Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Monday 23 March 2020

Contagion & Ketubah

Philadelphia Inquirer, 7 Oct 1918
One from the historic annals, a reported Russian Jewish custom to ward off contagion.

The following article (I have no precise date for it) appeared in the American Hebrew during the deadly "Spanish Flu" pandemic of 1918-20, which the present COVID-19 pandemic calls to mind.

The "Spanish Flu" pandemic killed about 10 million people around the world (some sources say 20 million and others 50 million).

The article appeared first in the Public Ledger, a Philadelphia paper.

The ceremony described perhaps fascinated and repelled the non-Jewish and German Jewish readers of that paper in equal measure.

But it was in a good cause.

Antiseptic Matrimony.

An Old Russian Custom Revived.

The war has demonstrated that the age of arms is by no means over. Almost daily observers of the trifles in life, the little kinks and crotchets of human beings, are led to the conclusion that the age of superstition is by no means a thing of the past.

At the Jewish Cemetery near Cobb's Creek,  in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia "Public Ledger," a couple were married at the first line of graves in order to ward off the ravages of the influenza epidemic. 

More than twelve hundred Russian Jews, in silence and awe, watched the ceremony, and when it was finished the orthodox among the spectators filed solemnly past the couple, and made them presents of money in sums ranging from ten cents to a hundred dollars, until more than a thousand dollars had been given. 
The last monetary offering made, the bride and bridegroom walked to  the green sward further from the graves, where a wedding feast was quickly spread from the two truck loads of food which others of the faithful had provided. 

This marriage in a cemetery, with the idea of  warding, off the ravages of an epidemic, is a revival of a custom which has prevailed for hundreds of years among the Jews in the heart of Russia.

The participants in the ceremony say that when Russia was swept by cholera several centuries ago, Jews died by the hundreds. Panic seized them, and a council of elders and rabbis was called. They decided that the. attention of God would be called to the affliction of their fellows if the most humble man and woman among them should join in marriage in the presence of the dead.

So they searched for a young man and a. woman who were unknown to each other and were without wealth, who were willing to marry, to save their fellows from the cholera scourge. 

When they had been found each was asked if they were wllling to become sanctified by marriage in the presenco of the dead. The young people agreed and the ceremony was performed. Money was contributed to give them the necessary start in life.

And, according to the tradition, the ravages of tho cholera subsided within three days.

Many times since then the custom has been repeated in Russia, the last time some fifteen years ago. 

When the recent epidemic influenza began to take its toll of Russian Jews in Philadelphia by the score; some of the elders, now residents, of the city, but who had witnessed the reported staying of the cholera in Russia fifty years ago, by the marriage. in the graveyard, determined to invoke the efficacy of the custom to save the lives of their remaining fellows.

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