Stay-at-Home Front

Day 10: Save money and give generously

Real hardships? Real needs? There are so many right now … and always have been.

A charity box outside a shop built into the wall in the city of Tzfat in northern Israel, March 25, 2011. Photo by Sophie Gordon/Flash90.
A charity box outside a shop built into the wall in the city of Tzfat in northern Israel, March 25, 2011. Photo by Sophie Gordon/Flash90.
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk
Carin M. Smilk is managing editor of the U.S. bureau of JNS.

Rationing is second nature to me.

I spent a long time as a student, my graduate-school years spent in New York City, where I lived far below the poverty line. My husband took even a few more years in the same situation on the way to getting two master’s degrees.

So cutting back now—on meat, fancy beverages, store-bought desserts—hasn’t been an issue. To forgo eating out is not a problem. Of course, high-octane, quality coffee is not to be messed with; this will remain at the top of the shopping list, which may be going online soon.

I can count the days at home in terms of pounds of coffee sipped.

That aside, I have been thinking about hardships, real and imagined.

Let’s start with the latter. One of my kids is literally jumping off the walls. He’s fine when listening to classes online and doing some schoolwork, but like me, he needs to be busy. I found some old hand weights, and he’s been “working out” in the garage. He apparently also has gone on a few early-morning jogs in a nearby park, which is allowed for the time being.

And the other day, he made dessert.

To do that, he needed some help. Since I am the designated “runner” (and the one who knows best what items we lack at any given moment), I offered to get the ingredients. Turns out that he and my husband ducked out to the supermarket while I was working, and bought the needed hazelnut spread and heavy whipping cream. I was to purchase the nuts.

That was all there was to it, he said. The recipe—a sweet, rich, dairy, nutty concoction that was to be mixed together and then frozen, using just three ingredients—came from my cousin outside Tel Aviv; my son had visited her last semester while studying in Israel.

Sheepishly, I went to my organic store up the street and in the midst of a pandemic, with people wrestling over paper towels and cans of soup, I asked an employee (from 10 feet away) if they had any candied pecans.

They did not. I did manage to find some maple-coated walnuts and skittered away.

The dessert was delicious (thank you, Tami!)

Real hardships? Real needs? There are so many right now … and always have been. This being Friday, when Jews the world over prepare for Shabbat, charity (tzedakah), before the start of the weekly holiday becomes especially important.

We tend to vary ours week to week, and now, with the world topsy-turvy, there is no lack of recipients. We sent a check to support Passover food items for Jews outside the United States. It’s not always a family group think, but the kids often have a say.

As for writing checks, that will probably go by the wayside soon enough. Everything—donations, food shopping, card-giving, coffee-buying—might all go online. Classes, work meetings, long-distance family chats … they may go virtual for good. We may see a new social normal, which really isn’t social and really isn’t normal.


In the meantime, I will continue to tighten our belts, save money on extras and send some to support others. And all the while, I’ll try to keep myself from opening the freezer and dipping into that nutty delight.

Carin M. Smilk is the managing editor of JNS.

This Reporter’s Notebook will appear starting on March 16 until the end of the month (or when schools reopen).

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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