By Rebecca Shaid and Devora Solomon
COVID-19 has come at an untimely period for high school seniors across the country, us among them. When Gov. Tom Wolf announced all schools’ closing, many students saw it as a vacation, an extension to spring break and opportunity to hang out with friends outside the confines of school.
Little did we know that on that day we would be saying goodbye to high school forever. It’s been about a month and a half since then, and we now know that we won’t have the final months with our best friends before college, and the life milestones that come with finishing high school. In the midst of these terrible times, we feel such uncertainty surrounding the country, our families and our futures.
Senior year of high school is well known as a year of milestones. We were shopping for prom dresses (and dates), talking about our summer plans and preparing to leave the school we had attended for seven years. However, senior year is not only made special by the big moments; the time spent with friends before venturing out to college is treasured by so many. Saying goodbye over video chat to the teachers, administrators and school that have shaped our learning and character growth does not provide the closure that we so deeply crave to have with our teenage years. Although we are so grateful to have the technology available to us to keep in contact, it does not feel like anything close to the same as being with our friends. No matter how many socially distanced walks we take or times we park our cars near each other in an empty parking lot to talk, this year bears no resemblance to the senior year we had come to expect.
Not only has COVID-19 left us without closure in this chapter of our lives, it’s leaving us with little security in the future. As the pandemic erupted in our country, we were trying to decide between colleges, some of which we’ve never been to. It was hard for us to decide with so much less information than we expected to have in making this decision. Currently, we don’t even know if schools will commence in the fall, and all expected certainties are now daunting unknowns. Sometimes it feels like every day we see a new article with new predictions about colleges and their fall semesters. Some have said they want incoming freshmen to be acclimated to remote, online learning. As much as our senior year of high school was different than we expected, we never imagined our fall semester would be spent at home rather than on campus. We haven’t yet come to terms with the fact that college, which has always seemed so far away, seems to be getting even further.
As Jews, one of our most important values is community. We lean on our community in times of need and we offer help when those around us are suffering. Throughout this pandemic, it has been made harder and harder for us to be together as a community. We can no longer go to synagogue together or have a meal with others, meaning our Passover seders, usually full of family and friends, were restricted to only those living in the same homes. Despite these challenges, the Jewish community has rallied, organizing programming such as online services, singing sessions and opportunities to reach out to others in the community. This quarantine has truly shown us the power of the Jewish community. When it looked like that had been taken away from us, we found new ways to be together and strengthen our Jewish connection.
There is little good to come of this pandemic, but we believe that with so much lost to seniors in this time, there will be a newfound conviction to make the most of the time we have. You never know when, in a blink of an eye, it could be gone, and we have come to understand that. We know now more than ever to value the vibrant Jewish community at our fingertips, every last moment we have with our loved ones and, very importantly, our health.
While we are very sad to have lost our senior year, we of course recognize those in worse positions than us. Our thoughts go out to all the brave medical professionals helping this country recover from this horrible disease and we hope that COVID-19 stops harming so many people, medically, economically and otherwise, as soon as possible.
Rebecca Shaid of Merion Station and Devora Solomon of Wynnewood are seniors at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy.