Rose Garber and son Isaac, 11 months, have fun finger-painting in the kitchen. (Courtesy Garber Family)

From virtual dance classes to online prayer, families get creative amid the crisis.

It has been said that a crisis can bring out the best in people, and that certainly seems to be happening among local Jewish families trying to find a “new normal” in the midst of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. But it hasn’t been easy.

The hustle and bustle of work, school, sports and after-school activities came to an abrupt halt with a wave of cancellations and closures, leaving families with no time to plan and limited options. The need for social distancing and staying home to prevent the spread of the highly contagious virus further narrows the possibilities for parents scrambling to work remotely, home school their children, prepare meals and keep up daily and weekly routines.

“We are eating and sleeping and watching shows in between hours and hours of coronavirus news updates. Daughter is on a TikTok-making binge. Care to interview us?” quipped one overwhelmed Jewish mom on the Jewish Moms of Metro Detroit Facebook page.

Videoconferencing and online communication platforms like Zoom, Google Hangouts, Facebook and others have proven to be a lifeline for many families and organizations working to stay connected from a safe distance during this strange and challenging time.
“After working during the day by teleconference, we were invited to play Uno with another family through FaceTime,” said Jill Kofender of West Bloomfield, who is hunkered down with her teenagers, Chloe, 16, and Adin, 13. “It was so much fun and something I had never even considered. My kids are having a hard time understanding why I’m keeping them at home and not letting them see their friends in person. I’m merely trying to do my part so we can get back to life as we know it.”

Madison Brand, 6, has a video chat with her Girl Scout troop. Courtesy Brand Family

Liam Weckstein, 6, of West Bloomfield is enjoying virtual art classes (with real art supplies at home) via a studio in Cincinnati. Laila Goodstein, 10, of Berkley is taking online songwriting and ukulele lessons with Blue Balloon Songwriting in New York. Stacy and Kevin Brand of White Lake connected their daughter Madison, 6, with a dozen children in her Girl Scout troop on video chat. Ari Zimmerman, 13, of Commerce Township completed karate testing virtually for a black belt with American Allstars.

“When you’re not an adult, missing out on daily activities and events is much harder to accept and process,” Ari’s mom, Aimee Silberblatt Zimmerman, said. “We all have to make profound adjustments and truly try to focus on what we’re grateful for. It’s also going to be a time I want to teach my children things I think they take for granted. This is a great time to learn how to scramble your own egg, do your own laundry, sew a button and change linens.”

Rose Garber of Bloomfield Hills, an outpatient behavioral health therapist, makes daily lists of tasks she wants to complete. Her husband, Vadim Garber, a web developer for Dominos, is working from home like so many others. She keeps their 11-month-old son, Isaac, busy by going for walks, finger-painting, playing with toys and listening to music.

Liam Weckstein, 6, enjoys online art classes. Courtesy of the Weckstein family

“Every Wednesday we usually do Rock ’N Read with Jfamily, a reading and music class at Next Step Broadway in Southfield,” Garber said. “They’ve been offering it virtually; we’re logging in and doing it.”

Eat, Pray, Dance

While walks, bike rides and sidewalk chalk are among the outdoor activities still safe to do, in a coronavirus world, it seems everything’s virtual. People are exchanging quick and easy dinner recipes and cooking tips online. Synagogues worldwide and across Metro Detroit have temporarily closed their doors and are broadcasting services over the internet. Many schools are providing web-based classes and assignments.

Studio A, a dance school with locations in Birmingham and Walled Lake, is keeping dozens of dance students of all ages on their toes daily. The entire studio is participating in an online contest where students earn points for completing dance classes at home. The students also get points for making cards for dance teachers or seniors at local nursing facilities and sending positive messages to teammates.

Alex Mison, 18, takes video dance classes through Studio A. Courtesy of Alex Mison

“Our world is crazy right now,” said Studio A owner Amy Lingeman. “I always tell our dancers you have to play the hand you’re dealt. The online contest is keeping the kids connected, active and boosting their spirits.”

Alex Mison, 18, of Commerce Township is one of the dancers. It’s her senior year, which has made the adjustment especially tough.

“Dance is where we go to have fun and be with our best friends,” she said. “Something really cool about the contest, though, is that it’s helping us get to know everyone better.”
There are silver linings to be found amid the crisis.

“Families should not hyper-focus on the disruptions,” says Rabbi Simcha Tolwin, executive director of Aish HaTorah Detroit, which is streaming an online camp at 10:30 a.m. daily on Facebook live. “This time to be at home and spend with your family is a gift.”

We want to know what you are doing to keep busy while staying at home during the coronavirus pandemic. Send your name, contact info and a short description to accompany your photos to kcohen@renmedia.us (with “virus creativity” in the subject line) and we’ll share them on our website, TheJewishNews.com.

Isaac Mintz contributed to this report.

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