Instead of letting future generations rely on snippets from the newspaper or a random photograph, let’s give them the gift of knowledge and certainty.
We don’t have to tell you that this time is unprecedented or how drastically our lives have changed due to the coronavirus, but future generations will want to learn from what we are living through today.
Throughout this experience, we have wondered how our ancestors tackled the challenges of the pandemic of 1918. A century from now, our descendants could be asking the same questions about us. With shutdowns around the world, protests across the country and daily life flipped on its head, our reactions and adjustments will help tell the story of how we went through such an exceptional time. We want to save that story.
That’s why we’ve teamed up to create a platform that will collect, preserve and, one day, share our experiences.
Laura’s Wedding Story
Our wedding was scheduled for Oct. 18, 2020. The venue was booked, the photographer scheduled and the wedding dress purchased. Then COVID-19 hit, and what would have been a classic big Jewish wedding celebration turned into a private backyard ceremony and a drive-by reception.
Instead of pictures with tables full of people, our wedding photographs captured “guests” with smiling faces, waving from their cars, safely distanced from us newlyweds. I never imagined our wedding would be a live-streamed event, but it allowed loved ones from all over the world to connect with us on our special day.
This was not the version we planned, but it forced us to find a new, still meaningful, way to share the milestone with our community. No doubt, it was a day we will always remember. Our photographs and memories from this simchah will be shared in the COVID-19 Archives Collection, adding a piece to the puzzle of how our community adapted to life in a pandemic.
Robbie’s Life-Through-Screens Story
For some of us, the pandemic has not been marked by missed celebrations or juggling work while homeschooling kids. Instead, it has been endless hours of isolation with little more than Netflix for company. When the stay-at-home order was issued in March 2020, I assumed it would be just a few days or maybe a couple weeks. I had no idea I would not return to my office until July 27. The work I was able to do at home filled my days and kept me sane … until I was furloughed in April. Suddenly, time lost all meaning.
Alone for months, my only respite were trips to the grocery store and long walks when the weather was nice. Zoom calls with family and friends helped some of the loneliness. But most of my days were spent on the couch, reaching the farthest depths of streaming service catalogs. Using the questionnaire on the COVID Archives website, I will be documenting my ups and downs over the past year and reflecting on how this time changed the world around me.
Who Tells Your Story?
This COVID-19 Archives Collection project seeks to ensure the memories — from the celebrations to the mundane to even the painful moments — are preserved and made accessible to anyone in the future. A collection of your photographs, videos, journal entries or simply your thoughts on life right now, will all come together to tell the important story about how our community navigated this historical moment — even as we still live it.
What You Can Do
We can’t do this without you. Through this partnership between the Leo M. Franklin Archives and the Leonard N. Simons Jewish Community Archives, we intend for this to be a true community project. Any Michigander who identifies as Jewish is encouraged to participate.
There are many ways you can contribute! What we didn’t do during the pandemic is just as important as what we did do. It is easy to think we don’t have a story to tell if it’s not one of altered celebrations or the frustrations of homeschooling. The fact is, our very existence in the time of COVID is a valuable piece of the historical perspective.
We are looking for anything that documents how you are coping with the limitations of COVID-19, from finding a way to work remotely, entertaining your family while in lockdown, celebrating milestones without parties or just navigating once-simple tasks like grocery shopping. Here is a short breakdown of what we are collecting:
• Oral History Interview
• Completed Questionnaires (You do not have to contribute anything else to complete this part!)
Instead of letting future generations rely on snippets from the newspaper or a random photograph, let’s give them the gift of knowledge and certainty. Our stories become not only insight into how we lived and experienced this time, but will also provide an opportunity to learn from what we went through and hopefully lend them more tools to deal with the challenges they may face in the future.
No matter your story, no matter how you want to tell it, we want to preserve it. Join this effort by visiting the COVID-19 Archives Collection website: jewishdetroit.org/Covid19-collections.
This story first appeared on myjewishdetroit.org.