Mariam Yehia has a tradition with her mom and friend to donate food during Ramadan so that people can break their fasts. This year a Facebook post about a chef, Mahmoud Kamal, needing financial help sparked more ways for Yehia to help. Instead of making the meals themselves, Yehia, her mom and friend bought 60 meals from the chef to support him and feed those in need. She then made a post of her own encouraging others to buy from the chef and other chefs who need support, which received about a thousand shares.
Jana El Daour, Yehia’s friend who made the original post, doesn’t think much of the act. She’s only glad that people are helping each other during such a sacred time. But to Kamal the post has been a huge benefit to his business, with new customers calling and ordering food every day. “Often we have this negative outlook on life and on people,” El Daour said. “But this just proved that people are still good, still share, still support and still help each other.”
88-year-old artist Robert Seaman just completed his full year of daily doodles, which began at the start of the pandemic. The initiative was a way to regenerate his passion for illustrating while stuck inside his assisted living facility. Seaman had moved into the facility just two weeks before COVID-19 restrictions were put into place. When the restriction began, residents were kept in their rooms with no interaction for months. So Seaman decided to rekindle his passion for sketching by deciding to do a daily sketch, which he calls his “COVID Doodles,” in order to lighten his mood.
At first the sketches featured somber tones of isolation. Seaman would send the works to his daughter and other friends and family. But as his daily doodles became more popular, he began selling his work on Etsy and giving half of the proceeds to charities. As the days passed, the tone of the drawings became lighter and more whimsical. His 365th drawing titled “Potpourri” features a cat, a man on horse, various trinkets and even a man in an aviator hat and glasses. Even though 2020 is long over, Seaman has no plans to stop. “It’s selfish. It keeps me occupied, and I love doing it, but it also does help some other people, which is kind of nice,” he told the Associated Press. “Maybe I’ll get so shaky I can’t do anything, but as long as I can, I will.”
Trudy Berlin held her women’s group “The Ladies Room” at the Levis Jewish Community Center before the pandemic. But last year when quarantine began, the weekly meetings were put on a halt. So with the help of Stephanie Owitz, the center’s director of arts, culture and learning, the group went virtual. The 98-year-old leads the group in discussions covering everything from grief to politics.
The group loves Berlin, some even calling her “Jewish Oprah.” There are over 50 women who meet, mostly 70 years old and older. Berlin encourages the women to speak on difficult topics and express their opinions. She now hosts the virtual meeting from the Community Center. Marilyn Snider attends the meetings and loves the discussions. “She challenges us, she makes us think,” Snider told the Associated Press. “Her energy is absolutely unbelievable. She brings out thoughts that you never thought you would ever express.”