabbat providers was a selected loss for a lot of, as had been minyans and vacation gatherings. You missed hugs, Hebrew faculty and singing in choirs. 

Right here’s only a sampling of what a few of you advised us you missed.

Having the ability to collect with folks in individual, whether or not that be having folks over for Shabbat, to celebrating holidays locally, and with the ability to rejoice private milestones Jewishly with household, pals, and my Jewish group. — Kat Romanow, 36, Montreal, Canada

Celebrating and fascinating with different folks! Even for the Excessive Holy Days, I used to be in the identical home with my household however we had been in several providers. I began changing into a part of the group on the synagogue the place I taught (fortunately nonetheless do!) and attended providers whereas I used to be at school, and I miss being there, or the synagogue the place I grew up, in individual! A lot of my Jewish life is expounded to sharing experiences with different folks, in order that’s been laborious. I’m wanting ahead to having a Hanukkah or Purim get together in individual once more! — Erica Schoenberg, Houston, Texas

I used to be simply beginning to discover Judaism in 2019. I began going to a synagogue often and I miss listening to the Shabbat Shaloms and consuming bagels throughout our Torah examine each Saturday. I’ve joined one other synagogue since then and it truly is so laborious to hitch a group nearly. — Emi Montenegro, 23, New York Metropolis

Neighborhood!! Seeing folks fade to face, gathering collectively. And hugs!!! — Susan Barocas, 68, Washington, D.C.

Schmoozing, each as a Jewish individual and as a Jewish skilled. — Rebecca Gurvets, 23, Silver Spring, Maryland

I’m not Jewish. I’d simply began on the trail of studying Judaism when the synagogue shifted to a digital atmosphere. I’m undecided what I’m lacking besides the enjoyment of a folks to folks, actual time & area Jewish group. — Karen FitzGerald, 72, Santa Rosa, California

Celebrating with different folks that I largely see at holidays. Having Seder by way of Zoom was laborious the primary time and it’s laborious to understand that we’re approaching a second pandemic Passover. I really like seeing my cousins at Passover and Rosh Hashanah dinner. The facet conversations, or uncommon groupings don’t occur over Zoom.  — Rachel Pergamit, 30, Jamaica Plain, Maryland

Shopping for contemporary challahs each Friday. — Naomi Atlani, 72, Toronto, Canada

I miss going to temple bodily. Though I solely go a number of occasions a yr, there’s extra to service than simply the sermon. I really like the music, and with the ability to zone out and in as I learn non secular/spiritual commentary. I exploit the time to replicate, and love the atmosphere that enables me to take action. — Juliana Lamm-Perez, 18, San Francisco, California

Neighborhood! This yr we had our son’s bar mitzvah (in the lounge by way of Zoom) and he has watched his pals the identical manner however has missed out on the enjoyable and expertise of one of the best of the yr; totally different synagogues, seeing pals, the entire thing. I’ve attended a number of Zoom funerals however can’t pay a shiva name, can’t wrap my arms round a grieving pal. And camp. So laborious to explain the influence of the lack of camp. — Sara Nuland, 50, Fairfield, Connecticut

Greater than half of you reported beginning a brand new Jewish follow in the course of the pandemic. 

You signed up for Zoom Hebrew classes and Yiddish lessons. Lighting weekly Shabbat candles. Challah baking. Zoom providers for Shabbat. New weekly chavruta studying teams over the telephone. Zoom Purim spiels. Zoom Passover Seders. Zoom studying lessons. A few you mentioned hitbodedut, the Hasidic follow of speaking to God. And naturally, extra Zoom.

Listed here are simply a few of the Jewish practices you began this pandemic yr.

I began making challah each week. When the pandemic started and yeast and flour had been laborious to come back by, I purchased a 2 lb bag of Purple Star yeast. I nonetheless have about 1/3 of the bag left, however I’ll need to get some extra quickly. On-line challah-making has been a good way to remain related with our group. I’m very grateful for that. — Heidi Isenberg-Feig, 49, Potomac, Maryland

I’m saying Kaddish for my father. We attend Central Synagogue on-line. I Fb Stay and Zoom name with rabbis and communities now. I began Daf Yomi by way of My Jewish Studying. — Sasha McLean, 42, Ottawa, Canada

I stepped in as a Friday night substitute cantorial soloist for considered one of our congregants who grew to become in poor health. — Tara Starr, 63, Iowa

As senior rabbi, we tailored every little thing to Zoom, designed secure in-person child naming, B’nai Mitzvah, weddings and funerals open air, began Zooming relations into Shabbat and pageant dinners and obtained inventive with our vacation planning all yr lengthy. — Rabbi Beth Singer, Congregation Emanu-El, San Francisco

I don’t really feel as related as I might have preferred to really feel to the Jewish group, particularly as my daughter was born. However we had an opportunity to do a simchat bat (child lady naming) nearly, which meant family and friends from all around the globe had been capable of zoom in! — Keren Fefer Adler, 29, New York Metropolis

I started to bake challah each week as a technique to take my thoughts off of issues and hook up with my Shabbat rituals. — Halle Jaymes Shumate, 20, Washington, D.C.

I now thank God each morning for the security of my family and friends. — Jill Maleson, 70, Fremont, California

After I was a tiny child and couldn’t sleep, my mother taught me the Shema and mentioned to go proper to sleep. I say it nightly however this time including within the names of those that want for somebody to ask a divine intervention. It doesn’t all the time occur, however I do thank whoever is listening for my day. I’m 73, and nonetheless each night time I say the Shema, I chill out and fall shortly asleep. I like to recommend it. — Joseph Toubes, 73, Des Moines, Iowa  

I gave to extra charities than I had earlier than, particularly meals banks. — Eliene Augenbraun, 59, New York

Zoom weekly for Shabbat providers. Earlier than, any excuse to not drive over to attend could be used: snow, ice, too drained. — Lois Jacobs, 70, Methuen, Maryland

My native girlfriends and I did a Hanukkah Harry secret reward alternate, which was nice despite the fact that not one of the folks we exchanged with are Jews. Each night time I taught them one thing about being Jewish or the vacation, they usually helped me really feel accepted in my non-Jewish group. — Sara Boilen, 41, Whitefish, Montana

We requested you what was most significant or stunning to you about your Jewish experiences this yr and whether or not there was a selected second, maybe from a Jewish vacation or expertise, that stood out. This was the query that drew a few of our longest, most considerate responses. 

Lots of people talked about being grateful to be alive, for the shift to digital providers and for particular vacation moments. Many individuals talked about forming newfound connections to a a lot bigger digital group.

Listed here are a few of your most memorable moments of the yr.

I stared down dying. I went into remission. I’m nonetheless on oral medicine. I worry virtually nothing anymore. — Cantor Jacqueline Marx, rabbinical pupil at Pluralistic Rabbinical Seminary, Carrboro, North Carolina

All of us knew somebody who had gotten Covid-19, some didn’t recuperate, and after we realized all of us had been nonetheless right here collectively we went outdoors and cried with candles in our palms. — Deanna E Fox, 60, Tampa, Florida

I observed the vaccine was rolled out on Hanukkah, which was a miracle. I counted the Omer with my daughter, creating a brand new custom. I wrote a Psalm throughout a category with Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt. — Ellen Charlop, 59, Nice Neck, New York

I began a Zoom for Jewish singles age 55+. I did it each different night time. It grew to become a household and obtained a number of us by way of the pandemic. We grew to become a household. — Sharon Klein, 64, Lengthy Island, New York

I used to be impressed by how the entire congregations tailored. No matter how inflexible their customs, whether or not reformed, conservative, chabad, everybody adjusted with social distancing, digital platforms and out of doors providers. It was good to see that. — Jill Fox, 41, Parkland, Florida

Providers on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur had been unexpectedly shifting, despite the fact that they occurred on Zoom. And it appeared as if in all of our providers and occasions, we got here nearer to one another, knew one another in a different way and extra deeply than we had earlier than. — Robbi Nester, 67, Lake Forest, California

Surviving to have a seder on my own. — Janice Figman, 53, Chicago, Illinois

I joined a pen pal jail writing program began by my rabbi. — Victoria Saenz Vogl, 66, Washington, D.C.

Now we have taken digital excursions of Israel, Lithuania, British Museum, Burma and India, all by way of Jewish lens. It has been a wonderful alternative to see the Jewish world that I in all probability wouldn’t have the ability to see in actual time. — Gail Geffon, 73, Yorba Linda, California

I didn’t develop up with mezuzot, so despite the fact that my husband diligently hung them after we obtained married, I hardly ever even observed them. However the first day I got here dwelling from work after caring for a affected person, I believed I had COVID and was feeling nervousness about needing to vary garments and wash properly earlier than touching my household, and my eyes fell on the mezuzah by the entrance door. Instantly I noticed this little field and the power to soundly contact it as an opulent blessing. It introduced dwelling to me the precarious nature of religion and gave me a tiny glimpse on the sacrifices others have made to follow the Jewish religion all through historical past. Now I observe our mitzvot in a brand new, deeper manner. I received’t ever take them with no consideration the identical manner once more. — Rebecca Faulkner Branum, 46, Edmond, Oklahoma

Judaism has been an enormous supply of consolation to me this yr in many various methods — it has actually helped me cope. — Anna Rabin, 46, Lannion, France

The vacations offered a construction. The faith is each comforting and remarkably unusual. The tradition is wealthy. And our individuals are not monolithic. — Don Goldberg, 73, Seattle, Washington

The civil unrest did, for some purpose, make me wish to examine the Holocaust extra and actually replicate on what creates that form of human animosity and what classes could possibly be realized on the best way to overcome such devastation and wickedness. I realized how a lot I didn’t know. — Marilyn Horahan, 50, Havana, Florida

I discovered a number of on-line queer/trans Jewish group occasions. — Jess Lynch, 32, Brooklyn, New York

Watching my son proceed his studying. He was purported to rejoice his bar mitzvah final Could. Clearly, it was canceled. He gave his d’var, learn all the double Torah portion and haftorah on a Thursday night time over Zoom. Whereas the bar mitzvah weekend ship has sailed, he continues twice weekly studying and has learn Torah a number of occasions on the outdoors minyan, together with in 16F climate. His instructor is a grasp and maybe due to the state of affairs, they’ve deepened their relationship and centered in larger depth than they may have in any other case. For this, I’m so grateful. — Elizabeth Davis, 54, St. Paul, Minnesota

I had the weird feeling of chanting haftarah whereas in a close to empty sanctuary to an nameless livestream viewers on the excessive holidays. — Diana Schutt, 52, Westchester County, New York

The unimaginable lack of my mom from COVID-19/Alzheimer’s early within the pandemic. It was an unprecedented time for a Jewish funeral. We had been solely allowed 10 folks together with our rabbi. We stood masked by the grave, unfold out and 6 ft aside. My 81-year-old father stood alone. There was no shoveling of grime on the grave. A digicam was set as much as Zoom the funeral to all of our family and friends, together with my brother who lives in New York. We didn’t know the best way to navigate an internet shiva. We did our personal speedy household zoom name every night time as a substitute. We are going to honor my mom with a dedication when the timing is true to be collectively. — Sheila Jacobson, 57, Highland Park, Illinois

This yr was all about cooking at dwelling. We requested you in regards to the Jewish meals you cooked, and the solutions assorted from Yemenite lamb soup to gluten-free matzah. 

It was clear that being quarantined gave lots of you loads of time to futz across the kitchen, discovering consolation in experimenting with the meals tendencies that had been sweeping throughout America. Sourdough, anybody? So from hamantaschen to brisket, listed here are the meals you made this yr.

Making latkes with a housemate grew to become an intimate and deliberate expertise. — Felix Mastropasqua, 20, New York Metropolis

I made black and white cookies for the primary time (considered one of my favorites), made challah extra, and a few good kosher-for-Pesach blondies on Pesach. — Judah Maccabee Marcus, 14, Basking Ridge, New Jersey

I made my 91-year-old dad cherry blintzes like his grandmother used to make him. He was raised by her as his dad and mom died younger. He’s now not with us however he actually loved those I comprised of scratch, identical to his Russian bubbe would make him as a toddler.—  Lisa Zarrow, 62, Needham, Massachusetts

I made tons of Jewish meals that I hadn’t cooked in many years. My husband was very joyful as Yiddish meals is his favourite. — Deborah A. Inexperienced, 71, Boca Raton, Florida

This yr I made bialys. I’ve been on a really low-sodium eating regimen for over 10 years now and have been unable to eat bagels and bialys (moreover you’ll be able to’t get a great bialy outdoors of New York). I didn’t have the malt syrup to make the bagels so I assumed I might strive the bialys. They certain weren’t pretty much as good as New York bialys however they had been fairly tasty, particularly toasted with cream cheese. I’ve made them very often now and love that I can eat this deal with at any time when I wish to. — Laura Cohen, 75, Palo Alto, California

My cousins and I obtained collectively over zoom to make my grandmother’s thumbprint cookies and share reminiscences of our occasions with Grandma/Aunt Sophie. I’ve taught cooking lessons and written meals articles for a few years so the kitchen is my pal. Sharing my love of meals with others has been fairly the problem over the previous yr. — Beth Hillson, 72, Glastonbury, Connecticut

I started writing a kosher cookbook with recipes from the final 50 years. Stuffed it with some new recipes, intro to every part on Jewish legislation, and tales about lots of the recipes. — Jeffrey Schwartz, 74, Portland, Oregon

Chocolate rugelach, potato kugel (so yummy!), some Yemenite Jewish dishes with granddaughter. Taking a kreplach class later immediately. — Karen Wagener, 75, Los Angeles, California

I did a Kubbeh Hamusta cook-along with Awafi Kitchen, and I’ve been making my manner by way of Leah Koenig’s e book. We tried Matzah Espresso with a pal on zoom. Fascinating! — Rachel Mazor, 35+, Brooklyn

This yr was additionally characterised by grief and loss. Did you lose anybody near you within the pandemic? If that’s the case, please inform us about that have.

This query obtained so many devastating responses, in addition to many grateful ones, from individuals who hadn’t misplaced anybody. Listed here are a few of your tales. 

For an extended have a look at the face of Jewish mourning, you’ll be able to have a look at our JTA COVID-19 Memorial Wall, the place we’ve made it our purpose to commemorate each Jew who died in the course of the pandemic. Please attain out to us you probably have a reputation so as to add.

Sadly, at the start of the pandemic (April twenty eighth) we misplaced our beloved mom at 102 years of age. Proscribing attendance at her funeral was painful, and I nonetheless really feel as if she was robbed of her final hurrah on this life. Our phrases of reward and gratitude for her life was one thing I want extra folks may have skilled. Our mother was an unimaginable entertainer, and never with the ability to host a shiva worthy of the luxurious spreads she put forth appeared to not reside as much as her requirements. — Arlene Yaffe Weissman, 70, Huntingdon Valley, Pennsylvania

Two aunties in London handed away … very troublesome to have to look at the providers on-line and never have the ability to consolation my remaining household with hugs and love. — Colin Swift, 68, Sinaloa, Mexico

My greatest pal’s dad. It was actually horrific because it was a day after lockdown started and felt so unreal. — Steph Stern, 36, Glasgow, Scotland

My father, who continues to be dwelling, has lived with us for 20 years. He grew to become sick on March 16 (not COVID), went to the hospital and is at present in long-term care. He’s more healthy now than when he went in, however I miss him. Now we have gone for months with out seeing one another and it will get more durable the older he will get. He’s going to rejoice his 92nd birthday in April and I hope I might be with him. Now we have misplaced many temple members this previous yr and every one may be very troublesome. However there’s a shiny facet to a Zoom shiva — being with household and pals who in any other case wouldn’t have the ability to be with you. — Susan Karon, 60, Maynard, Massachusetts

Round Thanksgiving, my 93-year-old grandmother caught COVID on the second wave to cross by way of her assisted dwelling dwelling. She was solely mildly sick from it after which recovered. Then on the very finish of December she died from it fairly immediately. It was actually a shock. — Judith Freimark Gamboa, 39, Chapel Hill, North Carolina

My husband’s uncle handed away and this was very troublesome for our household. We nonetheless really feel like we haven’t absolutely completed grieving. — Annie Glickman, Overland Park, Kansas 

I misplaced a youthful brother and two shut pals. It has been overwhelming. I really feel gutted. My synagogue and pal had been fully supportive, however years of my life have peeled away from me. — Carole Wooden, 69, Brentwood/Crestview, Florida

You need some modifications to the Jewish world to survive the pandemic.

We requested you what modifications you hope the Jewish world sticks with after the pandemic ends. Throughout the board, lots of you agreed on one factor: digital lessons made entry to Jewish life simpler and extra reasonably priced, and also you needed it to remain.

I hope that each Shabbat and Jewish vacation we could have our alternative of attending in individual or by Zoom. — Beth Sair, 72, Lincolnwood, Illinois

Talking on a regular basis to youngsters, grandkids it doesn’t matter what and enjoying Scrabble on-line day by day with grandkids. That’s Jewish, proper? — Andrea Kale Marcus, 69, at present in Maui, from Toronto, Canada

I hope we proceed to create accessible content material. I’ve beloved seeing how communities are actually adapting and attempting to fulfill folks the place they’re. — Mady Frischer, 24, Chicago

I’ve two younger kids, and my husband used to journey 5 days per week, so I used to be largely alone in the course of the week. Within the “earlier than occasions,” I may by no means attend any occasions on weekday evenings. However when every little thing moved on-line in the course of the pandemic – from Talmud examine to Shabbat providers to lectures by well-known Jewish authors – I may immediately attend, and it was superb. I had the chance to be taught from actual Torah scribes, be taught Hebrew, “attend” providers throughout the nation, join with Jewish teams in Germany, and a lot extra. I actually hope that a number of these lessons and occasions keep on-line, or not less than incorporate an internet element. I typically really feel like the one Jew in my life, however on this sense, I spotted there was a large world of Jewish life on the market, and I used to be a part of it. — Julia Rymer Brucker, 42, Littleton, Colorado

I hope the proliferation of Zoom lessons, webinars, and conferences will stay a part of Jewish life even after, please G-d, the pandemic ends, particularly within the colder months. I’ve all the time loved applications like these in-person, however I’ve to confess, there’s one thing good about not having to dress and exit within the chilly after darkish. — Susan L. Rosenbluth, 74, Englewood, New Jersey

I feel that Zoom occasions might be right here to remain, however I hope that we’ll resume attending conferences and providers in the identical room this yr. The group has been type and caring in the direction of each other and take care of the welfare of the extra weak in the course of the pandemic. I hope that this pattern stays and doesn’t change. — David Cohen, 70, North West London, England

As all the time, we wish to hear about you and your Jewish experiences. When you’ve got a narrative you need us to put in writing about, please attain out to suggestions@jta.org. 

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