April 13, 2022 Looking back at “Corona-times” memes
Here’s a joke from March 2020: “US has just confirmed 2 million cases of Corona JOKES… One million of them are in bad condition.”
Horrible news. Well, it gets worse, because I’m about to explain some of these Corona jokes, and that, as you know, is fatal to the life of jokes.
It’s inevitable, though, because I want to share with you a sampling of these “Corona jokes” and contextualize them. These jokes were the memes and quips that circulated wildly during the early days of Covid — what the Hasidic community generally called “Corona-times” — and reflect the unique way the Hasidic community dealt with the early lockdown. I’ve tried to document the going-ons of the Hasidic community during Covid, for instance by blogging about the underground during lockdown, the community’s methods of subverting targeted shutdowns and playing the system, and what my impression was after the first wave and after the first year. This post, which I am sharing now at the two-year anniversary of that historic time, is a collection of viral memes that were circulated within the Hasidic Twitter and internet sphere, and they contain many inside quips at the challenges of the lockdown. In contrast to the mainstream memes of banana bread, Netflix and chill, pajamas all day, Zoom calls for everything, the Haredi Jewish memes revolved around the difficulty of being cooped up with the family, the endless boredom, the surreal Passover experience, the increase in superstitious beliefs, and the self-deprecating digs at the community’s violations of Covid guidelines. I’ll translate these memes and try to explain them, so they may be recorded for posterity.
Part 1: Bored large families at home.
There are a lot of jokes about going out of your mind while the whole family is cooped up at home, getting on each others’ nerves. For the Hasidic community, staying home was incredibly difficult not only because TV, internet, and movies are forbidden, but also because there is a degree of socialization of childcare — where the children are in the care of the school system and adjacent programs for the majority of the time. School closures meant the disruption of this vital family support system, hence, all the inside jokes about being terribly bored and annoyed with everyone in the family.
Part 2: It’s a sign the Messiah is coming!
During those intense early days, when weddings were held in warehouses and streets and dining rooms, everyone knew someone in the hospital or critically ill, the entire community was in panic, the natural interpretation of these exceptional times was that those were the end times. Specifically, the final moments before the Messiah comes and redeems the Jewish people from their exile and returns them to the land in Israel. Several memes goofed off on the palpable serious moment that is the end time.
Part 3: Corona-times Passover
The time between the holiday Purim and the holiday Passover roughly coincides with the most intense “Corona-times” epoch. Passover preparations usually take months and it’s one of the most intense holidays, with periods of light cleaning, intense cleaning, closing off parts of the home, covering things in foil, making special foods, school vacations, shopping, and more. This annual pattern was thrown into disarray with the lockdown, as people prepared for a very unusual Passover. Several of the memes riffed on that.
4. Some rules are meant to be broken
There were quite a few memes that took stabs at the Hasidic community’s violation of the Covid requirements. Even as schools were shut and lives were completely disrupted, Hasidim were still organizing prayer groups, attending funerals, and shopping for Passover. This earned the community an enormous amount of criticism, including from Hasidim online.
That’s all the jokes I have for today. What did you find funny? What funny meme do you remember that I should add to my collection? Let me hear your thoughts!