Coronavirus lockdown: How to make the most of your time

It’s clear that indulging in various forms of creative expression is by far the most common way of self-medicating a case of lockdown fever.

Fundemic: How Israelis play at home (photo credit: ESTEE JANSSENS/UNSPLASH)
Fundemic: How Israelis play at home
(photo credit: ESTEE JANSSENS/UNSPLASH)
Feeling caught in an endless loop of mandatory quarantine periods and periodic countrywide lockdowns? We asked readers to share what they’ve been doing to cheer themselves up when being out in the world is not an option.
We heard from lots of people who took advantage of the exercise exemption and began walking or bike riding regularly. Some turned to binge watching Emily in Paris and Bridgerton on Netflix, others used the time to declutter and/or organize old family photos. Happily, many respondents shared distinctly inventive ideas.
From the more than 100 responses we got, it’s clear that indulging in various forms of creative expression is by far the most common way of self-medicating a case of lockdown fever. Extended lockdowns, coupled with compulsory quarantines, have given many creative types ample opportunity to rediscover long-dormant artistic outlets or try their hand at creating something totally new.
Responses have been edited for brevity and clarity.
BATYA BARAK and her husband finally had time to develop a project that they had spoken about for some time – Shloshim L’Shalom, an initiative for Israelis to learn 30 words in Arabic.
“We printed up cards with 30 Arabic expressions to help ‘break the ice’ with our neighbors,” Barak said.
They are happy to share the card packets for free with anyone who can pick them up in Baka. To arrange to get a free set of the cards, write to [email protected]
The project also has a Shloshim L’Shalom Facebook page that features a video of a young Hebrew-speaking woman and a young Arabic-speaking woman pronouncing each word.
Inspired by her daughter’s painting, Leah Behar said she “went out and bought some art supplies, and I quickly became addicted! I paint almost every day now, and I find it very therapeutic. Keeps my mind engaged on things other than lockdowns and viruses.
“Even though I had painted a couple of small pictures in the past, I still consider this my first real venture into artistic work.”
ONE OF Leah Behar’s summer-themed paintings
Susie Diamond Ben-David and her husband are “starved for socializing.” As a remedy, when Israel is not in lockdown, they “invite a different couple each week to our front garden for Shabbat morning kiddush/breakfast at a very long table, and whoever we have stays for two to three hours!”
Dianne Feldman Cohen loves languages. She’s a mother-tongue English-speaker who speaks fluent Hebrew and has studied French, Italian, Spanish and Russian.
“I decided to study Norwegian because I love languages and wanted a challenge,” she explained. “I was inspired to try this language after watching a Norwegian TV series called Occupied.”
Cohen devotes time five days a week to the Norwegian lessons on Duolingo, a program that offers free online language instruction.
“Given that I’m 66 years old, I also wanted to give my brain a good workout,” she commented.
She’s already learned how to say “The moose is chasing the children!” And if she ever makes it to Norway, she looks forward to being “among the very few Israeli/American tourists who actually can speak some Norwegian!”
Aviela Andrea Krissman Deitch reported that she is “cleaning up a semi-abandoned winery in hopes of making my son’s wedding there.”
Hilary Faverman gave her living room a makeover for NIS 500. “I went through all the papers that have been piling up for three years and threw out 90% of it.” She bought some colorful paint and paid her 15-year-old to plaster, sand and paint two coats on an accent wall. “We went shopping in our own house for things we thought were pretty but didn’t get the attention they deserved.”
All that, coupled with moving some furniture around, gave the Favermans a new living room to enjoy.
Tobey Finkelstein started a lip-sync battle with her neighbors. They compete via a neighborhood WhatsApp group.
Alana Ruben Free put together a Poetry/Performance Salon with a former art student. In short order, she had a dozen poets, actresses and singers participating.
She described the event as “a very soulful evening filled with love, inspiration, creativity, new work and mutual support.”
The experience was so positive that a second event, larger and more inclusive, has already been planned.
The artistically inclined Julia Friedman bought herself a few books on embroidery and taught herself the craft, while waiting to give birth to her second child.
During the pandemic, Chaya Bluma Gadenyan used a vision board to help her launch Emglit (a Hebrew portmanteau for mother-tongue English). A serious gamer, Gadenyan combined her love of gaming with her background teaching English online to children in China.
She created a fun new way for young children to learn English by gamifying the experience for young learners. She calls Emglit’s approach “delight-driven learning,” and said, “Ideally, learners are intrinsically motivated. Young children are brimming over with curiosity and can absorb tons of information without being explicitly taught or exerting effort.”
Learn more about Emglit’s game-centered approach to learning English at linktr.ee/emglit.
Tsippy Goldstein makes it a point to get “dressed every day, even though I didn’t go anywhere, and used it as inspiration for others. I called it my #lockdownstylechallenge.”
Taking advantage of new opportunities is Michelle Gordon’s personal guideline for getting through enforced indoor time.
After the intense spring lockdown, she relishes the freedom to bicycle without limit. Several times a week, her day begins at dawn as she prepares for her two-and-a-half-hour round-trip bicycle ride to Yad Kennedy. On the way, she’s happy to see a sprinkling of fellow cyclists who are also marveling at the spectacular sunrise, blossoming almond trees and bright red anemones dotting the hills around Jerusalem.
A dance teacher, Gordon has been honing her skills by taking online classes in solo swing, Luigi jazz dance technique and tap dance. She’s also making plans to launch a performing jazz dance troupe for women in the spring.
And at night before bed, Michelle and her husband, Marty, watch Cookie Monster on YouTube.
Sara Halevi created a series of fun crocheted dolls, including one of the ubiquitous Bernie Sanders. “I’m a pretty good knitter, and I knew the basics of crochet, but had never learned the more complex stitches. I was sitting in my mom’s living room looking at this little antique chair, and I thought, ‘I need to make something to sit in that chair.’” That inspired her to crochet a sweet doll to occupy the chair and, having started, she’s still crocheting.
Tania Hammer admits she doesn’t have “the bandwidth for much. I find new things a bit daunting these days.”
On walks past the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood, she happened upon the Monument of Tolerance, with which she was not familiar. She has also been studying Torah online, including II Samuel with four different teachers who approach the text from four different perspectives.
Gitel Hesselberg was already a member of two Toastmasters clubs. When COVID-19 moved the meetings online, she started attending other club meetings where she was invited to join a Toastmasters club based in Benoni, South Africa, followed by an international club started by a member in Mumbai.
“I’ve made new friends all over the world. There are a few people in Benoni I count as friends, and also a woman in Dublin and a man in England. Knowing these people has enriched my life immeasurably,” Hesselberg commented.
Sari Holtz donated a kidney during corona times. “This has brought me tremendous cheer; I feel better knowing that someone else is suffering less during these hard times,” she shared. Her selfless act inspired her mother and twin sister to do the same.
Not everyone can donate a major organ, but Holtz suggested that “finding ways to give to others (even small ways!) can fill the days with incredible joy.”
Tali Frank Horwitz put together monthly online family reunions, with family members gathering from all over the world. She also used some of the time in lockdown to organize and laminate more than 70 pages of old family pictures. A talented ceramic artist, Horwitz also created a corona flower mosaic project.
In order to communicate better with Arab-Israelis and Arabic-speaking clients in her New York legal practice, Terri Kalker took 25 private Arabic lessons online.
Yael Kaner signs up for “every Eventbrite free lecture that catches my fancy. I’m meeting people from all over the world. I’m crazy for learning new things.”
She’s learned about Singaporean and Korean cooking, taken virtual tours, attended art, history and health lectures, exercise classes, social media and marketing trainings, Meet the Author events and more.
Kaner, who suffered a devastating personal loss during corona times, is especially enthusiastic about the classes she has attended on learning how to build personal resilience and how to bounce back from tragedy. “Cracking that code is my passion in life,” she revealed.
Sharon Katz made a love-filled video of grandmothers all over Israel singing, dancing and throwing kisses to their grandchildren, from whom they have been separated. “We grannies [from around the world] wanted to tell grandkids everywhere, ‘We love you. We miss you. We can’t wait to hug you. We’re hanging in there because of you.’”
Jessica Levine Kupferberg created a newsletter with children in her Efrat neighborhood. In it, kids “shared their feelings about living through a pandemic and stories about having corona birthdays.” The newsletter included “interviews with grandparents, jokes, book review, word search” and answered the perplexing question, “What is a pangolin?” (Answer: Sometimes known as scaly anteaters, they are mammals of the order Pholidota.)
Shayna Kwiat knit herself a vibrant, multicolored sweater that caught her attention on TikTok.
SHAYNA KWIAT’S TikTok-inspired sweater
“It was first seen on [singer/heartthrob] Harry Styles, and eventually the designer JW Anderson released the pattern so people could make it themselves. It took me a month and one day to complete,” she shared.
Julie Rothschild Levi creates and films impersonation and parody videos and throws wild dance parties for one, each based on the music of a different decade.
Cooki Maisel meets with a new study partner, arranged through Partners in Torah. “We meet once a week on Zoom. I spend a lot more time learning Torah in preparation, which in itself is a great feeling – and I’ve made a lovely new friend in London.”
Daniella Miller reported that, while reading Amelia Bedelia to her three-year-old son, he was intrigued by the taffy apples Amelia makes. So Miller taught herself and her son how to make caramel apples for the first time.
In preparation for a trip to Hawaii that had to be postponed due to COVID-19, Fran Gross Moshkovski learned to play the ukulele. “On a whim, I ordered a ukulele, thinking it must not be that hard to learn a few chords. I discovered a whole online community of teachers and adult beginners. Ukuleles are fun, affordable, beautiful and easy to learn. They make you and those around you joyous!” she enthused.
Abi Moskovits shared, “Nothing cheers me up better than cheering someone else up with homemade food. During such a challenging time, there is nothing like cheering up people who feel alone. And nothing connects people like food. I have found great comfort in gifting my baked goods to friends and neighbors.”
She created a garden-themed focaccia using vegetables from her garden, and held a session online for Efrat’s olim department to teach other olim to make their own.
She’s spent months doing “an insane amount of baking, including creating a sourdough starter and baking a crazy amount of sourdough breads [while] learning about its processes, chemical reactions and the benefits of natural yeast.”
Moskovits is also a gardening therapist and has put in time enhancing her edible garden.
Dasha Palenova learned to create cyanotype prints, which are cyan-blue tinted prints, like blueprints. Cyanotype is a process of printing photos using ferric ammonium citrate and potassium ferricyanide, two chemicals available at art supply stores.
Shayna Rehberg-Paquin is part of a small group of women learning to paint with watercolors through classes that began in-person and have continued online. For Rehberg-Paquin, painting represents a return to her dormant artistic expression which she now shares with her eight-year-old daughter.
Rivka Schlesinger spent the first six months renovating her apartment. “We had fun sorting out 45 years of accumulated junk!”
She also opened an English-speaking workshop and trained other teachers on how to teach over Zoom.
Using her experience as a real estate consultant, Schlesinger took over the house committee in her building so she can work on improving amenities for her neighbors. Long walks several times a week and a weekly Zoom yoga class are also part of her schedule.
Socially, she makes time to call friends each week and plays bridge online. Looking forward to being able to travel again, Schlesinger has done armchair traveling to Tanzania, Rwanda and Costa Rica.
Shulamit Slotki has turned her attention to writing a novel. Although still in its early stages, Slotki’s main character is portrayed as a child growing up amid violence, economic privation and emotional complications. Through faith and spirituality, the story’s heroine successfully overcomes her tainted childhood to create a life of peace and happiness in her later years.
Jeremy Staiman had a goal of “giving myself a creative outlet and a way to consider this COVID period as a constructive one.” He also wanted “to give a pick-me-up to listeners, musicians and friends during this slow time.”
Starting with a song he composed 30 years ago but never shared, based on the Refa’enu prayer for healing, “I decided to give a little work to the musicians, arrangers and studio personnel, and hopefully provide some small inspiration to the public, by recording and releasing [my version of] ‘Refa’enu.’”
Encouraged by the positive feedback on “Refa’enu,” Staiman decided to record a whole album which he named K’mo Pa’am – a Hebrew expression that means “like the good old days” (staimanmedia.com/music/).
Partnering with musicians he worked with in the past, Staiman has big hopes for the album. “We hope that just as we have reconnected with man through this journey, it will also help us – and others – reconnect with the One Above.
“We hope it will help take you back. And we hope it will help take you forward. We hope it will raise you up and bring a smile to your lips.”
Wendy Werner has been keeping busy learning to make homemade bagels. She’s also found time to try tons of new recipes, return to her artwork and create a family history photo book. She’s even taught herself how to knit hats and scarves. Will Bernie Sanders-inspired mittens be next?
Need further inspiration?
Here are 30 more ideas, shamelessly borrowed from other creative thinkers, to turn the pandemic to your own personal fundemic.
1. Buy & play board games. (Editor Erica Schachne has rediscovered the old-school thrills of Battleship.)
2. Create a new cocktail and call it a Lockdowntini (see box).
3. Bake a mug cake.
4. Collect inspiring memes and quotes.
5. Make a funny TikTok video.
6. Rent a popcorn or cotton candy machine.
7. Reread all of Harry Potter.
8. Learn to make sushi at home.
9. Learn a card trick and perfect it so you’re ready to impress when you can socialize again.
10. Change the passwords on accounts you use frequently to something that will amuse or inspire you every time you enter it.
11. Make a cheerful sign with an uplifting message and hang it where your neighbors can see it.
12. Take the kids on a walk and pick up trash along the way. Take before and after pictures and post them to inspire others to do the same.
13. Donate used toys and clothes to a local charitable secondhand shop.
14. Step outside and play music for hyper-local passersby.
15. Customize your Waze command voice so that, eventually, when you take your next road trip, you’ll be greeted by a familiar voice telling you “At the roundabout, turn left.”
16. Make up a holiday and celebrate it, or search for weird holidays and celebrate one that already exists. Did you know that March 3 is National I Want You to be Happy Day?
17. Go a whole day, other than Shabbat, without checking Facebook.
18. Shop for some outrageous garment you would not ordinarily wear, like taco-shaped slippers.
19. Play with kids’ toys at night when the kids are asleep. Try Lego, or blow some bubbles.
20. Write a daily gratitude list. Even during a pandemic, there are hundreds of things for which we can still express profound gratitude.
21. Arrange a personal wine tasting in honor of Purim. Go to a knowledgeable liquor store, ask for some recommendations, buy a few bottles and deliver pompous critiques of each wine.
22. Collect funny and clever WhatsApp stickers and toss them liberally into the universe.
23. Wear a costume (or just one element of a costume) on Purim, even if you’re not planning to leave your house.
24. Use Purim as an excuse to try a totally new style. Put together a costume in a style very different from how you usually dress.
25. Send festive mishloah manot to a neighbor who is struggling or to a random person you don’t know, like a taxi driver waiting at a cab stand or the person guarding the entrance to your community.
26. Plan the vacation of your dreams.
27. Listen to music. Not as background to something else you’re doing, but as a complete activity in itself.
28. Find an instructional YouTube video and teach yourself a new skill – how to meditate, apply clown makeup or get more from your smartphone.
29. Say thank you to three people today.
30. Buy some children’s art supplies (crayons or a watercolor paint set) for yourself and create something colorfully childlike.