NEJS Sources for Reading in a Time of Pandemic
NEJS department faculty and staff have assembled online sources from Jewish and Islamic history and cultures relating to the experience of pandemic. These online sources are intended to facilitate study and discussion with family and friends.
NOTE: These historical assignments are very helpful for some students but very painful for others; and that, if possible, students should be offered less relevant assignments.
- Psalm 91, (from the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia p. 561 in the pdf) is available online in many forms, Hebrew and translated, and was a comfort to Jewish and Christian communities throughout their history, in times of illness and in the face of other threats.
- Two contemporary Jewish religious studies of Psalm 91, focusing on literary structure and and theological perspectives, are: in Hebrew by Rabbi Elhanan Samet, and in English, by Rabbi Gail Diamond.
- Marc Brettler suggested biblical assignments in response to the pandemic on his personal Facebook page:
- Imagine that you were Isaiah, living in the midst of the current coronavirus epidemic. Write a 16-20 line (8-10 couplets) poem in his literary and theological style, in good biblical poetry. I will share these poems with the entire class. (Note: This is a short, but difficult assignment.)
- The Hebrew Bible / Old Testament presents a large number of reasons why disasters befall individuals: they have sinned now; they are being punished for their cumulative sins; their leaders have sinned; their broader community has sinned; their ancestors have sinned; God has abandoned Israel, leaving it vulnerable for punishment by others; disaster should be unlinked from personal behavior; punishment reflects divine love. Choose, in consultation with your classmates, one of these reasons, and note which biblical texts support your position, and explain the logic of this position in one paragraph.
- In the style of the second half of the book of Daniel, write a brief (100 word) apocalyptic text; append to it a key (100 words or less) explaining what your apocalypse really means.
Podcast: "Plague in the Ottoman World"
This latest episode
(#455) of the long-running Ottoman History Podcast focuses on "Plague in the Ottoman World" with a group of leading scholars in the field and Nobel-prize winning author Orhan Pamuk.
- Selma Stern, The Spirit Returneth (1946), not available free online but is available cheap on amazon, and through local books stores, a novel about Rhineland Jewish communities during the Black Plague – so medieval and modern Jewish Studies at once!
- This resource is not about the pandemic, but is one response to it – free, online books for adults and children! There are ebooks with a wide variety of topics in Islam and Judaism. Courtesy of Hasafran, the electronic discussion forum of the Association of Jewish Libraries, ed. by Yossi Galron.
- From Hasafran: openlibrary.org has thousands of ebooks to read totally free. The reading quality isn't always the best because they have been digitized by scanning the originals, which sometimes are many years back and the pages are yellowed. There are a lot of "golden oldies."