Lessons from Pandemics in Jewish History

It may feel like our current crisis is completely unprecedented, but the truth is that we can look to history for evidence of what has happened before and how people have survived pandemics. Jewish and biblical history hold valuable insights into our present situation. 

Examples of Pandemics from the Bible

When King David conducted a census of the population, he ordered the counting of the people directly, instead of counting indirectly by means of half shekels (mahazit ha-shekel). As a result, the Rabbis tell us, a plague took place which killed 70,000 people, with 100 people dying each day.

It was decreed that the plague would be annulled if 100 brachot, or blessings, were recited each day. The Rabbis explain that since 100 people died each day from the plague, the recitation of 100 blessings a day would counteract midah kineged midah, or measure for measure (see Midash Rabba – Numbers 18:17; Tur 46, quoting Rav Netrunoi Gaon).

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Head of King David, ca. 1145. Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In another instance, we find the terror of plagues in Leviticus 26:25, which states, “And I will bring the sword upon you… and when ye are gathered together within your cities, I will send the pestilence among you.” In yet another example, Ezekiel 7:15 states, “The sword is without and the pestilence and the famine within,” and, beyond that, the Philistines’ capture of the ark was said to cause a plague of hemorrhoids.

Examples of Rabbinic Responses

What remedies have Rabbis suggested over the ages to defend against epidemics?

The Talmud mentions the efficacy of offering prayers, particularly Tehillim (Psalms). If the situation does not allow large gatherings, then synchronized prayer, done at the same time in private domains, is effective.

This is also the theory behind daf yomi, developed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro. Jews around the world each study a page (daf) of the Talmud, the central text from which Jewish law is derived.

Being in quarantine or self-isolation at this time may give you more time to study, so you might like to keep in mind the elixir of old given by Rabbis for remedying not only physical illness, but also spiritual illness (refuat ha-nefesh ve refuat ha-guf). The Chofetz Chaim urges the study of laws regarding slander and gossip that are believed also to curb the onset of plague and  warns against causing harm psychologically of persons by “meanspeak“, embarassing person in public, and otherwise causing harm to individuals You might also like to learn about ethical principles which can be applied to the internet, as you interact with others in our digital world.

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Image by Darelle from Pixabay

Conclusion

Wiping out this pandemic requires basic respect for life as the ultimate good, respect for human dignity, and great doses of humility, compassion, and above all, care for the sanctify of life.

Ultimately we must recognize that the ways of G-d are beyond human logic. We can look to history to understand how humans have reacted in the past, but only time will tell how we react to our current challenge. Keeping in mind these lessons, we can help others along the way.

This article was contributed by David B. Levy, Chief Librarian at the Lander College for Women

Information in this post was drawn from yeshiva.org.il Wiki pagesThe Black Death by Robert S. Gottfried, and Biblical and Talmudic Medicine by Julius Preuss, translated by Fred Rosner.

Ways To Positively Affect Yourself & Others During COVID-19


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Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

While it feels like the whole world has been turned upside down due to the coronavirus, you can still do your best to better yourself and help others during these turbulent times. Through social distancing, diligent hand washing, and adhering to direction given by the CDC and WHO, we can all help to stop the spread of the virus. In addition to distance, hygiene and listening to public health agencies, there are a multitude of things that you can do to positively affect yourself and others during COVID-19.

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Open Education Week 2020

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Image source: openeducationweek.org

Happy Open Education Week! At Touro College Libraries, we are celebrating all things open education this week (and the rest of the year too). Follow this blog, and our social media accounts (@tourolibraries), and check out our bulletin board outside of the Midtown Library.

What would you do if you had an extra $175 to spend?

One Touro student saved that much in one semester when her professors used OER, or open educational resources, instead of traditional textbooks. OER, as defined by the Hewlett Foundation, “are high-quality teaching, learning, and research materials that are free for people everywhere to use and repurpose.” These materials can include test banks, lesson plans, and assignment templates, but most commonly, the term OER is associated with textbooks.

In the definition of OER, free means both free of costs and free when it comes to the application of copyrights. OER are licensed under Creative Commons, or are simply in the public domain, which means they can be distributed, adapted, copied, edited —basically you name it — without legal repercussions.

And, as that student who saved $175 put it, “Open textbooks are helping me drastically cut costs associated with pursuing my undergraduate degree and I am now able to apply these funds towards other things including tuition payments. It makes my life easier since typically at the end of each semester I am left with these books that I will likely never use again that just take up space as they sometimes can’t be resold.”

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Image source: Manfred Steger from Pixabay

Despite such positive student experiences, myths about OER abound:

Myth #1: Open simply means free. Fact: Open means the permission to freely download, edit, and share materials to better serve all students.

Myth #2: All OER are digital. Fact: OER take many formats, including print, digital, audio, and more.

Myth #3: “You get what you pay for.” Fact: OER can be produced to the same quality standards as traditional textbooks.

Myth #4: Copyright for OER is complicated Fact: Open licensing makes OER easy to freely and legally use.

Myth #5: OER are not sustainable. Fact: Models are evolving to support the sustainability and continuous improvement of OER.

Myth #6: Open textbooks lack ancillaries. Fact: Open textbooks often come with ancillaries, and when they do not, existing OER can provide additional support.

Myth #7: My institution is not ready for OER. Fact: Any institution can start with small steps toward OER that make an impact for students.

(Source: “OER Mythbusting” from SPARC)

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Image source: Annett Zobel from Pixabay

Faculty across Touro are already adopting and adapting OER textbooks for their courses.

For example, the psychology department faculty at NYSCAS have adopted OER for their GPSN 110 course, and because of this, over 290 students across more than 12 sections have benefited from free, open textbooks.

Since the Open Touro initiative was established in Fall 2018, the use of OER has saved Touro students over $54,000 collegewide.

You can help increase that number by adopting, adapting, or even authoring your own OER — and librarians are here to help!

If you are interested in reviewing open textbooks available in your field, contact Georgia Westbrook (georgia.westbrook@touro.edu) or Sara Tabaei (sara.tabaei@touro.edu).

Learn more about the Open Touro OER Initiative here: http://libguides.tourolib.org/OER

This post was contributed by Georgia Westbrook, Open Educational Resources & Instruction Librarian.

Welcome Back to Bay Shore!

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Hello from your friendly librarians at Bay Shore:  from left to right, Heather, Annette, and Joan.

This fall will be a fresh start for many of our students at the Touro School of Health Sciences in Bay Shore. But whether you are a returning student or just starting out, please keep in mind that the library has many resources for you. We can assist you in learning how to locate books, find full-text articles, and conduct research. While on campus, you may benefit from our quiet study spaces, research computer center, and of course, your friendly librarians. Continue reading

Learning How to Find the Truth in Information: A METRO Symposium Summary

Everyone has heard of fake news by now. It’s seemingly everywhere, and in all types of media. How do we wade through all this incorrect information and find out what the real story is?

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Last week, Library Information Literacy Director Sara Tabaei and I attended a METRO symposium entitled                        “(Mis)informed: Propaganda, Disinformation, Misinformation, and Our Culture.” The aim of this one-day meeting was to discuss the underlying issues and ways to teach about all of this incorrect information. It was also an opportunity to see METRO’s new location (which happens to be right by the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum!).

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Touro’s Seventh Annual Research Day

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Photo by Sara Tabaei

On Tuesday, May 1, 2018, Touro College held its seventh annual Research Day at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine/Touro College of Pharmacy campus in Harlem.  Not only was this day a great opportunity for faculty and students to showcase their recent research in the form of poster presentations, it was also an opportunity to hear some renowned keynote speakers sharing their most recent research with our students, faculty, deans, and senior administration. 

In his welcoming note, Touro President Dr. Alan Kadish shared a story of a very young patient who had a rare disease called Batten disease. He went on to explain that though there is no cure for the disease yet, the doctors of this patient used translational research to stabilize the patient. Translational research is, according to Wikipedia, a rapidly growing discipline in biomedical research that applies findings from basic science to enhance human health and well-being. It aims to “translate” findings in fundamental research into medical practice and meaningful health outcomes to expedite the discovery of new diagnostic tools and treatments. With this story, Dr. Kadish conveyed how quickly science can progress when motivation and creativity exist. Continue reading

MLA: Help for Citing All Kinds of Sources

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I am a self-admitted nerd, and during the early January blizzard and sub-zero temperatures, I ventured out through wind and snow to join many fellow nerds at the MLA’s annual convention. Now, to most people, “MLA” is synonymous with burdensome citation rules, but the organization, whose full name is the Modern Language Association, actually encompasses academic research from all sorts of topics in literature and the humanities. The convention in January had panels by scholars on Shakespeare, fantasy literature, Renaissance epics, Leonard Cohen’s poetry, and many other topics near and dear to my heart.  Continue reading

Libraries are the Road to Take!

 

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Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

While wandering through the woods of information, would you blindly follow a path because one of the trees has a beautiful signpost that appeals to you, even though you have not read the content or verified the source? Of course not. You would stop to read all of the signs before following the path; your choice would be educated from reading all the signs and verifying the source, so you would not end up in darkness.  Going with your gut is another uneducated choice and leads you down a shadowed path. Only through careful research and studying can you find the facts you are looking for.  While there are many resources to assist with research, one easy-to-use one is the library and your librarians. National Library Week is a wonderful time to get to know your library and the resources it offers you. Continue reading

Fostering Critical Thinking and Information Literacy Skills: An Inquiry into What Librarians Could Do to Support Students

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Since I have been teaching critical thinking and informal logic online for a number of years now (and I have a first-hand account of how both courses are beneficial for students in many different ways), as well as having taught several library orientations at Touro College, I have become curious regarding how aspects of critical thinking skills could be fostered and applied to the arena of information literacy, and how both aspects could be beneficial to our students’ information needs.  And rather than relying on the information literacy prevalent on various websites, I want to explore the topic with few outside sources, free of influence from such sites.  Hence, the aim of this short essay is an inquiry into the overlap and/or intersection between information literacy, critical thinking, and the ways such an inquiry into both areas could be beneficial to our students.

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My Internet Addiction

Internet, You Have My Undivided Attention!

 

 

 

 

 

The start of the day requires ritual, and each person’s daily ritual is different. Some people go to worship; some go for a run; some go for a cigarette. I go online. My day does not begin until I sit at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee and my Kindle Fire. I’ve got to tell you, that Kindle is my favorite thing. If I were Oprah, it would be at the top of my list. Continue reading