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How to sweeten your new year--amidst a pandemic

Let's look ahead to 5781 with hope and faith that the new year will be sweeter than the last.

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We Jews are lucky to have a chance to reboot every fall when we ring in the Jewish new year--and we sure could use it this year.

In the past six months, the coronavirus has tested both our community and the world at large in ways we never could have imagined. To borrow from another holiday, let's say "dayenu" to the Jewish year 5780--and look ahead to 5781 with hope and faith that the new year will be sweeter than the last.

Yet, the realists in us recognize that this pandemic isn't waning any time soon, and that living in these unsettling times will be the new normal for the foreseeable future. So, here are my annual tips for sweetening the new year--even in the age of the coronavirus.   

1) Cook like your bubbe used to cook.  In our non-pandemic lives, most of us--unlike our grandparents' generation--lack the time and energy to spend hours at the stove. But for many of us stationed at home these days, we have a rare opportunity to spend most of our waking hours just steps from our kitchen. With the High Holidays upon us, try making a dish that you've been meaning to get around to one of these years--an old family favorite kugel , matzoh ball soup, or a brisket recipe.

2) Be kind--to each other.  Now, more than ever, practice acts of lovingkindness- gemilut hasadim . Many people are hurting-either suffering from the virus directly, facing financial fallout from the crisis, and/or struggling with the loneliness of social isolation. Check in with the people you know just to let them know they are on your mind. Then, if you can, help the people you don't know with your time or money. Check out volunteer opportunities-both--in-person and virtual--at the JUF TOV Volunteer Network at . To give to the JUF Annual Campaign, visit here   . 

3) And be kind--to yourself.  No matter who you are, life is harder for all of us than it was before the coronavirus. So, give yourself a break! Did you skip your virtual gym class to sleep in? Was your presentation to your colleagues over Zoom less dynamic than it would have been in person? Are you not as gifted an algebra teacher to your teen as, say, her algebra teacher? Perfect is the enemy of good--at least in quarantine.  

4) Make Shabbat special.  One frustration for many of us, lately, has been the loss of work/life balance and the blurring of the lines between our professional and personal lives. Want to make your daily schedule feel less like the movie Groundhog Day? Shabbat is your answer. Whether you "roll on Shabbos" or not, we as Jews are given this beautiful weekly reminder to take a beat, so do something you don't do the rest of the week to honor Shabbat.  

5) Don't go it alone.  Though we can't all physically be there for each other right now, we can still be there. If you feel lonely, blue, or more severely depressed, talk to someone--a friend, a family member, or a professional. To find both individual counseling options and support groups, contact JCFS Chicago at or call 855-275-5237.  

6) Soak up extra time with your crew.  If you live with others-from your significant other to your homeschooled children-you likely are spending a lot more time with them these days. Perhaps the pandemic has inspired you to connect with friends and family over a Zoom game night or in real life over margaritas in the backyard with a few people in your social "bubble." There are a lot of downsides to the pandemic, but more time with loved ones is a blessing.  

7) Less is the new more. Less bustling calendars. Less traffic. Less carbon emissions. Less FOMO. Less noise. Savor this simpler time for it won't last forever.  

Wishing you a happy, healthy, and sweet new year!  

For more JUF coronavirus resources, visit .  


"No matter who you are, life is harder for all of us than it was before the coronavirus. So, give yourself a break! "

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