Out of lockdown
Mounted police on patrol at a deserted Bondi Beach as The AJN's Evan Zlatkis walks past.Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Mounted police on patrol at a deserted Bondi Beach as The AJN's Evan Zlatkis walks past.Photo: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
Back to 'normal'

Out of lockdown

Prominent community members in Sydney and Melbourne tell us the first things they did when lockdown ended and what it means to have their freedoms back.

Josh Burns.

Josh Burns
Federal Member for Macnamara

The highlight of my first day out of lockdown was having Shabbat dinner at my parents’ place.

It had been far too long since we were able to have a meal together, so it was really special to be able to be together as a family again. Taking my daughter to see her grandparents, her aunt and uncles and her cousins was extra special after a tough few months.

Dad made too much food, but in true Burns tradition we didn’t leave much for leftovers.

I had to fly to Canberra on Sunday so I haven’t had much time to roam around Melbourne, but I’m really excited to dine in at our wonderful local cafes and restaurants again, and to get back to visiting our community organisations and schools.

It’s obviously been a really difficult lockdown for everyone across Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra, but as we’ve now entered the vaccinated world we have so much to look forward to, from Shabbat dinners to rescheduled simchas to getting back together in shule and at home on Chagim.

And of course the reopening of our domestic and international borders will reunite us with family and friends across Australia, in Israel and around the world.

Wendy Sharpe. Photo: John Fotiadis

Wendy Sharpe
Australian artist

The first thing I did was go to Kmart to buy something, which is pretty boring, but what I was really excited to do was actually meet up with friends.

Having a drink and just chatting in person was so exciting and even just sitting in an ordinary cafe having breakfast was wonderful. It’s great seeing everyone out – there’s a kind of a festival atmosphere with everyone having a good time.

It’s great to be able to see people who live beyond the 10-kilometre radius, and I can’t wait to finally go to a big art supply shop!

It also means that I can go to galleries, museums, the theatre and music venues; not everything has to be online and we are all sick of Zoom!

We can travel! I have an apartment in Paris and I’ve already booked to go back at the end of February. I can’t wait – the apartment has been pretty much empty for two years.

Lockdown makes you appreciate really small things such as just being able to go to a little restaurant to eat on the way home from the studio. Such a thrill in comparison to not being ever able to go out.

What happens of course is that your horizons change. First you want to go overseas and then you say, “I’ll just travel within Australia,” then within NSW, and then you say, “All I want to do is go to the local cafe and mix with other people.”

Rabbi Allison Conyer.

Rabbi Allison Conyer
Rabbi, Etz Chayim Progressive Synagogue

Lockdown felt like a never-ending dream. The first thing I did was take a late-night walk.

The next morning, while our younger children finally returned to school, I took our older daughter out to brunch. We connected our vaccination certificates to our QR code check-in and began to relax.

I savoured the different tastes, colours and presentation of the food before me. I listened to the sound of people laughing and watched the cars drive by. Everything seemed “normal”, like I simply awoke from a bad dream. Then, I noticed people’s eyes … above their masks. I missed seeing whole faces and

people’s smiles. I missed hugging people. And I realised, we’re not quite there yet; but, we’re moving in the right direction.

I was asked, “What does it mean to be free again?” As Jews, we learn from Pesach, zman cherutainu (time of our freedom), that freedom does not mean that we can do whatever we want. Rather, freedom for our ancestors meant living from under Pharoah’s yoke to living under the yoke of G-d. There were rules either way. Our ancestors chose to accept a different set of rules guided by a greater purpose. Freedom was and is an active choice and a state of mind.

Now, as we emerge from lockdown, we pick ourselves up, follow the rules, readjust our state of mind and go forth with a greater purpose.

Lesli Berger. Photo: Giselle Haber

Lesli Berger
President, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies

Like many, after the first lockdowns lifted in NSW in 2020, I didn’t think we would go through it again. But, as the Delta strain of COVID-19 hit Sydney, back into our homes we went, and this time with tighter restrictions.

While we knew more about COVID-19, more about how it was transmitted and more about how the rest of the world was dealing with the pandemic – Sydney lockdown 2.0 felt more stressful than the first time around.

Online home-schooling seemed never ending. Zoom events were on the calendar again. And again. And again. The coffee run or neighbourhood walk became a daily routine and the only way to remain social face-to-face time – albeit behind a mask.

When restrictions were lifted, I’m sure I’m not the only one who felt a sense of relief.

I could finally go to visit my 94-year-old Holocaust survivor grandmother, one of the many elderly members of our community for whom the lockdowns were especially difficult.

I was able to gather with friends and family indoors without having to keep an eye on the weather radar to ensure our picnic didn’t get rained out.

And now my children have been able to return to school, and most importantly return to socialising with their peers.

It is amazing how quickly the atmosphere of stress and weariness lifted. How quickly things have got back to normal.

But we cannot forget the importance and effectiveness of high vaccination rates. Of the upcoming booster shots that will keep us free, and hopefully, prevent future lockdowns.

Professor Sharon Lewin.

Professor Sharon Lewin
Director, Doherty Institute

In Melbourne, the first lift in restrictions happened on Thursday, October 21 at midnight. I was asleep at the time and Friday was a pretty routine day for me, up at 6am on meetings with the US, at home in the morning and then in at the Doherty Institute in the afternoon.

I have been privileged to have been permitted to work at the office throughout the pandemic, in light of the key role the Doherty has played in the COVID response.

However, the minute I had a bit more freedom, on Friday night, I had my immediate family over for Shabbat dinner (10 adults plus a few little ones). It was just wonderful to be together again after so long. It felt surprisingly normal and as if no time had passed. I guess that’s a sign of how resilient families and communities really are.

The following morning the next major priority was a hair cut and colour and then nails done. Saturday night was dinner out with my husband and two of our closest friends at a wonderful Venetian restaurant that we all love.

By Sunday morning it felt like life was normal again, well at least for the short term. As optimistic as I am about our response to COVID, unfortunately COVID is far from over and I anticipate that as a global community, we will continue to be significantly challenged over the next few years. So it’s very important to enjoy the relatively good times now!

Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler with students. Photo: Nadine Saacks

Rabbi Yehoshua Smukler
Principal, Moriah College

The best part of Shabbat is connecting with people and being surrounded by friends and family. That’s why one of the first things that my wife and I looked forward to when lockdown was lifted was inviting friends and family (within the limitations) to join us for Shabbat meals. It had an immense impact on us to once again be able to elevate Shabbat by sharing our home and table with others.

Personally, I didn’t see the end of lockdown as a day when we were given back our ‘freedom’, because I don’t believe that our freedom was compromised during lockdown. On the contrary, I believe that the decisions made by our elected Government officials were focused on keeping us all safe and healthy, thereby ensuring that our freedoms endure.

Welcoming our students back to campus is a blessing. You can feel the energy and excitement throughout the school and it’s hard to tell who is more excited – the students or the teachers. While Moriah B’Yachad online was dynamic and innovative, to have our students present in their learning, body and soul, and socialising with their friends again, is wonderful.

Peter Ivany.

Peter Ivany
Businessman and philanthropist

I ruptured my achilles so basically my lockdown has been extended 12 weeks but it’s okay, I’m used to it – I’ve had 18 months to acclimatise so I’m doing well.

It’s good that we’ve got our freedom back. And it’s particularly good for people with children and families overseas.

What I liked about lockdown is you had more time – you could actually do things properly and you could focus. We fill our lives with a lot of clutter, and it really helped in that way. You definitely get much closer to family and bond by going through it together. You had picnics again – not in a noisy restaurant, easy to park and you could just have some good times with friends. So those past four weeks, the reinvention of picnics that we all grew up with, was a real positive.

Even though in the community there was a shutdown, it’s incredible how generous people have been through the past couple of years to people that are less fortunate. And from the fundraising point of view, the community did not suffer at all. It will be nice to see all the people again and to make human contact, but it was pleasing that everyone had to pivot and find solutions, and I think the community will be a lot stronger for it.

Another great thing that we’ll get out of the pandemic for the future is what its done for technology, what it’s going to do for health and medicine. Ultimately, I think it’ll be a positive.

Elliot Perlman. Photo: Peter Haskin

Elliot Perlman

When lockdown ended we immediately had family over for a meal. Then it was dinner at home with close friends followed the next day by swimming lessons and a playdate for our children. Around 40 per cent of our youngest son’s life has been in some kind of lockdown. That night another dear friend came to dinner.

Stepping outside the next day, sunny and reassuringly warm into a swarming sea of people, one felt joyful but also strange. There was an unspoken almost subcutaneous sense of trepidation. We adapt to not seeing people even if we don’t like it. So when the situation changes we are forced to adapt again. It’s the closest most people will ever come to the feeling of being let out of prison; unequivocally positive and yet …

Outside on the street people seem to breathe easier. MIT research suggests an isolated person craves human interaction literally the way the hungry crave food.

The next day my wife and I have her cancelled birthday dinner now as a Sunday lunch many months late. Everyone in the restaurant, diners and staff, is double vaxxed. You soon remember what the almost broken healthcare workers cannot forget; this virus hasn’t gone anywhere.

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