A Yearning for Learning

A Yearning for Learning

During COVID, we found a handful of Atlantans who’ve learned a new skill or had more time to spent on such pursuits as genealogy, gardening, pet training and coin collecting.

Robyn Spizman Gerson is a New York Times best-selling author of many books, including “When Words Matter Most.” She is also a communications professional and well-known media personality, having appeared often locally on “Atlanta and Company” and nationally on NBC’s “Today” show. For more information go to www.robynspizman.com.

  • Dani Spizman is proud of the garden her father Justin researched and planted.
    Dani Spizman is proud of the garden her father Justin researched and planted.
  • Esther Levine Zooms with members of the Gerson family tree.
    Esther Levine Zooms with members of the Gerson family tree.
  • Matthew Fishman and son Austin, along with Nola, pose for a photo.
    Matthew Fishman and son Austin, along with Nola, pose for a photo.

With more time on our hands, some of us are busier than ever. How is that possible you ask? Perhaps you are one of the virtual learners who is cooking more, learning online and listening to “TED Talks” as they increase by the minute, in search of purposeful ways to spend time. 

The pandemic gives new meaning to learning. Distractions make time fly and take our mind off our challenges, even if only for a little while. It’s a shared spirit that has inspired us to become a better version of ourselves. Whether you’ve cleaned every drawer or closet in your home, tackled the oasis of things in your basement, online learning is not just a craze. The Home Edit authors of the get-organized craze (www.homeedit.com) are ready to instruct you online, in books and even on their Netflix series. Add our own Atlanta Jewish Connector and check out all of the virtual events, including Cooking Chatter celebrating the thrill of the grill with Kirk Halpern, Blaiss Nowak and Matt Brill. 

Getting smart is suitable for all ages. Stacey Kaye, job search skills coach for college students and recent graduates, launched her website during the pandemic (www.CampusToCareer.com) and has run several webinars entitled, “6 Things College Students Should Do NOW to Land a Job LATER.” She added, “When a future employer asks, ‘So, how did you spend your free time during the pandemic?’ students will need to have a compelling answer to demonstrate ingenuity and resilience.”

Green Thumb

Dani Spizman is proud of the garden her father Justin researched and planted.

On a personal note, I try to learn new things weekly. I am efficient at things I never dreamed about doing. Hosting friends online with experts via Zoom, playing virtual mahjong and even cutting my husband’s hair. My son Justin Spizman (a criminal defense attorney) researched and planted a backyard raised boxed garden with 7-year-old daughter Dani growing herbs and vegetables. Their pride and joy were the red peppers that sprouted and they recently ate for dinner. An accomplished ghostwriter in his spare time, he has editorially supported many who have written memoirs. 

Esther Levine Zooms with members of the Gerson family tree.

Family History Project

With regard to this yearning for learning, my sister-in-law Esther Levine, founder of the Atlanta Jewish Book Festival, shared, “I have worked on several family trees during the past few months that have grown to 669 Gersons and their spouses in our family tree. The family is originally from Poland but also the countries of England, Israel, France and the United States. I had started family trees in the 1990s for my father’s father and my mother’s mother and they were hopelessly outdated,” Levine said.

“I partnered with cousins and engaged the help of someone knowledgeable about research and have found a wealth of information that wasn’t available when I started in the 1990s.This project has been rewarding and fun. We have connected with cousins all over the U.S. in London, France and Israel. An added attraction is thanks to Zoom, we met these cousins and face-to-face,” she said. “I recommend  having your DNA tested and used ancestry.com and connected with more cousins. Go to the Jewish Genealogy [Society of Georgia] website and the jewishgen.org website for courses and resources about researching your family. And utilize Tracing the Tribe-Jewish Genealogy on Facebook for help with translating inscriptions on the back of old photographs. I am giving my children, grandchildren and future generations information about our family that they wouldn’t have otherwise.”

Matthew Fishman and son Austin, along with Nola, pose for a photo.

Dog Training

Even the family pet is getting in on the learning act. A little puppy love goes a long way as social distancing has affected pets and their owners. Pet bonding and puppy training essentials have become a family obsession. Everyone knows someone with a new puppy, and with that comes a learning opportunity.

Native Atlantan Matthew Fishman, co-owner of Barking Hound Village, quickly discovered that his premier dog daycare could offer a fabulous outdoor, safe service teaching dog owners how to train and teach their pets at home or at his stores. Fishman teamed up with Michael Litzky to build a premier dog-training program as Litzky holds the highest dog-training industry certifications. With one-on-one private training, board-and-train programs, and group classes, they have a training option for the entire family to get involved. www.barkinghoundvillage.com

Coin Collecting

And last but not least, Lee Izen, offers his two cents, which could be quite valuable for everyone. Owner of the Atlanta coin company The Dusty Coin, Lee is enjoying his treasure hunts for rare coins.

“Learning about coins is a wonderful way to learn and possibly earn during the pandemic and helps teach kids the real value of money. Recently I was evaluating and purchasing a collection from a local family. While combing through their mounds of silver dollars, I discovered the elusive 1893-S Morgan silver dollar. This key date coin is worth around $11,000,” Izen said.

“An elderly couple in the Emory area needed a new roof. The husband contacted me about his coin collection. Hiding among hundreds of his coins were five, rare uncirculated 1909-S VDB Lincoln pennies. [After cashing in] $17,000 later, the couple had their new roof.

“Like any treasure hunt, you must do a lot of digging and learning before you discover a treasure. The hundred-year-old 1920 Buffalo nickel may not only fetch a buck, and the 1917 Wheat penny not even a quarter, but any good treasure hunt is an adventure into the unknown and a fun activity for kids and families with time on their hands.  Oh, and be sure to wash your hands before and after, and let the fun of the hunt begin.” 

Robyn Spizman is a New York Times award-winning author, media personality and how-to lifestyle expert, www.robynspizman.com

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