The Cholera Wedding: East European Jews' Magical Ritual to End a Pandemic

10/18/2021 - 7:00pm
ZOOM CONVOCATION pre-registration:
Speaker(s) / Presenter(s): 
Dr. Nathan Meir, Lorry I. Lokey Chair in Judaic Studies at Portland State University
This talk explores the history and meaning of a peculiar ritual that emerged among East European Jews in the 19th century: to stop the spread of an epidemic, the community would marry its most vulnerable and marginalized members—orphans, beggars, and the disabled—to each other in a wedding held in the cemetery. Drawing on various approaches from the fields of social and cultural history, anthropology, folklore, and cultural studies, Dr. Meir will discuss how the ritual spread from Eastern Europe to Ottoman Palestine continuing into the period of the Holocaust. It also asks us to think about the relevance in the context of the current pandemic and its recent revival in response to COVID among some communities in Israel.
Sponsored by the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence, Centre College's College Convocation Committee and Religion Program, The University of Kentucky's Jewish Studies Program and History Department, and Transylvania University's History Department.
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