It’s been quite a year, hasn’t it?
As I write this, we’re just starting to thaw from a deep freeze, if still-below-zero can count as thawing. But at least it’s above zero, at least in Fahrenheit. (There’s nothing like a Canadian son-in-law to tell you how much colder it would sound in Celsius.)
This year, while grim, seems to have been better than last year. No insurrections, no riots, no dangling nooses at the Capitol.
Although the pandemic isn’t quite over yet — and although this season seems like it might pose some threat, particularly to the unvaccinated among us — it’s waning. Our doctors and research scientists know how to deal with it far better now than they did last year. By now, most of us are vaccinated, multi-boostered veterans of at least one bout of medication-mediated covid, and we know how to deal with it.
We know that masks have been necessary, and many (if not most) of us have worn them as required. But now most of the time we don’t need them, and it is pure joy to look at each other bare-faced. Many of us got pretty good at inferring smiles from eye-crinkles, but how much better it is just to see smiles. And to be able to hear non-muffled voices. And to be able to smell outside smells, not just our own meals.
I am very grateful for the apparently huge mask-making industry that sprang up in the last few years, but I’m thrilled that those mask-makers will be able to go back to whatever they’d been doing before the pandemic in this new year.
I’m very grateful to the pandemic for my new understanding of the joys of eating outside. Restaurants are fine, but they’re often small, crowded, and noisy; often you either listen to other people’s conversations or can’t hear your own. Now we know that an outside structure, complete with fairy lights, can be both visually lovely and sensually exciting. It’s basically Sukkot all year round, with table service.
I’m awed by the success of the local day schools during the pandemic. Most of them were able to use their buildings and grounds to let children back to school fairly early. We know that children have to be safe physically but we also know that they flourish when they’re with other people, both teachers and friends. It’s hard for small children to learn online, no matter how hard and wholeheartedly their teachers work to provide good educations for their students. Public schools, with larger student bodies and less room to spread out, often were not so lucky.
I know that many of our comforts and pleasures are the result of our privilege. Not everyone could afford to stay home, or eat out, or send their children to day schools; not everyone, for that matter, has children.
On the other hand, antisemitism has resurfaced this year; it’s always been lurking in the sewer of even the safest places, and now, as the ADL’s retired, longtime, even iconic head, Abe Foxman of Bergen County, has reminded us, in a metaphor too potent (too fetid?) to forget, the covers over some of those sewers have been pried open and flung aside, and the slime-covered monsters who lurk there have oozed out.
We are safe from it now, and with luck and work and foresight and courage we will continue to be safe from it, but we do have to pay attention.
As we head into this new year, 2023, which sounds almost made up — did people living in 1023 think the same thing? Does it take a century or two to get used to the sound of a new millennium? — we at the Jewish Standard wish all our readers a happy, safe, sane, good, and decent new year.