by Rhonda Seidman
One of my all time favorite childhood books was Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candles. The irony of how I found my original copy is that I was having my own “Mrs. Moskowitz” experience during quarantine. In the story, Mrs. Moskovitz moves into an apartment and it just doesn’t feel like home. She then discovers her candle sticks which bring back a host of memories which make her new apartment feel like home. For me, finding this book was a little bit like Mrs. Moskowitz finding her Sabbath candlesticks.
Of course nothing about this pandemic reminds me of my childhood per se–rather, the book brought back memories from my childhood–specifically memories from Shabbat.
Finding this old book was comforting. I remember when my Poppy bought it for me. He was on the Board of the Jewish Publication Society and every month he gifted my sister and me with the opportunity to choose new books to purchase. Month after month, he helped us build a library filled with Jewish books and catalogs, much like PJ Library does for children today. Thinking of my generous Poppy made me think about his wife and my beloved Grandma. Many Friday nights were spent in their home where she would cook a traditional Shabbat dinner. All I have to do is close my eyes and think about that soup and I can literally taste the dill–her magical secret ingredient. And I think of my own parents- my mom encouraging us to put tzedakah in the box each Shabbat to help those in need. Or my dad, an attorney by day, who could have been a Cantor as his singing would energize the table. One book brought back so many Shabbat memories.
Covid-19 has caused the world to stop in its tracks. Prior to social isolation, we were on the fast track–rushing from one activity to another. With no more rushing, it was up to my husband and me to build a full life inside the confines of our home. As a clinical social worker, I’ve always been a connector and especially tuned in to others feelings (a true empath). I feel better when I’m connected to those around me, and I can feel others’ emotions just by connecting with them. What started off as one post on Facebook turned into a daily post with a theme. This was my way of making sense of what was going on in the world. The themes vary. Sometimes I write about activities to do with your family (scavenger hunt, time capsule, making s’mores, creating a gratitude chart). Other times, I share my personal thoughts and fears and how I’m coping with them. And when I was truly inspired, I wrote a song while my kids danced along. None of us have a manual on how to live during a pandemic. But aside from being therapeutic for me–and hopefully helpful for others, these posts are my way of creating a safe environment for my family in hopes that at the end of this experience, my two daughters (ages 10 and 13) wouldn’t look back and feel as though their childhood days were wasted.
I want nothing more than for my girls to have beautiful childhood memories–even during this historic time. Such that if they close their eyes, and smell challah in the oven, it will remind them of kneading dough with me as we prepared for Shabbat dinner. If they see a tent, it will remind them of the cozy nights they slept in a tent together in our basement as they were nervous to sleep alone. If they hear the song “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls, may it remind them of our lyrics rather than the original lyrics. If they see a board game, I hope it will it remind them of evenings where the four of us play games or watch movies together. If they’re sitting at the seder in 2021 and are surrounded by relatives, may they remember the seder of 2020 where we had a virtual seder with our loved ones. If they see a soccer net, may it remind them of their daily practicing as well as 2 v 2 games with mom and dad. Or if they see Mrs. Moskowitz and the Sabbath Candles on their bookshelf or tucked away in the box, they’ll remember that it was one of their mom’s favorite childhood books.
Rhonda Seidman, LCSW is a social worker at the Mitzvah Circle. She lives in Dresher with her husband Michael, two daughters Jenna & Madelyn and her positive attitude. She is planning on putting this article in a time capsule so her family can hold onto some of the wonderful memories they created during this historic pandemic.