We have Queen Elizabeth II to thank for introducing to the modern lexicon annus horribilis, a Latin phrase for “horrible year” that she used to describe 1992, during which the monarchy was assailed by scandal, a fire at Windsor Castle and the collapse of three royal marriages.
Today we apply annus horribilis to 2020.
The coronavirus pandemic, a relentless toll of deaths and economic devastation, along with a divisive election and massive wildfires in California, made for a nightmarish year that seemed never-ending.
But with the new year comes fresh hope. With a different administration in Washington and the rollout of a highly effective coronavirus vaccine, the dawning of 2021 shines brightly indeed. How appropriate that Hanukkah, a holiday of light and optimism, heralded its arrival.
We add our voice to those in the public health sector cautioning that the vaccine, while a blessing, will not immediately end this crisis. Virologists do not know for certain whether the vaccine will do anything to prevent transmission of the virus, or whether it offers permanent protection, as does the polio vaccine. Either way, it will be months before enough people are vaccinated to create herd immunity. Meanwhile we must continue to take all safety precautions. That mask isn’t going anywhere.
Still, we have to say, as Hanukkah 5781 winds down, a great miracle happened here. Pharmaceutical companies developed, tested and manufactured vaccines in record time, and by doing so will have saved countless lives. We are immensely grateful to and awed by the scientists who made this happen.
Normally, this is the season to look back and reflect on the accomplishments of the year, and we at J. feel immense pride in the way we handled the challenges posed by the pandemic. Though forced in March to send our staff home to shelter in place, and facing a painful loss of ad revenue, this essential publication managed to retain every employee and never miss a deadline.
In fact, starting at the dawn of the pandemic, we fanned out, covering the impact of the coronavirus in the local Jewish community and making sure the important stories were told. If ever local reporting mattered, it has been during this extraordinary time. We met the Jewish health care workers confronting the first and second waves of mass illness. We spoke to teachers, rabbis, heads of social service agencies and others in the Jewish community about changes and challenges they were confronting. We spoke to the local Jewish doctors, scientists and researchers, delving deep into the mysteries of this virus in order to first understand it and then defeat it.
For all the pain and suffering, 2020 reminded us that community matters, and that it will take more than a pandemic to snuff it out. Whether by the light of the Hanukkah menorah or the light of a Zoom reunion on the computer screen, we still gather together for comfort and assurance.
To all our readers, we wish you a happy, healthy new year. Stay safe, get the vaccine as soon as it’s available and, rest assured, we will be here to bring you the news and community you need.