JQR is pleased to present our third forum in a series offering scholarly meditations drawn from a range of disciplinary perspectives. In the first forum, five historians reflected on the existence and meaning of plagues in Jewish history; the second invited philosophers and theologians to share insights on the pandemic and its meaning.
In an extraordinary confluence, global stay-at-home orders aligned with the Katz Center’s fellowship theme this past year, focused on “the Jewish home.” Back in March I (virtually) convened a few fellows, newly exiled from their residential experience, to share their thoughts about homes in light of quarantine and Covid-19.
In a recent op-ed piece in the New York Times, columnist Elisabeth Rosenthal poses a question that is becoming ever more pressing as the coronavirus crisis continues: how can we reconnect to other people without being able to tell whether it is potentially lethal to get too close to them?
The Katz Center fellowship is a residential one, meaning that its central aim is to bring people together to work physically side by side for extended periods, with fellows making temporary homes in Philadelphia. With the arrival of COVID-19, this defining feature of our collective work has disappeared. Instead, under orders to shelter in place, our homes are capturing our attention in new ways. Home’s boundaries, contents, and location, its material and emotional culture, are, for the moment at least, our whole worlds.
In response to the COVID-19 crisis, JQR organized a blog forum that brought together four historians to reflect on past outbreaks of disease in Jewish history and their echoes today.
In our own attempt to make sense of the radically altered world we now inhabit and to provide intellectual stimulation to our readers, the editors of JQR asked four prominent scholars to reflect on what historical and literary resonances the COVID-19 pandemic prompted in them. The forum below offers concise responses that move in time from the Black Death in the fourteenth century to Israel in the twentieth.