At one point late last week, as we were putting this edition of the paper together from various perches in Ontario, Quebec and Manitoba, the server went down at The CJN’s head office north of Toronto. “First a plague, now a blackout,” someone lamented on our Facebook Messenger thread – the way we are staying in touch in the age of social distancing (replacing the old method of shouting across the newsroom). While we were waiting to see if and when the power would come back on, it was suggested that one of us smear some sheep’s blood on the office doorframe. Just to be safe.
Natan Sharansky, who knows a thing or two about being stuck inside, was asked recently for his tips on staying productive during isolation. “Find something to do in your head,” he suggested, among other things. “For me, that was chess – I played hundreds of games in my head. This ensures that you don’t deteriorate intellectually.” In a similar vein, I’m well on my way to playing hundreds of rounds of a new game that’s sweeping the nation: how long will this art/math/Lego/reading project keep the kids occupied?
A) Five minutes – long enough to send and reply to two work emails.
B) Twenty minutes – long enough to edit a page of the paper and make a phone call.
C) How are they already bored?!
Unfortunately, the result is always the same.
Honestly, I don’t really know what to do right now other than joke. The alternative is to get lost in the deep anxieties of these times. If anything, having the kids at home is forcing me to tear myself away from the news and focus on the things that I can actually, actively accomplish. (Having a new puppy that requires walks is also proving helpful – kudos to my wife for breaking down a few months back and letting me get one.)
The only other thing I really know how to do these days is work with the amazing team that brings you The Canadian Jewish News each week. Watching everyone – from the reporters, editors, designers and producers to the sales and marketing departments and frontline staff – come together to make sure this week’s paper got done remotely was inspiring. Next week, we plan to be back with tips for Passover in quarantine, along with our annual literary supplement. Suffice it to say, it’ll be thick enough to keep you occupied through four glasses of wine (at the seder, of course).
Beyond that – well, I suppose it’s not easy these days for any of us to look too far into the future. But as we head into an auspicious time of the year, when the Jewish nation grabbed hold of its destiny amid a most extraordinary set of circumstances, it bears remembering that we – Jews and all of humanity – have overcome challenges before. And if nothing else, the words that conclude many haggadot always ring true: Next year in Jerusalem.