April 13, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Jewish Link Readers Share Their Thoughts

The Jewish Link asked: What changes has the coronavirus prompted that you want to preserve?

Milton Erdfarb

Towards the end of February 2020 I wasn’t feeling well and wasn’t up to driving to my part-time job in Brooklyn, which could take an hour and a half on a good day. It turned out I was diagnosed with pneumonia and had to spend some time in the hospital. By March 9 my employer began issuing health-alert bulletins to all staff dealing with significant changes in daily operations.

During that two-week period, I asked my director if it was OK to work from home/telecommute. Everything I needed was at my fingertips, including remotely controlling the PC on my desk in Brooklyn. It is nearing one year since I stopped going into the office and, vaccine or not, I see no good reason to return. I do miss the face-to-face contact with fellow staff members but not enough to pay the tolls on two bridges. I basically accomplish everything I need to do from home. So, when COVID-19 goes away, I plan to continue to work from home.

Another major change has been not going into any stores, either food or merchandise. The ease of online shopping makes in-store shopping practically useless. There is very little I need that I can’t order with a tap on an icon.

Being home all of these months has led me to a greater appreciation of my friends, faith and family (especially being together 24/7 with my wife of 40+ years). That has been a great gift. But there is also much I miss, such as hugging my children and grandchildren and the repartee with my fellow congregants inside the synagogue.

Building on and not abandoning all of these positive changes will be my goal. I look forward to the challenge. May many of our necessary adaptations be a blessing and not a curse.


Milton Erdfarb is a benefits & entitlements specialist. He lives in Highland Park, New Jersey.


Daniel Shlian

In 1923, anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski coined the term “phatic” to describe speech which functions more as social cues than as conveying inherent meaning. Speakers of everyday English might recognize this archetypal snippet of phatic communication:

Speaker 1: “Hi, how’s it going?”

Speaker 2: “Not much, and you?”

Speaker 1: “All right, yourself?”

Note that Speaker 2 does not address the manner in which anything is going, while the first speaker, despite having very recently been informed of the second’s state of affairs, inquires once again. Nonetheless, the speakers, having been ensconced in a familiar conversational setting by their phatic banter, likely will continue with words that possess significantly more meaning. The social niceties they exchange are merely verbal placeholders, imparting casual cordiality and little more.

Over the past months, as COVID-19 upended every norm, I have found that the phatic patterns of conversation have evolved as well. These days, whether I’m talking to my family over the phone, my friends at shul or proprietors of local bodegas, I generally end my conversations with “Be well,” or something of the ilk. (“Stay safe” was my go-to in March and April, but I found that a bit too ominous for my taste.) And a funny thing has happened along the way: I started meaning it. As I take leave from people, I find myself truly, mindfully wishing that the person is blessed with good health, financial stability and mental comfort, none of which can be taken remotely for granted.

Please God, as more and more people get vaccinated or recuperate, community as we knew it last February can re-emerge. But I would like to think that conversations going forward will be a little less phatic and a little more emphatic.


Daniel Shlian is a PhD candidate in inorganic chemistry at Columbia University. He lives with his wife and son in Washington Heights, Manhattan.


Edited by Harry Glazer

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