For the vast majority of Americans, the potential collapse of our public health systems and predictions of economic Armageddon have left us frightened and uncertain. But there are some who have found a silver lining in our coronavirus fears: the conspiracy theorists, the racists and the anti-Semites.
The possibility of a full outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in the Gaza Strip is both likely and terrifying. More than two million people, over half of them children, live in the 139-square-mile area, one of the world’s most highly-populated regions. Unemployment stands at 52 percent and half of the population lives in poverty. Much of the housing and 97 percent of Gaza’s water is unfit for human consumption, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
By 1865, it seemed self-evident that American emancipation resonated with biblical emancipation in powerful ways. But it had not always been so: This new resonance of meaning captured the hearts of American Jews only during the vicissitudes of the Civil War. Before the Civil War, most American Jews did not oppose slavery. There were exceptions, but most Jews voted Democrat, and Democrats were tolerant of slavery. The anti-slavery parties were tarred with nativism, which was distasteful and threatening to a Jewish community composed largely of immigrants and first-generation Americans. And many, including such luminaries as the Reform rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise and the Orthodox rabbi Morris Raphall, considered acceptance of American slavery consonant with the Bible, which documents slavery and sets parameters for its practice within the Israelite community.
“Unusual times call for unusual measures, so it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise when a key aide to the president of the United States convenes a conference call with leading ultra-Orthodox rabbis, only to urge them to follow government instructions.”—Nathan Guttman