Browse this collection of user-submitted records documenting the Jewish community's experience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Share your own story by submitting your items to the project. Click Here to Learn How
During the pandemic all the students are studying online. Huddled in their bedrooms the flow of knowledge through headphones and zoom classes is almost audible. These images are portraits made up an image of the student at their workplace; then below that, the student after they have left the workplace - which reveals more about their character and the text on the bottom is input by the student themsleves as to revealing what they are hearing / thinking at the time I made the images.
— Glen Cohen
The images were taken on September 20th, 2020 at Ontario Place, Toronto. The event Shofarpalooza, a drive-in celebration of Rosh Hashana, was presented by the City Shul. Rabbi Elyse Goldstein gave a sermon and read from the Torah, which was delivered to the stage by motorcycle after it was driven around the congregants’ cars. Participants were requested to bring apples and honey to eat in their cars to symbolize a sweet new year. These images document how one minority community continued to celebrate their traditions despite the restrictions of Covid.
— Marnie Salsky
A COVID brit milah
My husband Daniel and I live in Kingston ON where there is a small community. There is no Mohel in the city. My husband, who is a physician, was starting his training to be a Mohel before the pandemic and as a result, his training was put on hold. He currently is a family doctor in Napanee, ON, schedules the CovId assessment centre there, and works in the hospital as a hospitalist.
We knew we were expecting our second son. The original plan was to do the Brit in Toronto with our immediate family, as we did with our first son. However we had to change plans with every new restriction and lockdowns. As a result of the second lockdown, and the infection rates in the Greater Toronto Area, we decide it was best to go to Ottawa for the bris and find an orthodox mohel.
We ended up at Dr. Engel after the recommendation of Rabbi A. Kravetz of Beth Tikvoh in Ottawa. As this was the height of the second wave only myself, my husband and mohel were at the bris. Due to the stay home order, it was best to do it in the doctor's office. We did not even zoom in our famiky. The first picture is the actual brit Milah. The second is of the naming part of the ceremony, where my husband and I sat in a hallway holding our baby with the mohel six feet away doing the brachot.
This Brit Milah took place January 22 2021 in Ottawa ON. We drove from and to Kingston that day
— Adira Winegust
Congregation Darchei Noam: Community Quilt Project
In response to the social isolation imposed by COVID-19, members of Congregation Darchei Noam came up with the idea of virtually assembling a quilt. Each person participating in the project would be responsible for creating a square that would represent their experience of the pandemic. When the pandemic is over, these squares will be stiched together to form a collective quilt, which will be hung in the synagogue. In the meantime, Miriam Bester generously made available a document containing images of the squares and brief explanations of their significance. Below is an image of a square along with an explanation of its significance by its creator, Andria Spindel.
Eliyahu Hanavi horns, Pesach 2020!
The Annex, Toronto, Ontario
During the pandemic, two days after my son Arlo’s barmitzvah (via Zoom/screen), I started a band with my two kids (Shai 17 on Tuba, Arlo 13 on trumpet, I'm 44 on trombone) to cheer on frontliners and to cheer up the neighbourhood (plus ourselves). We were soon joined by two more horn players at a distance. Their other band? The Toronto Symphony Orchestra! And then another two. We call ourselves Horn on the Cob and the Social Distance and have played a newly arranged song from our front porch and yard every night at 7:30pm for 50 nights in a row (as of May 9, 2020). Nomi Rotbard, my spouse, introduces and videos each night’s song. This one was special: I arranged “Eliyahu Hanavi” for erev Pesach, April 8, 2020 - it was such a pleasure to share a Passover moment with our neighbourhood!
— Adam Seelig
Porch: Adam Seelig (trombone), Shai Rotbard-Seelig (tuba), Arlo Rotbard-Seelig (trumpet)
Driveway: Neil Deland (horn), Vanessa Fralick (trombone)
Sidewalk: Marcus Thompson (cornet), Jack Vandermeer (trumpet)
Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-16.
UHN-Toronto Rehab (550 University Avenue), Toronto, Ontario
Remembering to keep a positive attitude in difficult times. Just a small cog in the large wheel of frontline workers.
Osnat Steiman, Geriatrician - UHN/Sinai Health System
As seen on Breakfast Television, 9 April 2020.
Ontario Jewish Archives, Blankenstein Family Heritage Centre, accession 2020-4-14.
Zoom Seder 2020: Reitman Family
On the day of the first night of Passover 2020, we attended our Uncle Allan’s Montreal funeral by Zoom. He had died of Covid19 alone in hospital. His wife, Auntie Dorothy, was home, suffering from the virus.
His three adult children and five grandchildren were unsure if they would attend our Zoom Seder that evening. We told them about the Jewish law about not mourning on holidays. They all attended.
We dedicated the Seders to the memory of Uncle Allan, placing his memorial candle on the table so that his soul, his presence, could be seen and felt among us all, and we read Rabbi Jarrod Grover’s (Beth Tikvah) Passover message: “In one sense, it's quite odd to take a candle which represents the soul of a loved one, and place it on a dining table. In another sense, however, Rabbi Sofer's compromise enhances and elevates the ritual. As our tables are illuminated with the brightness of missing souls, we remember that presence can be more than physical nearness.”
And in the spirit of Passover, which is so much a holiday of story telling, we invited everyone who wanted to, to tell a story about Uncle Allan. And because this was a Zoom Seder, friends and family
from Montreal,Toronto, New York, Singapore, Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, and Los Angeles could and did contribute and appreciate vivid stories about our colorful uncle.
I believe this opportunity, and the Jewish law to observe the holidays, were liberating elements, setting the stage for reliving the Passover exodus, the journey toward freedom. And despite distancing and social isolation, no one had to make this journey alone.
Homemade Matzah at Passover
In an effort to limit visits to the grocery store this year, Ren Bucholz makes homemade Matzoh (for the first time) with his son Eliot.
Seder Box: Robby Stern
During the covid crisis and could not get together with family, I made a seder box for each one of my children. Each box contained everything one would need for the seder service, dinner, wine and dessert. We then zoomed to be virtually together. Motto this year, "Next year under one roof!"
The first 2 photos were taken outside of Beth Emeth from the parking lot on March 22, 2020. The third was taken at Irv Chapley Park (before the city-wide closure of public parks) on March 24, 2020. The fourth image was shot from the door of Beth Emeth on April 20, 2020. The last photo was taken at our family seder on April 9, 2020.
Passover 2020 Window
This is my 3.5 year old granddaughters Pesach window. Note Moses and Burning Bush, The Israelites crossing the Sea, Ten Commandments, Dancing Matzah, The Seder, and of course rainbows and flowers!
Shinder Family Virtual Seder
Ottawa, Toronto, New York City, Atlanta Georgia, Georgian Bay & Miami Florida
Screen shots of the seder participants. Not everyone invited was able to join, 8 April 2020.
Toronto Ontario, London England, & Israel
Passover Seder 2020, Night 1, on Zoom. I think the last time the 14 of us were together, because four of the younger generation lived overseas in three different countries, was January 2013, in Israel for Rachel Perlmutar’s Bat Mitzvah.
A Different Seder : Rosemarie Skoll and Les Grumach
This year we had a somewhat different seder with two people rather than the usual eight plus. We modified some of the items on the seder plate. Instead of horseradish we scrounged some chives from the garden. To stand in for the burnt egg, there was a burnt egg shell (symbol of a symbol) as the eggs were needed for cooking and the next shopping trip would only be in a few days. However, in typical Jewish style, for two people there were three haggadahs. Heaven forbid we should both be on the same page at the same time. My husband was in his element, without the usual chorus of people telling him to skip ahead. So what if the soft and fluffy kneidlach had been warming for so long they were disintegrating into the soup. After accompanying the full version of every song on a Spotify playlist, we finally started our meal. For a hit-and-miss cook, everything turned out a hit, which made us even more sad to have no guests to share the evening Still, plenty of leftovers to see us through the week. Despite the somewhat melancholy undertone to this year's seder, we were grateful for all that we have, including the freedom to be celebrating in Canada.