Dear Readers, recently I heard the most inspiring song titled “Pass Over” by Avi Wisnia that became my inspiration as I ran around Blue Ash hoping to “ward off” the dreaded COVID –10 (pounds). And speaking of prevention how many of you considered taking hydroxychloroquine or drinking bleach to ward-off the deadly COVID-19? In 1918 during the second wave of the H1N1 Influenza the Jews of those days were trying all sorts of bubbe-mieses as a way to ward-off that deadly virus too. As with any good Jewish story The American Israelite writers were right there to both document and vocalize their feelings on these practices:
102 Years Ago
We are inclined to laugh at the superstitions of the natives in Central Africa and other heathen tribes but we can come very near matching them within our own fold. Take the case, for instance, of Rabbi Moses Lipshitz, of 828 N. Sixth Street, Philadelphia. Rabbi Lipshitz recently undertook to stop the ravages of the Spanish Influenza by performing the marriage ceremony of a couple in the Chevrah Kaddisha Cemetery. According to the Philadelphia Ledger, “Rabbi Lipshitz and those associated with him in holding of the marriage were both emphatic in their assertions that the influenza epidemic would be ended by the proceedings and good health guaranteed to the community as a result of the marriage.” There are others who say that the whole thing was a scheme to make money, as a collection was taken at the cemetery and every person present—and there was a big crowd there—had to contribute at least eighteen cents. Nor does this appear to be an isolated instance. On the same subject the Toledo (Ohio) Blade says: While Toledo is in the throes of the influenza outbreak epidemic, Orthodox Russian Jews here are contemplating the revival of an old world custom—a marriage in a cemetery, with the idea of warding off the ravages of disease.” Nice thing this for American Jewry to have to its credit. Isn’t it? –November 7, 1918.
The virus appeared to run its course by the end of December with the second quarantine being much shorter and less damaging than the previous one:
No Death from Influenza Among United Jewish Charities’ Wards.
The second epidemic of influenza affected the charges of the United Jewish Charities to a greater degree than did the former occurrence. It is gratifying for the community to know that through strenuous efforts no one subject to the ministrations of the organization died. –December 26, 1918
That great pandemic was followed 25 years later by the next great battle - WWII. At that time The American Israelite concentrated its articles on our soldiers with snippets most likely sent in by their worried mothers and wives. In the meantime whatever happened to Lieutenant Gordon L. Block Jr.?
As you may recall Lt. Block was first mentioned in The American Israelite on August 24, 1944 when he arrived in England to establish a field hospital. By February the Israelite reported he had gone missing Belgium on December 19, 1944. From the 1940 U.S. Federal Population Census I’ve learned that Gordon Jr. lived with his father Gordon, 49 and his mother Edna, 45.They were listed as White, American by ethnicity, spoke English and lived together in Cincinnati’s Ward 13. I have a lot of feelers out and should have more information in the future.
Finally, have you been following the “From the Pages” write-ups from 125 years ago titled “Ladies’ Column”? I have and I know the staff at the American Israelite has been giving themselves quite the giggles with each entry. Who was this writer who instructed women on the latest bathing suits, how to clean your feather quilts and the best way to make Welsh Rarebit? As early as 1835 national publishers carved out sections of their newspapers to attract the interest of women readers concentrating on the “Four F’s—family, food, furnishings and fashion”. The American Israelite was right with the times when early in its publishing history it began publishing columns titled FASHION, FOR WOMEN, and HOUSEHOLD. The first named columnist was “Babette” who wrote for HOUSEHOLD and later Miss Dorothy who wrote “FOR LADIES ONLY.” I will update you on these women and their columns as I continue delving into archived issues of The American Israelite – there are so many intriguing subjects.