In Philadelphia, the mask requirement for indoor establishments is no more, and the same is true across most of the United States.
It feels like a post-COVID moment, especially as the news cycle rushes thumb-first into a new memetic war: the literal war in Ukraine started by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
But in the Greater Philadelphia area, there’s a feeling that is probably also common around the country: COVID may be ending, but we have changed, and we’re not sure if that’s good or bad. In reality, it’s probably both.
Local Jews did their best to find clarity about this confusing time.
Lela Casey, a Doylestown resident and mother of three, said there were two big things she’d miss from pre-pandemic days — moving about in the world without a heavy feeling of risk and being able to talk to her neighbors without some political implication hanging over them.
Casey used to be able to travel without thinking twice. The writer’s social life once existed in New York City, where she’d meet up with writer friends. Now, neither of those things are true.
The mom also used to be able to talk to her neighbors without grouping them into the mask or anti-mask categories. But in March 2022, she no longer can.
“It’s become this identifying factor, and that’s difficult to stop,” Casey said. “I hope it goes away.”
There may not be an upside to the political creep into neighborhoods that we’ve all experienced during the pandemic, but there is an upside to traveling less, according to Casey. She now focuses much more on local issues.
In November, Casey was part of a group of parents that lobbied the Central Bucks School District to condemn the antisemitism that was breaking out in the district. Central Bucks leaders listened and denounced antisemitism at a December school board meeting.
Casey said it’s “healthy for all of us to take care of our communities.”
“And not only to take care of our communities, but to have a community,” she added. “When you’re always running off to work or wherever, you don’t pay attention to it.”
Daniela Burg of Furlong has undergone a similar shift during the past couple of years.
Burg, who works for an insurance company, spent her weekdays in an office before March 2020. She also formed a tight bond with a group of female classmates at a local Orangetheory Fitness.
But COVID moved Burg’s office to her kitchen table and her workout routine to the screen on which she takes her Peloton classes. (Burg has “hacked” the Peloton system by not buying the bike, she explains, paying only $13 a month.)
“Sometimes, I do miss getting up and leaving the house,” Burg said.
At the same time, the mother of two has a lot more time to finish work, attend to her children and talk to her friends on the phone. Plus, she feels closer with the fitness women who she has managed to keep in touch with and continue to see.
Burg’s relationships are now about quality over quantity, she said.
“Relationships have become stronger and more meaningful,” she added. “We’re very close now.”
In one sense, COVID has divided and/or isolated people; but in another, it has brought them closer together.
T.J. Kozin of Jameson believes it might be more of the latter.
Even political polarization, usually considered a source of division, has connected people around mutual interests, according to Kozin. And these are often people who, in less political and local times, may never have spoken.
“A lot of people just went to work, cooked dinner and went to bed,” Kozin said of pre-pandemic times. “Now they might go to work, come home, go to a school board meeting and go to bed.”
Fred Poritsky, a Richboro resident who runs a digital marketing agency, doesn’t see this new social dynamic changing, either.
Poritsky said he misses in-person meetings and interactions in general, and that he sees them as part of his company’s future. But he understands that work culture has shifted, and that the hybrid paradigm is likely here to stay.
He also called that a good thing.
“It’s easier to take care of your children, get your kids to preschool,” Poritsky said. “It’s given people a better life-work experience.”
But in this new environment, as Poritsky and others explained, there are still questions that people need to start asking themselves.
When do you leave work? What’s important for you to go out and do? Who’s important to you to go out and see?
“Most people, in some way, are excited to get back to human contact,” Poritsky said. JE