Many sad stories have come from New York City lately. You may be wondering what it’s like to live there right now, or if you do live here, how your experiences stack up. You may be wondering what’s going on and how the community at large is doing. Despite many tragedies, we have noticed many heartening and positive stories of strength, togetherness, and resilience.
The bustle is gone and the noise and activity have mostly ceased. Just the other day, on a necessary trip uptown, we noticed the Metropolitan Museum was closed and it was a little shocking to see.
When we see how a strange calm has fallen over the city, we can only think how many tragedies that silence represents. But we can’t only think about that, so we try to focus on positives, things we can smile about, that help us feel courageous.
One prominent theme is the messages of hope and gratitude in windows of homes and apartments around the city. We love the idea of printing out designs and having kids color them in, then putting them up for the community to see.
We’ve heard of families making a game of counting the designs they can find in their neighborhood during quarantine walks. Rainbows and teddy bears are also popular. One ketubah artist, Britt Yudell, has made many designs available.
The day after, make a point to bring everyone together for some video chatting as well. You can discuss whose family ended Seder the latest, which Haggadah you used, and what you learned about yourself or Pesach this year!
One nice option for unorthodox celebrations is that you can hold video calls during Seder, so you can bring in friends and family. It’s not as good as being together in the same room, but it can help.
At 7 P.M. every night, many in the city celebrate healthcare workers during shift change by cheering, banging pots and pans, and clapping from their balconies. This is a big event, and for those living near hospitals it’s fairly common to see parades of firefighter or police vehicles, and hear popular New York songs being played over loudspeakers. For some less affected cities there is a gentle clatter, but in NYC there is a chorus of support throughout the concrete jungle. Locals take this opportunity to come together in unison and it is now something to look forward to each day!
Rabbi Mark Wildes, from Manhattan Jewish Experience (MJE), has kept us inspired and grounded with his wisdom, observations, and remarks—especially through his blog. Before Pesach, he coached many people about how to do a quarantine seder dinner.
MJE has been a hub for young urban Jewish professionals for 21 years, and that has not changed during the pandemic. As Rabbi Wildes tells us…
“Our Yom HaShoah event has 7800 views and had a huge response also for my interview with Yossi Klein Halevi earlier this week in honor of Yom Ha’atzmaut. The number of MJEers viewers online classes such as kabbalat Shabbat and Havdalah have been consistently amazing.”
We love how the best in people often shines through at the worst of times. Local photographer Abbie Sophia recently reached out with ways she has been navigating the virus.
She didn’t have shoots for a while, but when a family friend asked Abbie to come take photos of their monumental homecoming, she saw the renewed value and importance of documenting these moments.
“More and more people started adjusting their events rather than postponing or canceling because they saw there’s no time like the present.”
As a photographer, much of her shoots have been cancelled but instead of dwelling on matters out of her control, Abbie saw this as an opportunity – helping those truly in need!
The NYC and NJ photographer has photographed a backyard wedding with only immediate families and a zoom call, various drive by bar mitzvahs or she calls them – CAR Mitzvahs! She also captured a Torah reading from a front garden, a newborn photographed through a window as well as a shoot for a family whose father was in the hospital and wanted to send photos to show their loved ones since they couldn’t be there at all. She even photographed a proposal that made the news! All of which was completed while abiding by the social distancing measures put in place. Safety is always a top priority for Abbie, along inspiring others.
“I had a very long lens where I can be 10 feet plus away and zoom in. I also did a free zoom photo class for people to take photos at home”
When work ceased for Abbie, she instantly thought of those worse off. Making deliveries to front line workers and raising funds for much needed causes. This is just one example of many residents in New York taking the initiative and combating the pandemic. We can all take steps to help one another and if we do; the possibility of flattening this curve in the near future increases greatly!
We can focus on the bad news or consider how it is balanced by the good. Just in New York alone, this crisis has given us back a little of the old community spirit—one we maybe take for granted sometimes. Togetherness is a strength that has helped us through many dark days, and should be incredibly helpful for everyone now.