Purim, Corona and Toilet Paper

Photo by Andrew Dallos; CC on flickr.

By Chana Kanzen

For me, it reality hit on Thursday. I was in my local supermarket and pushed my trolley into the toilet roll aisle. What I saw took my breath away. A completely empty toilet paper aisle with a couple of forlorn kitchen paper rolls left at the end, and a security guard standing with arms folded looking at me menacingly. “Are you actually guarding an empty toilet paper aisle?” I asked him incredulously, as he glared back. I promptly took out my phone to record this piece of history.

As I started to work out how many rolls I had left at home and if I could auction them off as a fundraiser, the realisation that we are about to go through a world-changing event was humbling and I took a moment to ponder the timing and relevance of this.

Purim is this week.

How strange that everyone is wearing masks. Stranger still is the underlying message of Purim and its relevance at this point. V’hanafoch Hu – It was upside down.

In the Purim story this theme runs through the megillah. The very gallows Haman built to hang Mordechai the Jew on, were used for his own demise – V’hanafoch Hu.The horse that Haman intended to ride throughout the county in royal robes, actually became Mordechai’s – V’Hanafoch Hu.The story showed how events turned upside down which is one of the reasons given for dressing up on Purim.

How apt, I thought, as I looked at the security guard standing by the toilet paper aisle.

How has such a low-value item become such a rare commodity? Is there a message here? We are being forced to stop travel. To stay in our homes. Slow down. It is somewhat frightening and will have an impact on every one of us.

But it is also making us reconsider behaviour. Reconsider what is valuable.

What is really important and what isn’t.

This is by no means an attempt to explain or give meaning to what is happening currently in the world.

For me it is simply a reflection – The timing of this being so close to Purim, and then Passover with its story of the 10 plagues is, in my opinion, not a coincidence. I am planning to take a look at how I can use this time to help others, to connect with my family, to slow down and to not panic. Examples of communities in Riverdale coming together for virtual megillah readings and helping each other shop through whatsapp groups have been so inspiring.

In an endeavor to help others and use this time positively, I wanted to share my top 5 virtual workplace tools, from my experience of working as part of a remote team. Most of them will be familiar, which helps with transition.

  1. Zoom – A video conference system that just works every time. You can annotate live while sharing screens online to provide a really interactive experience. Calls can be recorded and a host of other features are available. Webinars for over 20 people are easy to set up on a paid plan – but for small groups you can start for free. It is available on any device.
  2. Monday – The best workflow system we have seen. My team has told me they dream in Monday boards now! It is extremely versatile and can be used to organise almost anything. It clears unwieldly email threads, lets you keep track of what needs doing and is very intuitive. It is available on any device.
  3. Slack – This is used more in the development space but many are now adopting it for internal messaging requirements. It is effective for tracking messages, more professional than whats app – and can be used as a great intercompany tool if you work with other companies/organizations. It can also be linked to track payments, records and a host of other widgets/bots are available to sync with it. Available on any device.
  4. What’s App – We use this for “water cooler talk” which is just as important as all the official stuff. As a remote company it is hard to feel like a team – we use What’s App to share memes, funny stories, birthdays and celebrations and the social stuff that makes us human. You can always mute if you are feeling anti-social, but we find this is an important need when people are working remotely.
  5. Google Docs/Sheets/Slides (GSuite) – Work asynchronously on documents – track edits and history, comments and create while collaborating virtually. I can most often be found on a G Suite application, whilst sharing my screen on zoom.

Chana Kanzen is CEO of Jewish Interactive.org.

Please see their FREE home learning site for Jewish educational content and support (4-12 years) https://www.jewishinteractive.org/kids-learning-at-home/