The coronavirus COVID-19 is seriously contagious–biologically, psychologically and economically. For example, Lufthansa and the Frankfurt Airport have implemented hiring freezes and other cost-cutting measures due to a decline in air traffic.
Yesterday, I mustered some contagious solidarity with the most vulnerable–refugees, caregivers and to those who have been invaded by the virus. Thankfully, hope, generosity and courage also are contagious.
Jackson, Tennessee once had a sizable Jewish population. Dr. Pam Dennis, a former a college librarian in Jackson (now at Gardner-Webb) was curious why the names of many of Jackson’s Jewish families from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were missing from headstones in the Jewish section of the cemetery adjacent to the Lambuth campus.
At a synagogue homecoming in neighboring Brownsville, Pam learned it involved the 1878 yellow fever epidemic that rocked towns along the Mississippi River. A rumor spread among the Jewish communities in St. Louis and Memphis that Jackson was a relatively safe refuge from the epidemic. This led to an influx of Jewish families to west Tennessee.
Late in life as these people prepared for death, many of them returned to their places of origin where they (in biblical language) were “gathered to their people.” Epidemics continue to impact our history.