Jewish Philadelphians Are Over COVID


In the era of omicron within the age of COVID, Jewish Philadelphians, like many Americans, are sick and tired of the whole thing.

But they are not just over the virus itself. They also are sick of its attendant political climate, its endless cycle of restrictions and new restrictions and of how it has isolated so many of us.

“I’m so done with all this,” said Brett Goldman of Center City.

Almost two years into the pandemic, even though society is, for the most part, with momentary exceptions, back open from lockdown, that pre-COVID flow has not returned.

Jewish Philadelphians, like many Americans, now think twice about seeing family members and friends, about going to work outside the home and about going out to eat or see a movie.

Sometimes, even when they decide to do those things, they run into restrictions that either inconvenience them or outright ruin their plans.

On Jan. 5, Grant Schmidt of Ardmore got a call from his buddy asking him if he wanted to see the new “Matrix” movie. They drove to the Regal UA Main Street Theatre in Manayunk.

But they couldn’t walk into the mostly empty theater because Schmidt wasn’t vaccinated.
The guy checking tickets told Schmidt that he was “just following orders.” The Ardmore resident looked back and saw no one in the parking lot. He asked the guy one last time if he could get in.

“He said, ‘I’m trying to keep my job,’” Schmidt recalled.

Jed Margolis and his wife enjoy time with their granddaughter. They have spent a lot of time with her during the pandemic. (Photo by Carley Margolis Taylor)

Jed Margolis of Dresher retired from a career with Jewish Community Centers and Maccabi USA Sports for Israel a few years before the pandemic.

During COVID, he has still enjoyed retirement. Margolis and his wife tend their garden and watch their granddaughter, who puts on dance recitals for them.

But they have not been able to see their son and 4-year-old grandson, who live in California, often. The Margolis’ have only seen them once in two years, last summer before the delta variant started spreading rapidly.

“In the best of times, we’d be out there in California with him,” Margolis said. “But we’ve hunkered down.”

Younger Jewish Philadelphians also were forced to hunker down.

Steffany Moonaz, of Doylestown, has watched her 13-year-old daughter Soleil “come of age during COVID,” she said.

Soleil was always creative, the mother added. But over the last two years, she has blossomed into an artist.

She draws, paints and makes murals out of buttons.

“She’s carving out a place for herself,” Moonaz said. “How she shows up in the world.”

Except during COVID, Soleil can’t really show up in the world.

Most art programs were closed, went virtual or continued in a limited capacity. Last year, the girl started middle school online and then did hybrid schooling. Now she has to wear a mask all day.

Steffany Moonaz, of Doylestown, with her family. Moonaz’s daughter Soleil, front left, has “come of age during COVID,” the mom said. (Photo by Carol Ross)

“It’s hard to find your people,” Moonaz said.

Randy Leib and her 33-year-old daughter, both of Elkins Park, have the opposite problem. They know who their people are; they just can’t see them.

Both women are immuno-compromised. Every week, they get subcutaneous immunoglobulins, which, as Leib explained it, “is supposed to give you the immune system that you can’t generate yourself.”

If one of them gets COVID, they would probably get “extremely sick,” Leib said.

So instead of going back out, they have not proceeded much beyond the lockdown state of 2020. The women do not even go out for groceries.

Leib has only seen her Florida-based parents once in the past 20 months. She has not seen her other daughter, who lives in California, since the beginning of the pandemic.

A third daughter who lives nearby can’t come inside due to omicron. They talk to her from a distance.

Over Zoom, Leib still attends Shabbat services with her congregation and a challah-making hang out with other women. Her daughter has virtual get-togethers with her friends.

But Zoom is still not real life.

“It’s not the same as getting a hug from somebody,” Leib said.

For Jewish Philadelphians, like other Americans, there is no end in sight.

The “light at the end of the tunnel” rallying cry, shouted throughout the reopening process, at the arrival of the vaccine and then, at least before delta, in anticipation of July 4, 2021, is no longer spoken very often, if at all.

“We’re going to have to make decisions based on our risk understanding, our risk overall and our risk tolerance,” Moonaz said.

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  1. I hope that Grant Schmidt of Ardmore reconsiders his stance against the vaccine. None of us are invincible. As far too many loved ones left behind have discovered, it’s too late to get it once you’ve been admitted to the ICU and intubated.


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