New! TCS Blog
How Have You Changed During Covid-19?
Introducing a new TCS blog – a note from Editor Judy Block
Remember New Year’s Eve, when 2019 turned into 2020? Well, I don’t. It seems like 100 years ago. That’s what COVID-19 has done to my sense of time and to the normal flow of my life. I would guess that it’s done the same to yours.
We’ve been asked to adjust to a new normal for our own good and the good of others. In the process, we started wearing masks, keeping our distance, not shopping, missing the theater and Yankee games. While we were managing our disappointments, we were handed the task of helping our children and grandchildren adjust too. Explaining to them that school is on hold, then online, then a combination of the two, that they can’t see their friends in the way they used to, that their Bat Mitzvah will be on Zoom, that summer camp has been cancelled has been tough.
None of us has gotten through this without pain. And growth. It is hard to think of this difficult time as one that has nurtured growth, but it is. As we’ve adjusted to the restrictions that federal, state and local governments have placed on our lives, we’ve changed as individuals, as families, as synagogue members, as neighbors often for the better.
This blog will give you a place to talk about the challenges you’ve faced, including your struggles and growth. It will remind you that while the synagogue building is temporarily closed to us, we are still here for each other.
The blog’s question-and-answer format encourages personal stories and reflections. You can respond to any of the following questions or add others. Photos are welcome:
- How has Covid-19 changed what you do every day and how you do it?
- What do you miss most about the pre-Covid days?
- Do you think of your life in two stages – before the beginning of March and after? Explain how the shift has affected you.
- Do you, your spouse and children always agree on how to be safe? What happens when you disagree? Tell us your stories with school-aged children, teenagers, and adult children?
- With parents and children working from home and taking classes online we are sharing the same space far more than we are used to. Is there such a thing as too much togetherness?
- How do you carve out your mental, emotional and physical zones?
- What do you miss most about not being able to go to services or participate in synagogue events?
- How have major life events been affected by Covid-19? Tell us what you experienced, how different family members reacted and how you resolved disagreements.
- Are you a different person now than you were a few months ago? How has this major change affected your values and priorities?
- With schedules being unpacked (no more gym workouts for you or baseball practice, flute lessons, chess tournaments for your kids), are you itching to get back to your old schedule or reevaluating your personal and family priorities?
- After months of this new normal, are you reaching out to friends and family more now than before? Do you want these connections to last?
- What do you wish you knew in March that you know now?
- What has helped you keep your equanimity?
We look forward to hearing from you. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with your submissions.
Blog update 10/15/20
The Covid-19 pandemic affects adults and children in different ways, and our job as parents – and grandparents – is to help our kids manage their feelings in an unsettling, dangerous world.
Recognizing this, Schoke Jewish Family Services of Fairfield Country is inviting you to a discussion with child psychologist Abigail Gewirtz who will talk about her book When the World Feels Like a Scare Place: Essential Conversations for Anxious Parents and Worried Kids. It will take place, via zoom, on Monday, October 26 at 8 PM and is free of charge. See the flyer below for registration details.
It sounds extremely worthwhile.
Blog Update 10/6/2020
I WANT MY 90 MINUTES BACK!
When I sat down to write this blog on September 30th, I had planned to offer my feelings and thoughts about life in the Covid era, having my daughter return home, quarantining, testing and all the bad news we deal in this horrible pandemic. Then my mind got hijacked by a Horror Show masquerading as a presidential debate. I am not going to make a political statement now, but I was so looking forward to the debate in the hope that I would learn important information and feel reassured about the candidate I choose to vote for in November.
The Covid situation is beyond serious, it’s catastrophic and I really hoped to learn about a well-thought out, scientifically sound plan that would give me more hope for a return to normal life. Life as we know it is the “new” life now but we all want to return to our ability to socialize, pray together, travel and generally enjoy everything that life has to offer. Well the joke is on me as my hopes were dashed quickly as schoolyard antics took center stage.
What a waste of 90 minutes of my time. I know most of you probably feel the same way. It told me absolutely nothing about how and when we are going to better manage the pandemic or see a solution that brings back the joy of life. I really hoped for something more that would help us all hang on. Yeah…sure. Nothing but schoolyard antics and more frustration, but I want to change that before we have another bad comedy foisted upon us. I have had enough of not having enough. Are you with me???
With President Trump sick with the coronavirus and out of commission for who knows how long, we can only guess if there will be another presidential debate this election cycle. But whether there is or not, we can’t accept the kind of debacle we saw on September 29th. Not this year, not in 2024, not ever.
No more complaining, solutions are the only currency we can accept now. I would like to offer one for your consideration. I promise not to waste the 5 minutes of your time it takes you to read this.
Here is the way the next debate MUST be handled, as I apply something we all know from the sports world:
Get a moderator who has absolute control. I like Chris Wallace and he did try, but he had to know he was going to be ambushed and he could not get control of the situation. With the following format, dependence on a strong moderator is lessened but still important.
Each candidate comes out for 30 seconds, is introduced and says “Good evening, and thank you for joining us” and not one syllable more….word for word. If they speak out of turn, they lose the following coin toss.
The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is introduced, and the president is given the option to choose heads or tails for the ceremonial coin toss.
The winner of the coin toss chooses whether to speak first or second during the opening round
The first speaker stays on stage and the opponent goes backstage and is in no way involved for the next 10 minutes
The speaker has the stage to himself and is able to speak, uninterrupted, say anything he wants, offer solutions, plans, commentary, insults, whatever, uninterrupted. Ten minutes, all face time, that’s it.
The first speaker then goes back stage and his opponent comes out and does the same thing for his 10 minutes.
Each speaker has the stage and American voters to himself, no crowds, no questions, no interruptions. Guess what folks, we might learn something….or be disappointed, but we get 20 minutes of actual value.
Then we take a 60 second break for the moderator to explain the rules of the rest of the evening.
After the break speaker #2 comes out and has 5 minutes to rebut or offer anything else he wants to say to the American people, uninterrupted, and is then followed by speaker #1 to offer his perspective after some time to think about what he heard earlier. Each speaker has a chance to lead and then follow so that all subject matter and opinion are covered.
After these two segments, totaling 30 minutes are complete, the moderator brings both candidates out to a town hall or debate, or mud wrestling, I don’t care. I really don’t care by then because I heard content in the first 30 minutes of the evening. I can turn off my Smart TV, which is dumber because of what it had seen in the debate before this event; and know more than I did before I started watching that evening.
In the end, I want to make an informed decision and all I ask of the candidates and the media is to INFORM me – especially now when all Americans are desperate for grown-up leadership that will help us cope during the pandemic. This is what needs to be done. It’s a simple and very doable solution that offers content, entertainment and likely embarrassment at the end. Oh yes, I won’t be there at the end because I have to reorganize my sock drawer or throw a ball to my dog, which will be far more fulfilling.
Please accept my best wishes for the New Year and fervent hope for a better outcome than we had last on the evening of September 29.
Blog Update 10/1/2020
Out of this terrible time for so many have come some interesting and meaningful lessons. Small ones, but significant nonetheless.
As I can already see from our synagogue blog and wonderful contributions from Karen Ugol and Judy Block, my husband and I join a substantial group of parents of pandemic brides and grooms who have seen their children’s wedding plans and dreams evaporate, and watched as new realities have been confronted and resolved in ways no one ever imagined.
A year ago this time, we were excitedly making a thousand wedding decisions with our newly-engaged daughter Dana and her fiance, Daniel Rose (yes, son of fellow TCS members Bob and Yvette Rose, with whom we had been longtime friends!).
As we busily signed contracts with a wedding venue, band, photographer, videographer, florist, hair and makeup stylists, as we quickly got on the rabbi’s calendar, lined up a hotel block for out-of-town guests, shopped for a wedding dress, selected bridesmaid dresses and groomsmen’s attire, and picked out wedding invitations, we could hardly have imagined the planned 200-guest wedding would–poof!–become just immediate family members in our backyard.
Life does have a way of surprising us and challenging us. We had worried about rain on the wedding day outdoors, or wind strong enough to blow a chuppah down, but NEVER a pandemic. In mid-March, as the world went into lockdown, quarantine and mask-and-glove mode, expectations began to change, to evolve, to dissolve. It was a process to be sure, but everybody “got there.”
What we as parents learned, along with our bride and groom, was that less truly is more. At noon on a gorgeous sunny Sunday in June–the originally-planned date– the wedding took place in the form of a civil ceremony. It was a hastily-planned affair, with 10 people social distancing in our backyard. It could not have been more wonderful or more fun!
There was zero stress. No worrying about bridesmaids, groomsmen, makeup artists, hair stylists and everyone being at their appointment places at the appointed times for photographs. No fretting about the band, the florist, the cocktail hour, the table assignments, place cards, the wait staff, bartenders, valet parking guys. There was no hand-wringing about plane travel for the soon-to-be in-laws, only light-hearted jokes about any traffic that might delay our “local machatunim” a minute or two on their route between Merritt Parkway exits 42 and 41.
Even with a new date now set for a possible big shindig, including the religious ceremony, in May 2021, even with a wedding dress still awaiting the bride at Kleinfeld’s, bridal party attire already purchased, even with now-outdated wedding invitations in their calligraphy-addressed envelopes gathering dust in boxes in the bride’s childhood bedroom, it is hard to imagine what the bride and groom will decide to do next spring, with more unpredictability as the pandemic plays out in the months ahead.
As the happy couple noted gleefully last week, they have just celebrated their three-month anniversary. With each passing day, their dream of the big wedding with all the trimmings seems more-and-more in the rearview mirror. How many people will the state allow in attendance at a celebration next spring? With or without a vaccine, who would be willing to come and be in a crowd? How many relatives would travel by plane to join us?
Right now, there is only one thing about which everyone involved is sure: the pandemic marriage is off to a fantastic start. Mission accomplished, Coronavirus or no. And, perhaps, that is all that really matters.
Linda Meyer Russ
Blog Update 9/24/2020
“I appreciate the small stuff even more now.”
What do you miss most about the pre-Covid days?
I miss easily being able to see people and not think about the weather in case we can’t be outside. I miss not being able to go out the front door without having to worry if we have masks or extras in the glove box. I miss getting to hug my parents without worrying I might pass Covid onto them. I feel for my kids who will miss a year of all they should be experiencing in college. I miss dining inside a restaurant. I miss concerts, shows, movie theaters, large life celebrations.
Do you think of your life in two stages – before the beginning of March and after?
I would actually say there have been three stages – pre March, 100% lockdown from March to June and then a slow reemergence to the new normal from June to now.
Looking back now, that initial phase seems a lifetime ago and a world apart. So many decisions were made based on no information and our best guess. I was set to travel to London for work the first week in March and I hemmed and hawed about going and thankfully late Saturday night before my Sunday night flight, I decided to put the trip off. Knowing what I know now, I can’t imagine making that trip. My parents who were living with me at the time while my dad was undergoing medical treatments, went to their house in Massachusetts for a few days break between treatments and thank goodness they did, as the next week both my kids came home from college and we all became shut inside our homes. The first two weeks my kids were home, we made them stay six feet apart from us, not touch anything outside their rooms and bathrooms, and wiped every surface multiple times a day to ensure we were safe. Once classes finished, we did what everyone did, baked bread, played games, binge watched TV, did puzzles and tried not to drive each other crazy. The magic of being together and going through this unprecedented time wore off once classes ended in May and we settled into this new reality.
This new normal feels a bit betwixt and between. In many ways, I feel like we get to do a lot, certainly much more than when in full lockdown; dine outside at restaurants, see friends in small groups, go to stores to pick things up, play golf and tennis, go for hikes. But in many ways it is still not normal, how long will we wear masks in public, will my kids get to study and live abroad, will my sister be able to visit from LA, will my parents get to go to Florida next winter, when will we be comfortable riding public transportation, working in an office and so much more?
How have major life events been affected by Covid-19?
So many major life events were impacted and overall I think our family members handled them very well. Everyone understood the importance and significance of what was happening. With that said, it didn’t make missing them any easier.
My daughter missed spring break to Mexico, Birthright to Israel and study abroad to New Zealand. My son’s summer internship didn’t come through and he had to quickly pivot to finding something new.
My sister and her family were scheduled to come for a visit over July 4th and two days before their flight, Los Angeles went on the travel advisory list and they were not able to come for their annual summer visit.
With my dad undergoing medical treatment, my mom had to shoulder much of this alone to minimize the risk of exposure to Covid, which was challenging for all of us.
My job was impacted by Covid, so I have some fear about what’s next, how long it might be until I find something I like and how will I start a job remotely.
We all adapted, though, and Zoom birthday celebrations, family text chats, distanced dinners at the beach have now become normal.
Are you a different person now than you were a few months ago? How has this major change affected your values and priorities?
People have asked me what I learned about myself during this time. I am a very social person so I was quite concerned about being shut in my house. What I have learned is that while I still crave social interactions, I was able to find peace at home, being alone or only being with my immediate family. I was able to reconnect with some friends I had lost touch with. Most of all, I appreciate the small stuff even more now. Watching the birds out my window, daily walks to get fresh air, and all the things I took for granted before.
Blog Update 9-10-2020
It is a pleasure to participate in our new TCS Blog which is focusing on how we are dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. But before I share with you a personal story about one way that we were impacted, I want to thank Judy Block for making this happen.
Judy conceived of the idea, submitted a formal proposal to TCS, offered to become the Blog’s editor and submitted the initial rendering. She explained why it is important, how she thinks it will help congregants and enable all of us to learn from each other. And she even gave us a series of questions to help anyone who wants to participate to write a piece.
When volunteers step up, like Judy has done with her blog, it demonstrates how we can continue to grow as a community. Our sincere thanks to her for making this happen.
Covid-19 has impacted all of us in so many ways
We are encountering new experiences every single day. The list of disappointments, and in too many cases, the tragedies is very long. Yet in a surprising number of ways, the pandemic has caused positive experiences as well.
Many of us had opportunities to spend unexpected time with our grown children. Many relationships have grown as a result of spending more time together. We are reading more. We have tackled projects that we put off for years. We gave away stuff to Goodwill. We threw things away that had no value. We updated our files. We caught up with photographs. We reached out to people with whom we lost touch and we even enhanced our technical acumen.
One of the best things to emerge from the pandemic was the establishment of our daily Minyan. Since mid-March, 10-18 of our members get together remotely to conduct our morning prayers. At this moment we have yet to miss a day—even during the power failure.
For our family, the death of Lois’ mom, Dorothy, and the Zoom Shiva that followed will forever be linked with the pandemic.
Dorothy did not have the virus. Just having celebrated her 97th birthday, her heart finally gave out.
But not unlike the daily reports of others who passed away in nursing homes, we hadn’t been able to visit with her (except virtually) during the last ten weeks of her life. We couldn’t be there to hold her hand during the last 10 minutes of her life. But fortunately, she was not alone.
She was with the dedicated people who had been caring for her at The Watermark. They had, in fact, become family for her. They would have been at her funeral if there had been one.
Respecting the COVID restrictions at the same cemetery I have visited more times than I can count, we were a small group that day in May. Rabbi Wiederhorn held us up and held us together (spiritually, of course) at the graveside service. There was Andrea and Jon, our daughter and son-in-law who live locally, plus Lois and me. Our daughter, Deborah and her family, joined us from Colorado, courtesy of FaceTime. Dorothy was the matriarch of a large extended family. Her circle, as she referred to the people in her life, spread far and wide. In normal times, scores of her relatives, friends and acquaintances would have attended her funeral. So the pandemic made a sad passage even sadder.
Yet on the other hand, there were unusual bright spots that can be attributed to the need to isolate. We had a remarkable Zoom Shiva. Of course, we missed the personal contact, the hugs and kisses and warmth of people connecting. But dozens and dozens of people attended from all the aspects of our lives. People who live far away and never could have attended, were there. People had the opportunity to meet members of our family they had never met before. Our friends and family were able to meet our TCS family and vice-versa. And when our daughter, Deborah, played an audio recording of Dorothy’s voice, answering questions about our family, everyone who attended had the chance to learn a little about who Dorothy was.
But the sweetest memory of the Shiva was listening to people tell stories. Usually at a Shiva the bereaved get to hear stories one-on-one in small groups. Everyone else is schmoozing, or enjoying the buffet. This was different.
In a Zoom call (ideally) one person speaks at a time. So when Dotty’s nieces, nephews, grandchildren and even great grandchildren had something to say everybody benefited from hearing the story. When my twin brother, Richard, talked about how much my grandson, Logan, looked like me when I was his age, everybody heard that. When Dotty’s nephew, Dexter, who was orphaned when he was a teenager, shared how she became his surrogate mother, everyone felt his love. When Dotty’s niece, Estelle, from Israel talked about how she was her role model, everybody was moved. Each story, each anecdote, each memory and each kind word was heard by everyone.
So yes, Dotty’s passing in many was void of many of the components that traditionally help me with closure. But this Shiva, (I often say it is the oldest support group in the history of the world), provided unique opportunities for everyone who joined to learn more about what an incredible woman Dorothy Rotkoff was.
As I reflect on The Pandemic of 2020, and like everyone else, think about both how lucky we are not to be on food lines nor worrying about losing our home, I still realize the disappointments we’ve endured. I will always remember that one of the bright spots was how we were able to honor Dorothy’s memory with so many of the people in our life. Our Zoom Shiva was one of the more unexpectedly meaningful moments I associate with The Pandemic of 2020.
What do you wish you knew in March, when COVID began, that you know now?
What I would give to have known that the last time I hugged by precious granddaughter back in February, that I would have no idea when it would be safe to do so again! If I had known that back in October 2019 when I hugged my daughter goodbye after we had spent one of the best days of my life choosing her wedding gown, (she was supposed to get married in a few days 9/6/2020) and headed back to Haifa, that I would have no idea when it would be safe for her to travel home. I have never been apart from her for this long , with no plan as to when she can safely travel home. And her wedding has been postponed until July 2021. What I would give to not worry about my daughter-in-law who is expecting my second granddaughter in December. May her pregnancy and birth be easy and not implicated by Covid.
What I would give to have known that my 39 year career as an obstetrical nurse would take this turn. That instead of focusing on helping my patients have a safe and beautiful birth, I am donned in so much protective gear, that all I have to show my patients is my eyes and my comforting words.
There are days when I feel depressed and feel as if this will never get better. And then I remember how grateful I am that we remain healthy. And where there is health, there is hope.
Inaugural Blog Post
I have asked myself these questions many times over the past few months. Here are some of my answers:
How have major life events been affected by Covid-19? Tell us what you experienced, how different family members reacted and how you resolved disagreements.
With my daughter getting married on August 30th, this is a big one for me. It took Deborah much longer than Fred and me to realize that the wedding she and Ari planned was not going to happen. In March and April, she called us doomsayers when we told her that there was no way 140 people were gathering together. I soon realized that arguing wouldn’t change her mind, so I backed off and hoped that she would come around in time to make different plans. By mid-May she and Ari started planning a family-only wedding, but it was a tough few months. I now understand that Deborah had to let go of her dreams before she could move on.
Just at about the time Governor Lamont issued his lockdown orders in mid-March, I learned about a second family blessing – my son and daughter-in-law were expecting their third son. Normally, this would be uncomplicated, joyful news, but with Covid-19 raging and Eve a doctor at Norwalk Hospital, I worry everyday that she will pick up the virus. She’s strong and careful, I tell myself. Does this make it any easier? Of course not. I’ll breathe again when the baby is born in mid-September and he and his mother are well. In the meanwhile, I am in awe of Eve’s dedication to her patients and determination to press on despite Covid and morning sickness.
Do you think of your life in two stages – before the beginning of March and after? Explain how the shift has affected you.
The last time I was in Manhattan was early March. The last time I was in a store (Costco) was early March. The last time I hugged my grandsons was early March. The last time I invited family and friends inside my home was early March. The last time I was in synagogue was early March. Need I go on? At times, I’ve been overwhelmed by the suddenness and severity of the change. No warnings, no “Hey people, please prepare for life as you’ve never known it because your health depends on it.”
I’ve coped by talking more on the phone and on zoom, reading more, cooking more, exercising more. But still, there are days when I wake up and aren’t sure if it’s Tuesday or Wednesday. And there are days when I’m depressed and pick an argument with my husband (who always forgives me).
Do you, your spouse and children always agree on how to be safe?
Fred is a doctor and he has always made all the family health decisions. In general, he’s conservative medically and even more so with Covid-19. We still use grocery delivery services, wipe down all package surfaces, let the mail sit for a few days before opening it, and avoid stores and restaurants, even those with outside tables. As Connecticut cases drop, I’ve found it hard to keep within the limits he’s set. Even when I promise to wear a mask and gloves and stay far away from all others, he doesn’t yield. But my choice has always been easy. I will operate by Fred’s rules and try to nudge him along around the edges. He finally agreed to have friends come over and sit on our front terrace. And a small victory happened a few weeks ago; we had our first take-out meal and it was absolutely delicious.
Social distancing family-style on our patio – Deborah in foreground then Ari. Fred and I are at a very distant table.
What do you miss most about not being able to go to services or participate in synagogue events?
I miss seeing my friends Howard Matson, Judy and Mitch Greenberg, Tibi, Martha and Martin Rosenfeld, Debbie and Ed Smolka, and many others. I miss hearing the cantor chant the prayers, I miss the rabbi’s sermon. And I miss the Kiddush, a time to share a meal with old and new friends. I also miss changing out of my summer shorts and t-shirt into a skirt and blouse that gets me ready for the Sabbath. Time seems to run together these days without Shabbat services to look forward to and that tiny cup of ceremonial grape juice. The High Holidays will soon be here and I will feel deep loss and sadness if I am not in the sanctuary to hear the prayers.
After months of this, what do you wish you knew in March that you know now?
That this will be a marathon, not a sprint; that some days will be better than others; that I am happy being alone with my thoughts, reading, cooking and writing; that I absolutely, positively must have some space from my husband or I’ll blow a gasket; that I need to Zoom special friends to discuss politics, the virus and family and to hear their voices and see their faces; that I miss going to the supermarket.
Now that you’ve heard my voice, we at TCS would love to hear yours. Please contribute to this new synagogue connective thread and tell other members about it. It’s about hearing and helping each other. E-mail email@example.com to add your voice!