My friend Mendel Horowitz has a lovely essay on the op-ed page of the New York Times today.
It's about one memorable Passover with his wife's bubby, her grandmother, a survivor.
You could/should click on the link right here:
Mendel is a New York guy, who moved his family to Jerusalem. He is a husband, father, rabbi, psychotherapist, volunteer first-responder, runner, Mets fan and soccer buff, and also very much a writer, currently working on a book about Orthodox Jewish men, group therapy and faith.
We get together for lunch once a year or so when he comes back to Long Island. I love his stories about the male group sessions, or how, when he responds to a crisis with the medics, he never knows if the victim(s) will be speaking Hebrew or English or Arabic – “and it doesn’t matter.”
Two years ago at this time his article on Passover and baseball was published in the Jewish Journal.
I can only imagine how many Seders this evening will be asking why this year is different.
One answer might be that Jeff McNeil should be swinging at the first pitch and smacking it into left-center field to set up a lead for Jacob DeGrom. I suspect there are deeper answers.
* * *
Another writer, my classmate from junior high and Jamaica High in Queens, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, is in the midst of a glorious career. She issues a personal newsletter from time to time, and in her current one she includes a snarky political cartoons and photos.
For the why-is-this-year question, and how we can make the most of it, she reproduces a poem by Kitty O'Meara. (It has been attributed to Kathleen O’Meara, a writer of the 19th Century, but the Web says it is by Kitty O'Meara, a contemporary, different person. Thanks to reader Paul Rerecich for the update.)
And People Stayed Home by Kitty O’Meara:
And people stayed home
and read books and listened
and rested and exercised
and made art and played
and learned new ways of being,
and listened deeper.
someone met their shadow
and people began to think differently
and people healed
and in the absence of people who lived in ignorant ways,
dangerous, meaningless and heartless,
even the earth began to heal
and when the danger ended
and people found each other
grieved for the dead people
and they made new choices
and dreamed of new visions
and created new ways of life
and healed the earth completely
just as they were healed themselves.
* * *
Letty finishes with her holy days wish:
Wishing you a sweet Passover starting tomorrow night. A happy Easter on Sunday. And a generous Ramadan starting April 24. Stay strong, stay safe, stay home. – Letty
“Chag Pesach Sameach" -- GV
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.