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Discovering the joys that live at home

In the last year, we've been forced to make our homes our hub for just about everything.

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In the last year, we've been forced to make our homes our hub for just about everything--our offices, our classrooms, our synagogues, our gyms, our movie theaters, and so much more. Thankfully, we feel hope on the horizon, a light at the end of the long year of isolation as vaccines get distributed more widely this spring and summer.  

While most of us are itching to finally escape from both winter and pandemic hibernation at home, we have also come to recognize our homes as our sanctuaries--first and foremost as places of refuge where we're safe and sound. Indeed, COVID times or not, there are so many people who don't have a warm, safe place to call home. 

This year, more than ever, we have also empowered ourselves to try new activities in our living space. Take me, for example. Before the pandemic and becoming a mother--two life events that coincided for me--I'd pack my calendar with activities that took me outside my abode, from continuing education classes to dinners out with girlfriends. 

This past year, though, I have come to appreciate the possibilities that abound at home. In fact, I've tried several new activities, like baking challah regularly; taking virtual dance classes; preparing my own Seders--two years in a row; playing the game "Celebrity" while drinking wine over Zoom with friends; and watching a slew of documentaries on topics from baby development to the minimalist lifestyle movement to Jerry Seinfeld.    

And, more than anything, I've come to relish the quiet (and not-so-quiet) days and nights with my husband and toddler at our place--the small moments like giving my daughter a bubble bath and reading her Corduroy before she goes to sleep, impromptu chats with my husband on the couch, and moments of Zen alone with a cup of chai tea on the porch. 

Years before the pandemic, in her  New York Times  bestseller Happier at Home , author Gretchen Rubin chronicled her yearlong quest to maximize her happiness at home. Rubin recognized going into her exploration that her home was already a happy place if she could just learn to pay attention to it. "I wanted to make my home happier," Rubin said, "by appreciating how much happiness was already there."  

So, I believe that's what so many of us have done this year--learned to pay attention to the moments big and small that make our homes our havens. 

In that spirit, the April issue of JUF News features our annual "Home & Garden" issue, which we hope can help you discover and appreciate the joys of your digs. 

One of the reasons we started this annual issue goes much deeper than crafting and cooking. Rather, we recognize that our home is the home base--a "small sanctuary"--for Jewish life. In fact, the home is considered a holy place where, from birth, we're forming the nucleus of who we are as Jews.   

From the moment we wake up in the morning, before we even get out of bed, we as Jews are taught to thank God for the gift of life. Indeed, it is in the home where we kiss the mezuzah, light the Shabbat candles, spin the dreidel, and hide the afikomen.  

So, yes, after this long year of isolation, we are all hungering to get back to our lives out in the world with, you know, other humans. Yet, we hope this year has also taught you to unleash the happiness that lives within you inside your home. 

"We've learned to pay attention to the moments big and small, this past year, that make our homes our havens. "

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