PA Native Gets Creative During Quarantine in Israel

by Adam Grobman

Being in quarantine is both a challenge and an opportunity.

At least that’s the attitude of Stephanie Graber and Joyce Franco, the founders of a new Instagram account, @creativelyquarantined.

Steph, a West Chester, PA native who remembers visiting Harrisburg for USY events during high school, moved to Israel three years ago. There, she enlisted in the Israel Defense Force and was a Nativ staffer before starting her current work as a community manager for Empower Africa.

When she visited Italy with friends in February 2020, coronavirus was just beginning to go global. “We were in Lake Como (Italy) on February 23rd, when all of a sudden our friends started sending us articles about the coronavirus hitting northern Italy,” Steph says. “So, we didn’t know what the situation was, exactly, but I was going back to Israel that Monday.”

After arriving back in Israel and realizing that she should self-quarantine, Joyce (who lives in Brooklyn, New York) had the idea to keep a personal Instagram diary of her experience. Steph suggested they make the account public.

“I thought about all the people that could potentially be in quarantine,” she says. “We wanted to make it a positive thing, and make people think of what they can accomplish with this time rather than be afraid or bored.”

Within a week, their account was up-and-running, sharing recipes and ideas, as well as news, memes, and personal moments related to the quarantine and coronavirus.

“It became an online community,” Steph says of the account, which has garnered more than 1000 followers in less than a month. “We hope to motivate people to get rid of the negative connotation of quarantine, and make it fourteen days of doing new things or things that you’ve been putting off.”

During Purim, the duo started the hasthag “#spreadingkindnessnotgerms,” and encouraged and organized a Mishloach Manot drive, in which Chabad rabbis helped to deliver treats to people in isolation.

“It really helps to be with someone when you’re in quarantine,” Steph says. “So for people who don’t have someone close by, the online community can be very powerful and comforting.”

With their quarantine over and Joyce heading back to the United States, the future of the account is up in the air, but Steph says she hopes to continue sharing. “It’s been an eye-opening experience,” she says of both running the account and being in quarantine. “It makes you think differently about your life in the outside world.”

You can follow Steph and Joyce’s quarantine journey on Instagram at @creativelyquarantined.