Resident Life in Lockdown

The impact of COVID is harsh and widespread; suddenly millions of people are in lock down and improvising living life in one spot. What does this mean for students in residence?

Mandelbaum House strode ahead to meet the moment with delicious free meals, movie nights and a wildly popular Minecraft server, in addition to following mask wearing and social distancing.  As soon as lockdown was introduced Mandelbaum arranged scrumptious free lunches and dinners.  A big thank you goes to the Mandelbaum chefs!

While head office continually re-assesses the COVID situation, the RA team and residents have kicked in great initiatives: the Mandelbaum Minecraft Server – a focal digital meeting place for all Mandelbaum residents, work out sessions in the games room, evening get-togethers, marathon TV viewing sessions of the Olympics and Harry Potter not to mention pickle-making experiments.

NAIDOC Week was celebrated at the beginning of lockdown before the tighter restrictions were put into place and the 2021 theme was Heal Country. Harrison Peters who is part of the Worimi mob, and Mandelbaum’s Indigenous Resident Mentor organised relaxing  painting sessions inspired by the beautiful traditional art to acknowledge and celebrate Indigenous Australian’s timeless and rich culture.

Mandelbaum resident, Reuben, has been in lockdown since the start of mid-semester break. He had big plans for the holiday: lots of extra work hours coaching chess, hanging out with new friends and exploring Sydney.  It’s been a time to learn new life lessons:  “I feel like I’ve grown as a person.  Because everyone is different there is going to be conflict and it’s been really helpful for me to work through that”.

To keep his spirits up Reuben has been “trying to constantly learn things”, like reading historical fiction, using Minecraft “Redstone” to teach himself basic electronics (fun for an engineering student!), playing chess and following chess competitions.  This quiet lifestyle is a far cry from the usual whirlwind at Mandelbaum: morning gym workouts, chess coaching around Sydney, eating out, meeting friends around the city, sailing and relaxed social times at Mandelbaum House on the roof garden, in the games room or around the coffee pot!

Continuing strong is Mandelbaum’s Jewish foundations and practices, including the fully Kosher kitchen, special holiday events and Friday night Shabbat celebrations. Attendance is optional so non-Jewish residents may choose whether to experience aspects of Jewish culture and Jewish residents can practice at their own pace and stay connected to their identity. When asked about his views Reuben tells how for the past 5 years, “I haven’t really been in a place where I’m fully understood as a Jew”. Having lived and gone to school in Papua New Guinea, The Netherlands and the USA, he has “really gotten to experience what it’s like to be a Jew in many different places” but being at Mandelbaum has “made me feel more at home”.

Despite Mandelbaum feeling like home, it is a unique experience to be locked down in residential college. “No one can really deny that it’s been tough”, Reuben says. “You just have to power through it and make the best of it”.