Moving Forward During COVID-19

Many of my friends think that, since I work as an emergency manager, I have more information available to me than the average person, or that I don’t have the same fears as they do during emergency situations. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Like you, I have to deal with the fear of moving back to normal during the COVID-19 crisis, and I rely on information from the same health authorities that you do. My job is in Manhattan, and while I may be able to continue working from home initially, at some point, I will have to venture onto the subway and be around crowds of people. While I’m not looking forward to it, I do believe it is best that we try to get back to a more normal way of living. We cannot hide out in our homes forever and there are precautions we can take while getting back to normal.

pexels-anna-shvets-3987221
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels

First, acknowledge that normal has changed. Some people have ventured into visiting friends and attending parties and group gatherings like nothing ever happened. We are still in the middle of a global pandemic. The “normal” we knew is gone for now. We have to accept that we need to curtail some of our activities and behaviors in order to avoid getting sick or getting others sick. It’s tempting to want to get back to weddings, parties, and other social gatherings, but the reality is that the more people you are around, the higher your risk of contracting COVID-19. Stay away from large gatherings.

a sign that reads "Caution: Maintain social distancing, at least 6 ft distance from others
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Next, follow the guidelines of health authorities and wear your mask. Acknowledge that no one is trying to curtail your right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Wearing a mask when you are around others is crucial to keeping the number of people who get sick down. Think of it this way: when the ban on cigarette smoking in public was introduced, most people were all for it. The ideas of the greater good and of not making others sick became rallying cries to end smoking in public places. Most people embraced it wholeheartedly, never once thinking about the rights of smokers or how difficult this would be on them. Wearing a mask goes along the same lines. Since you can be asymptomatic and still pass COVID-19 to others, you need to wear a mask. Your children need to wear a mask, and so do your friends. Instead of thinking about wearing a mask as a way to curtail your liberties, think of it as a sign of how much you care for your fellow humans.

By the way, make sure to teach your children that masks are not toys to be traded like Lego blocks. Kids may not understand the importance of masks and could very easily be persuaded to trade their Spiderman mask for their friend’s Batman one, for example. Swapping masks like this could put their health in danger, so make sure your kids understand why they are wearing a mask and how important it is to keep their mask to themselves.

a stack of fabric face masks
Photo by Vera Davidova on Unsplash

If you feel uncomfortable in an environment, say so. Just because your boss wants you to come back to work, doesn’t mean you have to do so if you are not comfortable with the safety precautions at your workplace. Don’t be afraid to ask pointed questions about cleaning schedules and disinfection. If you share an office or space with someone, make sure your employer has social distancing measures in place, and if they are not, speak to human resources. If you see too many people on an elevator, you can say something or wait for the next one.

If you feel more comfortable wearing a face shield and mask in your work environment, then by all means, do so — if people laugh or make fun of you, ignore them. I recently bought face shields to wear when I travel on the subway. While my husband thought it was overkill, using a face shield on the subway will make me more comfortable with the idea of traveling to and from Manhattan. People can laugh or look at me strangely if they want to, but I will feel better and more protected, so I will proudly wear it.

a person wearing a mask and a face shield looking out over a balcony
Photo by Ian Panelo from Pexels

Flu season is coming up, and we have no idea how the twin concerns of the coronavirus and influenza will affect this winter. All we can do is take the best precautions we can and be prepared for the worst. Check out the links below to get further information on how to prepare for going back to work and school. Our health authorities are doing their best to protect us, and we can help them — and ourselves — by following their advice.

For more information on returning to work: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/returning-to-work.html

For specific questions about the virus, see the CDC’s FAQ section: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/faq.html

This post was contributed by Shoshana Yehudah, Director of Emergency Preparedness, Touro College

Write On: Journaling During a Pandemic

What were you doing the summer you turned 13?

I was on an American President Lines cruiseship, on a 26-day trip from Manila, Philippines (where I lived from 1966-1969) back to the United States, with stopovers in Japan and Hong Kong. I remember the ship had a swimming pool, and more than one restaurant, and a lot of kids around my age. I remember that I foolishly hung my three-quarters size guitar on the wall of my stateroom, where it got cracked on the voyage.

And I remember buying my first journal at an immense toy store in Hong Kong, beginning a lifelong habit of recording my thoughts and feelings and saving my memories of people I’d met, places I’d visited, events I’d witnessed, and experiences I’d had on my travels. My mom, a’h, suggested I buy the journal, as I was already a seasoned, intercontinental traveler, experiencing different cultures all over the world. Keeping a journal has become a cherished practice.

a person journaling
Image by free stock photos from www.picjumbo.com from Pixabay

Since we’re all living through a unique period in time, during this coronavirus pandemic, I thought I’d encourage each of you to take up journaling. Think of the stories you will have to tell your children and grandchildren! There are many ways to keep a journal, and I’ll share some ideas with you here.

Selecting a Journal

Yes, in my opinion, journaling involves writing with a pen—or sketching with a pen or pencil—on paper. What you write online requires electricity to access, and it may not be available to share the way your analog journal entries will be (although I do admit I sometimes print out letters I’ve typed and insert those loose pages into my handwritten journal). I promise you the experience will be well worth it! So, the first thing you’ll need to do is choose a journal.

fountain pen on paper
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

That first journal I bought in 1969 had a soft fabric cover in pastel plaid. The fabric cover stained easily, and I outgrew my fondness for plaids and pastels. My next journal had a plastic cover. That was even worse: it got hot and sticky. Now, I use a journal with a cover that has a pleasant feel and moves smoothly over a desk, table, or lap. My journals are always easy to carry with me, with a flexible binding, good quality paper that takes fountain-pen ink, and built-in pockets for ticket stubs or other small mementos. Some people use plain school notebooks, but I like the Moleskin Classic, lined, soft cover journals (they make unlined versions for those inclined to augment their words with pictures).

This year, I tried using an environmentally-friendly, stone paper journal. I love the idea of it, and the paper takes fountain pen ink beautifully, but it’s too heavy to lug around and has a fabric cover.

Once you’ve gone through the process of choosing a journal type, start writing!

Tips for Novice Journal Writers:

  • Keep your journal with you, so you’re ready to write or sketch at any time
  • Keep the first page blank; start writing on the second page (trust me on this)
  • Date every entry (day, month, year): you think you’ll remember later, but you won’t
  • Don’t edit your writing or feel you have to write beautifully, just jot down your thoughts
  • Write a little or a lot—it’s up to you
  • Write when you want to and don’t feel obligated to write every day (it’s not a chore)
  • If you have a hard time starting to write, just make a bullet list of the day’s events
  • Write lists of your favorite things, like books, quotes, films, or recipes
  • Although you don’t have to write everyday, try to make writing part of your routine as your get ready in the morning or wind down at night

You’re living through extraordinary times, on a personal and communal level. Consider sharing with your journal what you share in conversation with your friends and families—or the thoughts you’re thinking but not expressing.

Your journals are just for you. Don’t feel you have to make a compete record of your experiences, with photos, or pressed flowers, or theater tickets. Some days you might feel like scrapbooking; other days, you may want to use the bullet-point method of jotting down your day’s activities to use to jog your memory later. Your journal writing doesn’t have to be perfect, grammatically correct, or demonstrate your calligraphic handwriting skills.

Keeping a journal helps you articulate your thoughts and feelings and can be a therapeutic “safe space” to record your emotions, preserve your memories, and reflect honestly on how your life experiences are aligning with your life goals. The act of writing is a useful technique for self-awareness and personal growth. It’s true: sometimes you discover what you’re thinking or feeling as you write!

blank journal with flowers
Image by Monfocus from Pixabay

For inspiration, explore these diaries from famous authors and regular people, which can be found in the TCL catalog or for free online:

Happy reading—and journaling!

This post was contributed by Aviva Adler, Librarian, Touro College Israel

The Joyous Holiday of Lag BaOmer

This year, on May 12, Jews will be celebrating the joyous holiday of Lag BaOmer.

typewrite with lag baomer typed out
Photo by Marco Verch (trendingtopics). CC BY 2.0.

What is Lag BaOmer?

Gematria, or Jewish numerology, is related to the philosophy of number and mathematics. ‘Lag’ stands for the Hebrew letters lamed — numerical value of 30 — and gimel — numerical value of 3 — with a sum of 33; this marks the 33 days of the Counting of the Omer in the Hebrew calendar. The Omer was a religious rite observed in the Temple on the second night of Passover.

There are some similarities between Lag BaOmer (sometimes spelled Lag B’omer) and the current quarantine and social distancing necessitated by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Rabbi Akiba and the Plague

The 33rd day after the beginning of Passover is celebrated as Lag BaOmer, because it was on that day that the deaths of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples ceased.

According to the Talmud, in the 2nd century CE, there was a plague that killed 40,000 disciples of the great Jewish mystic, Rabbi Akiba. The Talmud shares that this plague is a punishment for their not showing proper Jewish ethical respect, or derekh eretz (proper behavior and manners), towards each other, and for their lack of manifest proper ahavas yisrael (love of Israel) and love of all creatures (kavod ha-briut). Because of this tragic event, the weeks between Passover and Shavuot are observed as a mourning period, not only for the ethical failings of Rabbi Akiba’s disciples in the interhuman (bain adam li havaro/das zwischenmentshliche) and their lack of care and loving kindness (hesed) for each other, but also the destruction of the Temple that Rabbi Akiba merited to have witnessed. Significantly, it was on Lag BaOmer that Rabbi Akiba’s disciples ceased dying from the plague.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai

Rabbi Akiba had five disciples who actually survived the plague. One of them, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, also known as the Rashbi, was a great Jewish mystic who eventually went into a kind of quarantine by hiding in a cave to escape persecution by the Romans. In the cave, he lived ascetically, eating only carob, with his son to whom he transmitted esoteric mystical teachings of Kabbalah. It was on Lag BaOmer that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai felt that it was safe to leave the cave after many years; many years later, the Rashbi would pass away on Lag BaOmer, making that day his yahrtzeit, or anniversary of his death, a day of commemoration in Judaism. Thus, Lag BaOmer is considered a day of Kabbalistic significance in the Jewish calendar.

rashbi's cave
The site some identify as the Rashbi’s cave. Photo by Deror_avi.  CC-BY-SA 4.0

Beyond “Business as Usual”

Perhaps the being stuck at home now will spark us to devote more time to the quest for intellectual, spiritual, and moral virtue, rather than assuming a “business as usual” attitude.

Jacob Richman has organized links related to Lag BaOmer that you can explore from home this year, and the Chabad website offer a simple, introductory article on Lag BaOmer. As the power of music in the Jewish arts testifies, song epitomizes the transcendence of the spiritual over the physical, so I hope you may enjoy some music associated with Lag BaOmer, too.

This year, Lag BaOmer falls on May 12, which is coincidentally close to May 15, the target date to begin to lift some of the stay-at-home measures in New York. May we hope that, with the approach of Lag BaOmer, the tide of the novel coronavirus begins to turn.

This article was contributed by David B. Levy, Chief Librarian at the Lander College for Women

The New Meaning of “Shelter in Place”

For the first time in the history of Chicago Animal Care and Control, the shelter has run out of dogs to adopt — and Chicago is not the only place in the United States seeing an uptick in animal adoptions and fostering since the coronavirus outbreak began.

In New York City and Los Angeles, the ASPCA says its applications for dogs and cats are up 200%. Nationwide, the statistics are even more promising. Petpoint, a software program that monitors 1,200 animal shelters across the country, found that adoptions are up 700% this year compared to 2019. Why the increase in pet adoptions and fostering since the coronavirus outbreak? It seems that sheltering in place, social media appeals, and the need for companionship are all driving this trend.

a cat and a dog cuddling outside
Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

With stay-at-home orders in place across the country, many animal shelters are suspending operations. The temporary closure of shelters is leaving many animals vulnerable to not receiving adequate care. Furthermore, adoption events that usually bring in potential pet parents are being cancelled or postponed due to social distancing guidelines. The situation has caused shelter workers and volunteers to reach out on social media over the past month to ask the public for help by adopting shelter animals. If people are unable to adopt, shelters are asking them to foster animals temporarily until the shelters can reopen in the future.

In addition to being a platform for shelters to appeal directly to the public for help, social media has also been used to form virtual adoption communities and host online events. Since many live adoption events have been cancelled, some shelters are using Facebook Live to showcase adoptable pets online to people across the country. This method has given animals more exposure to a larger audience than traditional live events, which, in turn, is bringing in more potential adopters. Social media has also allowed rescue organizations across the country to work together in order to bring animals from one region to another. This has been very helpful since some areas of the country have a surplus of animals and others have a surplus of interested adopters and foster applicants. 

young kittens in a cat bed
Image by Helga Kattinger from Pixabay

Americans are responding to these social media activities in droves. The response seems to have grown out of both a sense of compassion toward the animals in need and a desire that many Americans have to help out others in a time of crisis to “try and do their part.” This response is also likely the result of the companionship that pets can provide in this anxious time. Taking care of pets provides consistency and routine for people who are not used to living under these new restrictions. In a time of social distancing, pets give people a sense of comfort and connection. They are giving people activities to engage in, too, whether that is going outside to walk the dog — while practicing social distancing — or having online meetings with other pet owners. The benefits to both humans and animals has been great and is something to cherish during this stressful time.

This post was contributed by Annette Carr, Librarian at the School of Health Sciences at Bay Shore

References

Beck, M., & McFetridge, S. (2020). Coronavirus in US: Pet fostering takes off as COVID-19 keeps Americans home. Retrieved from https://abc7ny.com/6077028/

Chicago animal care and control runs out of adoptable dogs for 1st time ever. (2020). Retrieved from https://abc7chicago.com/6082614/

Fies, A. (2020). People and pets help each other through coronavirus pandemic. Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/Health/people-pets-coronavirus-pandemic/story?id=69949246

Jeunesse, W. L. (2020). Pet adoptions, fostering spike amid coronavirus restrictions. Retrieved from https://www.foxnews.com/us/pet-adoptions-and-fostering-spike-during-coronavirus