We had just heard about this new virus that originated in Wuhan, China. Globally, cases were few. In the U.S., it seemed to be centered in Washington state. But health experts were starting to talk about the potential for spread – and how it looked like it could turn into an emergency if that occurred.
We weren’t too concerned. I was still looking forward to our annual short getaway to a warmer climate, a much-needed break from a nonstop newspaper job.
What a difference a year makes! I saw some maps recently that were startling illustrations of what I am now fully aware of: we had no idea of what was to come.
You can look at the facts and figures for yourself, but in this case, an illustration is worth 1,000 words and numbers. See for yourself the current map of confirmed coronavirus cases by country, at nbcnews.to/3aq9Bdx.
That trip to Florida last February was the last time I was on an airplane. My husband, who usually travels several times a month for his business, took a trip in mid-March and hasn’t been on a plane since. And that trip was taken under the threat of shutdowns and fears of uncertainty. I remember the relief I felt when Bill called to tell me that the plane was nearly empty and the conference was cut short because of the virus.
Now, he attends virtual conferences and does training via Zoom and other similar online apps.
I have moved meetings and interviews online. Coffee dates and book clubs are back to a regular schedule, even though there is nothing “regular” about them. We see one another on a screen, side by side. Sometimes the sound is good. Other times the screen freezes. It’s not the same, but it serves as a connection to the outside world. We celebrate life’s ups and downs online and onscreen.
I have dozens of family members I haven’t seen in a year or more. Our gatherings, once intimate and often part of extensive holiday meals, have been reduced to video or audio only. We do “gather” more often, but it isn’t the same.
Adaptability is the challenge as the pandemic drags on.
We have learned to live our lives in the face of challenges we could never have imagined a year ago. Health concerns, new government rules, a rapidly changing local and world scene, and a rapidly mutating virus are all issues we now deal with daily.
Think back on the past year. We’ve had social, economic, workplace and political upheavals. And we’ve lost more than 440,000 of our friends, loved ones and fellow Americans.
And it turns out that getting a paper out during a pandemic takes adaptability too. Jewish Rhode Island staff has spent much of the last year working remotely. We still get your phone calls and emails, and while it sometimes takes us a little longer, we still try to get back to each and every one of you.
We conduct interviews online. Sometimes, we are able to photograph people we’re writing about, and attend in-person events in our community, mindful of social distancing and with everyone’s agreement. But sometimes you’ll see screenshots of a Zoom meeting or photographs taken before we had ever heard of COVID-19.
If you haven’t been following us online, now is a good time to start. As we continue our quest to adapt, we are posting the entire newspaper at Jewishrhody.org. That’s a great place to check us out. Plus, you can post your own news there. It’s easy to register: just go to Jewishrhody.org and fill out the form. You’ll get an email to confirm that you are who you say you are, and then you can post your news and events, write letters to the editor and send us your simchot.
Jewish Rhode Island is also on Facebook, Instagram (@jewishrhodeisland) and Twitter (@Jewish_RI).
In the coming months, we hope to put more content online so you never miss news and events in the greater Rhode Island Jewish community. Our goal is for the newspaper, website and social feeds to help keep you informed and help hold our community together.
We are grateful to the Jewish community of Rhode Island and southeastern Massachusetts for its ongoing support for our newspaper. Across the country, some Jewish papers haven’t been so lucky and have had to shut down.
We know you can’t find us in the stores, coffee shops and synagogues where you used to grab a copy. If you are having trouble getting the paper, please reach out to us, and we will make sure you are on our mailing list. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adaptability. That’s a skill we all need now because the need to adapt is not going away any time soon.
Fran Ostendorf, Editor