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Daily distraction: See a fashion exhibit, read a classic, try a celebrity workout

Welcome to your daily distraction, our recommendations for ways to stay engaged and entertained while we socially distance ourselves to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. You can find our past recommendations here; many of the opportunities we’ve highlighted are ongoing.

The weekend has arrived. But in this time of social distancing, it can be hard to mark the passage of time. (Wasn’t it just Wednesday?) Here’s how to make the most of your Shabbat.

1) Get fashion tips from the Center for Jewish History

Ever get Mrs. Maisel envy? Us, too. Soothe it with the Center for Jewish History and Yeshiva University’s virtual Google Arts & Culture exhibit “Design in Exile: Jewish Contributions to Fashion.” Featuring design sketches spanning from the 1930s to 1960s — including some ensembles that recall Midge Maisel’s iconic wardrobe and the smart looks of screen legends like Lauren Bacall — you’ll learn about the cinched silhouettes on view as well as about the stories of their designers. The three featured are Lucy Marcus Ritter, Ruth Phillips and Abe Grubère, all of whom brought their gifts to other countries amid persecution by Nazis and Cossacks. Sadly, you can’t feel the swatches of material — but they probably wouldn’t let you do that in a museum, anyway.

2) Read the classics

If there was ever a time to get through “Augie March,” it’s now. It’s easy to underestimate the reach of our local library cards, but many libraries offer eBook editions through their websites. Even if your local library is somewhat limited in virtual stock, a number of sites like Project Guttenberg and can connect you to eBook editions and scans of public domain offerings — Melville, Homer, Dante and Twain are all a keystroke away. And if Hebrew is your language of choice, the National Library of Israel has a portal for manuscripts from across the world, ranging from threadbare antiquities to beautifully-preserved medieval illuminated books. Try to make out the 9th century religious and secular correspondences found in a Cairo synagogue’s genizah storage space or gaze in wonder at the 13th-century, gilt-lettered Catalan Mahzor. But, if you really want to get ambitious and crack open “War and Peace,” writer Yiyun Li is leading a virtual book club on Tolstoy’s famous tome. Ready your reading glasses.

3) Sweat it out to the oldies

Sadly, we have moved past the golden age of celebrity workout videos. But fear not, the VHS vault from has you covered with classes led by David Caradine, Cher, Cindy Crawford and even Debbie Reynolds. They’re delightfully cheesy by today’s standards, but can still get your heart rate pumping and help you shake off the sedentary lifestyle of self-quarantine.

PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture fellow. He can be reached at [email protected]


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