The mother of Intown Chabad Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman offered hope during her recent visit from Los Angeles titled, “Finding Joy and Peace of Mind in Challenging Times.” Rebbetzin Chana Rachel Schusterman led a study class March 14 in tandem with Shabbat services. Normally teaching Torah and Chasidus, lessons from the Chasidic movement, she presented an introspective guidepost for balancing the maelstrom we find ourselves in today. In a comforting tone, she assured us, though we are indeed now “in the time in between” when we can decide how to approach our situation, with calm prudence or with fear. King Solomon’s ring bore the initials of “this too shall pass” to keep his own perspective at all times.
Schusterman explained that Judaism has always been concerned with good health habits, like ritual and repeated hand washing, and thorough cleaning upon awakening, before eating bread, and before mikvah immersion. In one of her guideposts for remaining calm, “I was teaching a class during 9/11. The women who stayed glued to the TV repeatedly watching planes crash into buildings fared much worse than the women who remained aware, but went forward. Use this time to catch up with family, read, take a class on chabad.org.”
When she was a child, she remembered being taught to ride a bike, which did not start well. She focused hesitantly on a tree, and sure enough, she hit the tree. She said, “My mind was on ‘the trees! The trees!’ Crash! When I started focusing on ‘between the trees,’ I rode right through. This is the time to focus on our ‘emunah,’ faith, to get us through.”
Each day by the hour, the impact of the coronavirus scare and aftermath affects businesses, simchas and events in an unprecedented fashion. Just last weekend alone, I was scheduled to cover the Jewish Interest Free Loan of Atlanta brunch at Zoo Atlanta, ORT’s O/Art in The City, the annual Anti-Defamation League lunch, the annual Hillel event – all postponed – and go to services for my father’s yartzheit, which I did via livestreaming. I also listen remotely to lectures by Rabbi Karmi Ingber of The Kehilla in Sandy Springs, which is closed because of the virus. Life interrupted. And dealing with the anxiety and concern for others, faith is a good place to turn. Jewish catering businesses are rising to the occasion.
Steve Gilmer of The Kosher Gourmet weighed in, “We took a hit on catering, losing kiddishes, wine orders, Passover events. On the other hand, people aren’t traveling and we are well stocked on poultry and meats. Don’t panic. Everyone will get served. We are cooking now for a big Passover.”
Owner of EB Catering, Eli Brafman, was heavily impacted by cancelations both locally and interstate. He lost all events until May including b’nai mitzvah, weddings and corporate functions.
Before Shabbat March 13, Brafman had to alter his business model to retail posting on Facebook about eight items that were for sale and individually packaged at pick up locations or delivered for $20. Pick up is free on High Point Road and a Toco Hills location.
He lamented, “I have taken huge losses with cancellations on wholesale orders to North Carolina and Tennessee in addition to locally. I am hustling to have exciting menu items and beautiful presentations for now and soon Passover. Examples are crunchy kale salad, meatballs and spaghetti, mushroom barley soup, sous vide ribeye, fruit salad, smashed Yukon potatoes. Menus vary daily.” His hashtags include those for “fresh,” “food,” “daily,” “gloves,” “masks.”
Erin Lis of Added Touch Catering is touting a new “Stock Your Fridge, Stock Your Freezer” menu with frozen and fresh items.
She said, “It’s healthy and nutritious. Share delivery ($25) with a friend. Or Curb-side Pick-up at our office in Sandy Springs, don’t even need to leave your car!”
They have soups, brisket, short ribs, chicken pot pies, mac n’ cheese, fresh chicken breast, quinoas, vegetables and salads.
Sandra Bank said, “Our entire calendar for the month of March / early April has canceled. We are luckier than many, as most of our clients are for the time being only postponing to the fall rather than outright canceling. Thus far, we have already had four bar/bat mitzvahs postpone. We’ve always prided ourselves on providing our clients with quality and delicious food, and we don’t plan on stopping now. We are working with a skeleton crew; our core team came back to the office promptly and hit the phones to take small orders. Immediately, we have seen an incredible response from our client base. We are here to make our clients’ lives easier. Together we will get through this.”
Reuven Robbins, owner of kosher Chinese restaurant Chai Peking, has an uplifting message. Operating out of the Toco Hills Kroger, he is using social media to communicate his altered business model, which includes ordering and paying remotely. Then when the customer texts, the restaurant brings the prepared food to
the curb. For those in the neighborhood who cannot get out, he will deliver. Since he is within the busy “big box” grocery, his business had held up, and he has made the following changes: “We no longer leave food or sauces out on the steam table. We don’t even leave out plastic utensils. This takes steps of exposure out of the process.”
He further explained that Kroger was doing a fine job of restocking. “The produce, meat and cleaning supplies were the most impacted, and this put pressure on people in the supply chain. I am proud of the job that they are doing restocking quickly.” He believes that grocery stores will remain open but may close earlier. In the case of the Toco Hills Kroger, that’s now at 9 p.m.
Robbins concludes, “G-d runs the world. We may not know the reasons for this [pandemic]. Our job is to take care of each other, pray and have faith.”