Coronavirus

From Graduation to Contagion: Jewish Physicians Confront Plague in 1631

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Edward Reichman

Introduction

We are presently in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The United States has not experienced a plague of this magnitude in over a century. As such, we have no personal historical memory to guide us through these “unprecedented” times. It therefore behooves us to seek out collective historical memories of similar events experienced by Jewish communities of the past in order to gain insight, guidance, and inspiration during these challenging times.

In this small contribution to this effort, we look back to seventeenth century Italy during the plague in Padua of 1631. We further narrow our focus to one unique segment of the population particularly affected by plague: the Jewish physician.

Jews, Medical Training, and Italy

The affinity of Jews to the practice of medicine dates back millennia. Yet, for centuries Jews were prohibited by law from receiving formal training. It is only beginning in the Renaissance that Jews were allowed to obtain formal, academic, university-based medical training,[1] and even then, primarily in Italy, as Cecil Roth notes:

There was only one country of Western Europe in which Jewish life continued to flourish and to maintain its contact with the general world; thus the inquiry as to the position of the Jews in university life must in effect be very largely confined geographically to Italy, as it is, in point of subject, chiefly to medicine.[2]

The University of Padua in Northern Italy was the first university to officially open its doors to non-Catholics, including both Protestants and Jews.[3] Other Italian universities accepted Jews during this period as well, though papal permission was usually required.[4] Thus, it is primarily in Italy, and particularly in Padua, that the majority of Jewish physicians of the Renaissance trained.

By the early 1600s a steady stream of Jewish students traversed the halls of Padua’s famous medical school.[5] In addition to the local Italian communities, students came from abroad to avail themselves of this unique opportunity.[6] The students were received warmly, and their graduations were celebrated with fanfare including the composition of special poems for the occasion.[7] Their special status as physicians often exempted them from wearing the required Jewish garb.[8] Despite their advances in society, the practice of Jewish physicians was largely confined by law to their fellow Jews. On rare occasions one could obtain special papal dispensation to treat non-Jewish patients as well.[9] As such, a number of the graduates served the Jewish communities in Padua and its environs, largely confined to the Jewish ghettos.[10]

Little did these young Jewish medical graduates know that their choice of profession would soon thrust them into unforeseen, daunting, and life-threatening circumstances within only a few years of graduation. From 1629 to 1631 the Bubonic Plague swept through Northern Italy, killing an estimated one million people. Since the Black Death some three centuries earlier, Europe had not seen a plague of such magnitude. The students’ training surely did not prepare them for the unprecedented challenges they would face.

The Jewish Graduates of the Class of 1623

As our lens into the impact of plague on Jewish physicians, we consider the students of one graduating class[11] from the University of Padua Medical School. In 1623,[12] four young enthusiastic Jewish students graduated the Padua medical school.[13] Like every graduate before them for hundreds of years, they entered the final examination chamber,[14] which was filled with various depictions in paint and stone of history’s greatest scientists. They occupied the small chair in the center of the room, surrounded by an imposing tribunal of world-renowned physicians who would administer hours-long grueling oral exams. In the hallway, supporting and admiring family, friends, and colleagues eagerly awaited their departure from the chamber.

The shared experience of attending one of the world’s finest institutions of higher medical learning as practicing Jews, something long denied their ancestors and only possible in one institution at that time, created a unique bond between them. Two of the four graduates were siblings, and all were members of the same brotherhood and fraternity[15] of Jewish medical graduates of the University of Padua.

After graduation, they would go their separate ways. It would not be long, however, until they would be reunited by another shared experience, no less historically significant, though unfortunately of a tragic nature. The Bubonic Plague raged in the Northern Italian Peninsula from 1629 and would reach the Jewish community in the ghetto of Padua in 1631.[16] Each of these students would be impacted by this event in different though interrelated ways. Two Padua alumni would be in the eye of the storm, confronting the plague directly. The others would be less directly impacted by the ravages of the outbreak. All of their lives would be irrevocably changed as a result.

Being a physician during a plague in the pre-modern era, at a time when the mechanism of disease transmission was not well understood, in an era before antibiotics, is tantamount to fighting a war without ammunition, a near-impossible task. How did these physicians respond to these circumstances? Did they enlist, or were they drafted into battle, knowing that the odds were clearly against their survival? Did they feel a sense of duty or allegiance to their profession, or to their people? Did they flee to safer ground until the danger had passed? What factors informed their decisions? As Jews, did Halakhah play a role? How many of them or their families survived?

While we unfortunately have no surviving evidence of the inner thoughts of our graduates, we do have some historical record, albeit incomplete, that sheds light on their trials and tribulations. As mere observers, our role is primarily descriptive. We are in no position to second guess motives or decisions, nor to impugn those whose behavior may at first blush appear difficult to explain. Instead, we explore the available sources to gain at least limited insight as to the impact of this catastrophic event on the lives of these Jewish physicians.

In the Line of Fire

Two graduates of the class of 1623, Caliman Cantarini and David Loria, were physicians in Padua when the plague struck. Their responses to the epidemic differed, and the decisions they made during these challenging times would forever change the future of their families.

Caliman Cantarini

Clemente Caliman Kalonymus Cantarini was born in 1593 and was a member of the illustrious Cantarini family which served the Padua community in multiple capacities for centuries.[17] Caliman was the very first of the family to obtain an academic degree, graduating from the University of Padua Medical School in 1623. Clemente was involved in creating the botany lessons and labelling the plants in the famous Botanical Garden of the University of Padua founded by Francesco Bonafede in the mid-sixteenth century.[18] Caliman was described as a man great in Torah, in addition to medicine.[19]

On the fourth of Tevet, in 1627, Caliman married Eva, the daughter of Azriel Koen Porto of Verona. In 1631, when the plague arrived in the Padua ghetto, Caliman chose to remain in the ghetto to attend to the victims of the plague, some of whom were his own family members.[20] We can imagine that he donned the conventional plague doctor garb, including the gloves, boots, and long coat, as well as the beaked mask, which would have contained sweet-smelling substances to neutralize and ward off the odors associated with the pestilential disease.

The impact of the plague on Caliman and his extended family is chronicled in the remarkable work of the physician Abraham Catalano.[21] As one of the four administrators of the plague in the Padua Ghetto, Catalano authored a diary of the daily events entitled Olam Hafukh (World in Upheaval). It is through this diary that we gain a glimpse of the effect the plague had on this one family. To appreciate the full impact, one would need to read through this work in its entirety to identify every Cantarini family member mentioned. Remarkably, someone has done just that.

There are few extant manuscripts of Olam Hafukh. It was only published for the first time in 1946 by Cecil Roth.[22] One of the manuscripts was transcribed meticulously in the late 1600s by Isaac Hayyim Cantarini,[23] a nephew of Caliman, who was only born years after the plague. Isaac was likewise a medical graduate of Padua, as well as a rabbi and prominent figure in Italian Jewish history. In his manuscript, Isaac Cantarini makes a notation in the text for every mention of one of his family members, and in the margin identifies their relationship to him. There are no other additions or notations to the manuscript. This remarkable fact, which has escaped the attention of scholars, is a testimony to the enduring impact of the 1631 Padua plague on the Cantarini family.[24] Surely it is his family’s extensive involvement and loss during the plague that compelled Isaac decades later to transcribe this manuscript as a record of his personal family history.

From Olam Hafukh, we learn that on July 8, 1631 Caliman’s father Shimon died from plague, to be followed by his uncle Menahem on July 22. Caliman himself would succumb to the disease only eight days later. He died on July 30, 1631, at age thirty-eight.[25] His life and death are memorialized in the plague diary of Abraham Catalano. Other Cantarini family members are also accounted for in the diary. Caliman lost two other brothers to the plague, and while their names, Mordekhai and Yosef, are not provided by Catalano, they are added in the margin of Cantarini’s transcription. Three of Caliman’s brothers in Padua survived, and one, whom we shall discuss below, was in Venice during the outbreak and unaffected.[26]

Caliman battled the plague, sacrificing his life in the process leaving no direct descendants. In his will and testament, written by another hand and signed by him, he expressed his wish to be buried among his dead relatives. Having no children, he provided for his mother and his wife, in addition to leaving some of his estate to his sister Didele.[27]

David Loria

Caliman was not the only Jewish physician in the Padua ghetto at this time. Indeed, one of his medical school classmates, David Loria, lived in Padua at the same time. The relationship of the Loria[28] and Cantarini families preceded these two medical students. In February 28, 1603, shortly after the formation of the Jewish ghetto of Padua, Shimon Cantarini (father of Caliman) and Shimon Loria (father of David)[29] served as agents of the Jewish community and obtained permission from the town hall to add a number of streets to the ghetto map.[30]

In honor of Loria’s graduation in 1623, Leon Da Modena composed a poem.[31] Loria himself composed a poem in honor of his fellow graduate, Yosef Chamitz.[32] At the behest of the rabbis of Padua, Modena offered to bestow rabbinic ordination on Loria some years later, though Loria declined for unclear reasons.[33]

Towards the end of May 1631, Loria elected to flee the plague-infested city of Padua to Montagnana, a city some thirty miles to the south.[34] Here his father-in-law lived and had procured permission from the health department of the government to house his immediate family. His departure was not simply accomplished. Permission was required and the requisite authority, who was out of town at the time, refused passage. Loria then turned to the officer left in command to procure permission, which was ultimately granted. The officer, Piero Sagredo, however, subsequently regretted his acquiescence and rescinded his permission. By that time, Loria and his family were well on their way to Montagnana, where they would wait out the remainder of the plague in safety.

Loria by no means abandoned his fellow Jews, making significant provisions to assist those remaining in Padua while he was in exile. Through his personal donations and solicitations of others he collected two hundred ducats for the community, the equivalent of roughly thirty thousand dollars today. Furthermore, before his departure, he deposited funds with Shemarya Morpurg, a prominent rabbi of the community, to distribute weekly to the poor and needy. Loria also coordinated distribution of the wines from his cellar to the Jewish community.

Loria lost a number of relatives to the plague, though the details are less well known than those of Caliman. Upon Loria’s return to Padua in 1632, after the resolution of the plague, he, along with Mandolin da Zara, was in charge of the custody and protection of the effects left by the victims of the plague.

Loria would continue to live in Padua for a number of years after the plague. The work Yesha Ya-h by Yeshaya ben Eliezer Hayyim Nitza,[35] published in 1637, is dedicated to Loria for his patronage. Loria later lived in Mantua, where he was appointed both rabbi of the community and physician to the poor in 1660.[36]

David Loria, who fled the plague in Padua to seek shelter with his father-in-law, survived the ordeal. He left a family to carry on his name. He lived another productive thirty years, long enough to see his son, Isaac, graduate from his alma mater, the University of Padua Medical School, in 1653.[37] He died in Mantua,[38] where his descendants would serve as physicians in the city.[39]

On the Sidelines

While Caliman Cantarini and David Loria were directly impacted by the Padua plague by virtue of their being physicians in the city at the onset of the plague, two of their other classmates were less directly, though also significantly, affected.

Leon (Yehudah) Cantarini

Caliman Cantarini had a younger brother by some two years, Leon. Born in 1595, Leon obtained his rabbinical degree in 1618, and his medical degree from the University of Padua in 1623,[40] the same year as his brother Caliman and David Loria. Leon was living in Venice during the height of the plague in Padua.[41] Though he could not treat the plague patients in Padua, he was worried about his older brother and the risk to which he was exposed.

Leon wrote his brother Caliman on July 18, 1631, showing himself distressed because the epidemic was raging in Padua, and advising him of some effective remedies recommended to overcome the dreaded disease, as well as appropriate precautions not to contract or spread the infection.[42] He specifically recommended the use of emeralds, which since the Black Death had been considered a cure for plague. Leon emphatically warned his brother to exercise extreme caution and diligence in order to preserve his health.[43]

Caliman died just twelve days later. One can only imagine the emotional distress of losing his older brother, a fellow physician who battled on the front lines of the plague, while he, Leon, watched helplessly from afar. But as mentioned above, this was not his only loss. Many other members of Leon’s immediate family also perished during the plague. Though not in the direct line of fire, Leon experienced first-hand the devastation of the plague.

Leon became a renowned Jewish scholar and accomplished orator of Jewish law and philosophy. We have a record of his May 15, 1643 request to the Venetian Senate that he should be exempt from the prohibition against wearing the black cappello (hat) on the basis of his medical degree. The privilege was granted.[44]

David Morpurg

The last of the classmates we discuss is David Morpurg. In the text of David’s graduation diploma from March 9, 1623, he is identified as “David Morpurg, hebreus, Patavinus, filius D. Rabbi Smariae.”[45] The word “hebreus” was typically used for all Jewish graduates of the University of Padua at this time and was not invoked in any negative way. It was also conventional to identify the graduate by their city of residence, in this case, Padua, and to list the graduate’s father. The fact that his father Shemarya is identified by his title, rabbi, is unique.[46] This may be the first Padua medical diploma to contain the word “rabbi.”

David clearly maintained his Torah studies in addition to his medical practice, as evidenced by the fact that Rabbi Leon da Modena bestowed upon him the title of Haver.[47] While David Loria had declined to receive rabbinic ordination from Leon da Modena, Morpurg accepted the title of Haver from him.

Morpurg and Loria were connected in more direct ways as well. Morpurg was David Loria’s brother-in-law.[48] In addition, it was with David’s father Shemarya that David Loria deposited money to be distributed to those financially impacted by the plague. Tragically, it was not long after Loria deposited the money with him that Shemarya himself died of the plague.

Though a resident of Padua during the plague, we have no record of Morpurg’s medical practice during these times. However, soon after the death of his father, David moved to Krakow, where he lived the rest of his life, practicing medicine and serving as a head of the Jewish community. In Krakow, Morpurg was engaged in regulating the work of the paramedical personnel in the Jewish district as well, including determining which practitioners were competent to perform enemas and bloodletting. His son Shimon became a physician,[49] and Aron Morpurg, another relative, graduated from the Padua Medical School in 1671.[50]

Conclusion

Through the eyes of four graduates of the University of Padua Medical School in 1623 we see the profound and long-lasting impact of the plague on the Jewish community, and on Jewish physicians in particular. We are left with many unanswered questions about these specific classmates. Of note, all four students were Torah scholars of varying degrees. They surely encountered halakhic issues in the course of the plague, be it in their medical practice or otherwise. Today, in the midst of the current pandemic, we discuss numerous halakhic issues, such as risk and triage. Did they consider the same issues? Did they seek halakhic guidance for their decisions, or perhaps felt competent or confident to render the decisions themselves?

Why did Cantarini stay while Loria fled? Was it related to family dynamics, health, or perhaps halakhic disagreement? While the Mishnah explicitly states that one should shelter in place during a plague,[51] rabbinic authorities of this period, including Rabbi Moshe Isserles, advocated fleeing.[52] Indeed, the first line of a poem written by Moshe Catalano, son of Abraham, during the 1631 Padua plague, advocates fleeing in times of plague.[53] Does the recommendation to flee apply to a physician, whose role is to serve the community and treat patients suffering from the plague? Could Cantarini and Loria have debated this very point, either themselves or with each other?

How did Leon Cantarini react emotionally to the decimation of his family by the plague, including his brother of closest age and similar medical training? Did Morpurg serve as a physician in the ghetto during the plague? Did he flee or perhaps remain but not practice? Morpurg’s family would live and contribute to the Jewish community in Poland for many generations. Would Morpurg have remained in Padua had his father not died? Alas, we are bereft of answers, just as those who survived remained bereft after the plague.

There is at least one question for which we do have an answer. Did the experience of the plague discourage Jews from applying to Padua’s medical school? We see from the graduation records of the University of Padua Medical School that while there was a slight diminution in the immediate aftermath of the plague of 1631, there was a steady flow of Jewish graduates thereafter, continuing until the early nineteenth century.[54] In addition, a number of later Padua graduates lost family members to the plague of 1631 but were undeterred in their quest, or were perhaps inspired, to pursue a medical career.[55]

As a physician myself practicing emergency medicine in the midst of the current COVID-19 pandemic, I seek historical precedent for our present predicament and find solace in the fact that our predecessors faced similar circumstances. To be sure, both the medical knowledge, as well as the social situation of Jewish physicians, have evolved over the ages. However, the personal protective equipment (PPE) we don is not fundamentally dissimilar to that of the plague doctor, though God provides the ultimate protection. Nor, for that matter, are the ethical, social, and family issues we face. While the ubiquitous presence of Jewish students today at medical schools across the world has lamentably diminished our sense of brotherhood and camaraderie, there is nonetheless much commonality and shared human experience that binds and unites us across the ages. 


[1] On the history of the Jews and medicine, see Harry Friedenwald, The Jews and Medicine, 3 v. (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1944); and Frank Heynick, Jews and Medicine: An Epic Saga (Ktav Publishers, 2002).

[2] Cecil Roth, “The Medieval University and the Jew,” Menorah Journal 19:2 (1930): 128-141, esp. 134. The University of Leiden admitted its first Jewish student in 1650. See Kenneth Collins, “Jewish Medical Students and Graduates at the Universities of Padua and Leiden: 1617-1740,” Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 4:1 (January 2013): 1-8; Hindle Hes, Jewish Physicians in the Netherlands, 1600-1940 (Van Gorcum, 1980). It wouldn’t be until the early eighteenth century that Jewish students could attend German medical schools. See, for example, John Efron, Medicine and the German Jews: A History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001).

[3] On the Jews and the University of Padua see A. Ciscato, Gli Ebrei in Padova (1300-1800) (Italian) (Arnaldo Forni Editore, 1901); S. Dubnov, “Jewish Students at the University of Padua,” Sefer Hashanah: American Hebrew Yearbook (1931): 216-219; Jacob Shatzky, “On Jewish Medical Students of Padua,” Journal of the History of Medicine 5 (1950): 444-47; Cecil Roth, “The Qualification of Jewish Physicians in the Middle Ages,” Speculum 28 (1953): 834-843; David B. Ruderman, “The Impact of Science on Jewish Culture and Society in Venice (with Special Reference to Jewish Graduates of Padua’s Medical School) in his Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995); S. G. Massry, et. al., “Jewish Medicine and the University of Padua: Contribution of the Padua Graduate Toviah Cohen to Nephrology,” American Journal of Nephrology 19:2 (1999): 213-221; S. M. Shasha and S. G. Massry, “The Medical School of Padua and its Jewish Graduates,” (Hebrew) Harefuah 141:4 (April 2002): 388-394; Kenneth Collins, “Jewish Medical Students and Graduates at the Universities of Padua and Leiden: 1617-1740,” Rambam Maimonides Medical Journal 4:1 (January 2013): 1-8.

[4] These include, for example, the universities of Rome, Siena, Ferrara, and Perugia.

[5] For a list of Jewish graduates from the University of Padua Medical School during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, see A. Modena and E. Morpurgo, Medici E Chirurghi Ebrei Dottorati E Licenziati Nell’Universita di Padova dal 1617 al 1816 (Italian) (Forni Editore, 1967).

[6] For a list of the geographical origins of the Jewish students of the University of Padua Medical School from 1617-1717, see Debra Glasberg Gail, Scientific Authority and Jewish Law in Early Modern Italy (Ph.D. Dissertation: Columbia University, 2016), 305.

[7] See, for example, S. Liberman Mintz, S. Seidler-Feller, and D. Wachtel (eds.), The Writing on the Wall: A Catalogue of Judaica Broadsides from the Valmadonna Trust Library (London, 2015).

[8] See Benjamin Ravid, “From Yellow to Red: On the Distinguishing Head-Covering of the Jews of Venice,” Jewish History 6:1-2 (1992): 179-210.

[9] Abraham de Balmes is an early example. See Giancarlo Lacerenza and Vera Isabell Schwarz-Ricci, “Il diploma di dottorato in medicina di Avraham ben Me’ir de Balmes (Napoli 1492),” (Italian) Sefer Yuhasin: Review for the History of the Jews in South Italy 2 (2018): 163-193. In the late sixteenth century, Abraham Portaleone received permission from Pope Gregory XIV to treat Christian patients. On Portaleone, see H.A. Savitz, “Abraham Portaleone: Italian Physician, Erudite Scholar and Author, 1542-1612,” Panminerva Medica 8:12 (December, 1966): 493-5. Throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance, despite the explicit edicts against Jews treating Christians, many popes retained Jewish physicians on their medical staff. See, for example, Harry Friedenwald, “Jewish Physicians in Italy: Their Relationship to the Papal and Italian States,” in his The Jews and Medicine (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1944), 551-612; Edwin Mendelssohn, The Popes’ Jewish Doctors, 492-1655 CE (self-publication, 1991).

[10] A number of Jewish physicians treated non-Jews specifically in times of plague, despite the prohibitions and potentially fatal consequences. A Dr. Valensin disregarded the prohibition for practicing outside the Venetian ghetto and treated Christian patients in an area deserted by the gentile practitioners during the plague in 1630. He was long remembered with gratitude for his actions. See Cecil Roth, Venice (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1930), 96 and 189. This may possibly be the same physician mentioned in Ravid, op. cit., 197. In 1730, during a severe influenza outbreak, Shimshon Morpurgo distinguished himself by providing medical services to both Jew and Christian alike. This earned him the approbation and commendation of Cardinal Prospero Lambertini. Lambertini would later go on to become Pope Benedict XIV (1740 –1758). In gratitude, Morpurgo and his heirs received rights to act as superintendents of merchandise arriving at the port of Ancona and intended for use in the Apostolic Palace. See Edgardo Morpurgo, La Famiglia Morpurgo di Gradisca sull’Isonza 1585-1885 (Italian) (Padova: Premiata Societa Cooperativa, 1909), 69. These privileges were issued to the heirs of Morpurgo as well, and a number of these documents are extant. Elia Consigli, Padua graduate of 1723, treated a clergyman named Steffano during a plague in Rome in 1735. See Nathan Koren, Jewish Physicians: A Biographical Index (Jerusalem: Israel University Press, 1973), 37.

[11] Graduation was not a one-time event, as is the case with most universities today. Rather, students graduated on a rolling basis. I exercise literary license in using the phrase “graduating class.” These students all graduated in the same calendar year.

[12] In this essay we focus on the plague in Padua, but Jewish physicians were obviously impacted in other Italian cities as well during this outbreak. Isaac Gedalya graduated the University of Padua Medical School in 1622. See A. Modena and E. Morpurgo, op. cit., p. 4, n. 10. He wrote two poems in honor of Leon Cantarini’s medical school graduation in 1623, one in Spanish and one in Latin. Cantarini is one of the students discussed in the present essay. Gedalya died in 1630 during the Bubonic Plague in Venice at the age of 32. He is buried in the Lido Cemetery of Venice, and his epitaph reflects that he died while treating patients in Venice during the plague. See Abraham Berliner, Luhot Avanim: Hebraische Grabschriften in Italien (Hebrew) (Frankfurt a. Main: 1881), p. 40, n. 59. Berliner erroneously lists the year for Leon Cantarini’s graduation as 1618. It was 1623.

[13] A total of six Jewish students graduated in 1623. Rabbi Moise di Guida Uziel and Joseph di Guida Chamitz also graduated that year, but I have seen no historical evidence of their involvement with the plague. They may not have lived in Padua or its environs during the plague. On Chamitz, see D. Ruderman, Jewish Thought and Scientific Discovery in Early Modern Europe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), index, Hamitz.

[14] This room stands today much as it did then, and is still used for the same purpose.

[15] The student body of the University of Padua was divided into “nations” based on country of origin. According to some historians, the Jewish students formed a student body of their own, irrespective of their country of origin. See Shatzky, op. cit., 446.

[16] Here we discuss the impact of the plague exclusively on the city of Padua. The plague started in Padua on September 15, 1630, but did not reach the ghetto until a few months later. For discussion of the impact of plagues during this period on the different Jewish communities in Italy, see Yaffa Kohen, The Development of Organizational Structures by the Italian Jewish Communities to Cope with the Plagues of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries (Hebrew) (Doctoral Dissertation: Bar Ilan University, submitted Tishrei, 5740). I thank Naomi Abraham, librarian at Bar Ilan University, for her truly exceptional efforts in making this dissertation available to me in the midst of the COVID pandemic. The plague in Rome of 1656-1657, discussed by Kohen, merits its own separate treatment regarding the role of Jewish physicians. I hope to return to this at a later time. A broader study of Jewish physicians and plagues across time and locations remains a desideratum. Some have written on the Black Death, such as Gerrit Bos, Ron Barkai, and Susan Einbinder. Less attention has been given to the role of Jewish physicians in other epidemics. See, for example, Theodore Cohen, “Walter Jonas Judah and New York’s 1798 Yellow Fever Epidemic,” American Jewish Archives Journal 48 (1996): 23-34. Judah, a Columbia University graduate and medical student, died at the age of twenty in 1798 while attending the sick during the Yellow Fever epidemic in New York. He is buried in the Spanish Portuguese Synagogue Cemetery in New York. His tombstone reads: In memory of Walter J. Judah student of physic, who worn down by his exertions to alleviate the sufferings of his fellow citizens in that dreadful contagion that visited the City of New York in 1798 fell a victim in the cause of humanity on the 5th of Tishri A.M. 5559.

[17] See Marco Osimo, Narrazione della Strage Compiuta nel 1547 Contro gli Ebrei d’Asolo e Cenni Biografici della Famiglia Koen-Cantarini (Italian) (Casale-Monferrato: 1875). This is the definitive work on the Cantarini family.

[18] Osimo, op. cit., 59. According to Osimo, Cantarini wrote the detailed descriptions of 186 plants for the Botanical Garden, certifying the nomenclature affixed to each of them with admirable accuracy and with diligent mastery. As of the time of Osimo’s writing in the late 1800s, almost all of them were well-preserved, still making a fine display of the color of the leaves and flowers.

[19] Isaac Hayyim Cantarini, Pahad Yitzhak (Amsterdam: David Tertus, 1684), 10a. He includes Caliman’s brother Leon (Yehudah) in this description. In this passage Cantarini lists the great Jewish personalities of the previous period.

[20] We have no record of Caliman treating his own family.

[21] Though not himself a graduate of the University of Padua Medical School (we have no record of his graduation), Catalano was certainly traveling in the same circles. In fact, he wrote a poem in honor of the graduation of Yosef Chamitz from Padua in 1623.

[22] See Cecil Roth, ed., Abraham Catalano, “Olam Hafukh,” (Hebrew) Kovetz al Yad 4:14 (1946): 67-101.

[23] On Cantarini, see, for example, Harry A. Savitz, Profiles of Erudite Jewish Physicians and Scholars (Spertus College of Judaica Press, 1973), 25-28.

[24] Catalano also suffered the loss of his wife and daughter during the plague, which he records in his diary.

[25] Caliman Cantarini’s death is also listed in the Archivio di Stato di Padova, Volume 472 (from July 3, 1631 through1634). This volume lists the deaths in Padua from any cause. The archive occasionally mentions treating physicians, and Caliman is the only Jewish doctor mentioned as having treated patients during the time of the plague. Abraham Catalano is not mentioned in the State Archives. I thank Ghila Pace for this reference and information.

[26] The plague had affected Venice earlier, in 1630.

[27] Osimo, op. cit., 60.

[28] On the Loria family, see Isaia Levi, “La Famiglia Loria,” (Italian) Il Vessillo Israelitico 52 (1904): 156-158, though Levi provides only scant information and a skeletal family tree.

[29] Elia dei Velli was also involved in this endeavor.

[30] Osimo, op. cit., 48. The addition included the small road of S. Canziano, and a portion of S. Urbano, where a number of Jews lived but which was not initially included.

[31] See Simon Bernstein, The Divan of Leo de Modena: Collection of his Hebrew Poetical Works (Philadelphia: 1932) n. 78; Yehudah Arye Modena, Hayei Yehudah, 53.

[32] See N. S. Leibovitz, Seridim (The Writings of R. Yosef Chamitz, including Be-Leil Chamitz by R. Yehudah Aryeh Modena) (Hebrew) (Darom Books, 5697).

[33] S. Simonsohn, Ziknei Yehudah (Hebrew) (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 5716), 46.

[34] The following is from Catalano’s “Olam Hafukh,” Roth, op. cit., 81.

[35] The book is comprised of two sections. Section one is on the difficult words in the Zohar, and the second deals with the proper behavior before and after meals. It is based on the teachings of the kabbalist Yosef ben Shraga and contains additional material from Nitza.

[36] See S. Simonsohn, 579-580. Loria came from Padua to Mantua to console the family of Rabbi Samuel Meldola, to whom he was related by marriage, upon his death in 1660. While there, the community invited him to succeed his deceased relative as rabbi of the community for an annual salary of 120 scudi, the equivalent of roughly two thousand dollars. As he was also a physician, they contracted with him to serve the poor. Loria received tax exemption for his services as well.

[37] Another descendent of the same name, David Vita di Isacco, graduated Padua Medical School in 1696. See Modena and Morpurgo, op. cit., 55.

[38] Modena and Morpurgo, op. cit., 6, citing Mortara, write that Loria died in 1660. Mortara does list a date in 1660 for Loria, but not specifically as the date of his death. See Marco Mortara, Mazkeret Hakhme Italia: Indice alfabetico dei rabbini e scrittori israeliti di cose giudaiche in Italia (Italian) (Padova: F. Sacchetto, 1886), 35. Simonsohn rejects the 1660 date as Loria’s date of death and cites documents that Loria was only first appointed as the city physician that year. See S. Simonsohn, The History of the Jews in the Duchy of Mantua (Jerusalem: Kiryath Sefer, 1977), 718.

[39] S. Simonsohn, op. cit., 718.

[40] Isaac Gedalya wrote two poems in honor of his graduation. See above, note 12.

[41] Venice had also been swept by the same plague the previous year. I am unaware of any record of Leon’s participation in the Venetian plague.

[42] Osimo, op. cit., 61.

[43] The text of the letter appears in Osimo, op. cit., 109.

[44] See Ravid, op. cit., 207.

[45] Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., 4. For the full Latin text of the diploma, see, Majer Balaban, Historja Żydów w Krakowie i na Kazimierzu 1304-1868 (History of Jews in Kraków and Kazimierz), vol. I (Kraków: 1931), 560. I thank Dr. Andrew Zalusky for this reference, and for the additional information on David Morpurg’s practice in Krakow.

[46] There are at least two other examples of rabbinic fathers mentioned in the diploma text: Abba di Rabbi Elia Medigo in Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., 11, and Leo di Rabbi Isach Winkler in Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., 12. There is even one example of a graduate himself identified as a rabbi, Rabbi Moise di Giuda Uziel, in Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., 5.

[47] S. Simonsohn, Ziknei Yehudah (Jerusalem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 5716), 48. The title Haver is a lower form of rabbinic approbation than rabbinic ordination.

[48] S. Simonsohn, Ziknei Yehudah (Jersualem: Mossad HaRav Kook, 5716), 48. In “Olam Hafukh,” Catalano seems to identify Shemarya, David’s father, as Loria’s brother-in-law. See Roth, op. cit., 81. Loria’s wife Miriam was the dedicatee of a work by Jacob Alpron (aka Heilprin or Heilbronn). The work was an Italian translation published in Padua in 1625 of the popular Yiddish work of Binyamin Slonik, entitled Seder Mitzvot Nashim. See Pia Settimi, L’ultimo traduttore – Jacob Alpron tra yiddish e italiano (Italian) (Casa Editrice Il Prato, 2017), 33. I thank Ms. Settimi for bringing this to my attention and furnishing me with the passage from her book.

[49] N. M. Gelber, “History of Jewish Physicians in Poland in the 18th Century,” (Hebrew) in Y. Tirosh, ed., Shai li-Yeshayahu (Tel Aviv: Center for Culture of Poel ha-Mizrachi, 5716), 347-371, esp. 350.

[50] Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., 31.

[51] Ta’anit 3:4.

[52] For further halakhic discussion on this issue, see M. D. Chechik, “The Prohibition or Obligation to Flee the City in Times of Plague,” (Hebrew) Ha-Ma’ayan 233 (Nissan 5780): 22-34; T. Morsel-Eisenberg, “Is It Permitted to Flee the City?Tablet Magazine (April 22, 2020):.

[53] This poem appears at the end of “Olam Hafukh” by Abraham Catalano, the father of Moshe. See Roth, op. cit. For more on this poem and other Hebrew poetry associated with plagues, see S. Einbinder, “Poetry, Prose and Pestilence: Joseph Concio and Jewish Responses to the 1630 Italian Plague,” in Haviva Yishai, ed., Shirat Dvora: Essays in Honor of Professor Dvora Bregman (Hebrew) (Be’er Sheva: Ben-Gurion University, 2019), 73-101.

[54] See Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit. In the ten years prior to the plague, nineteen Jewish students graduated, while ten graduates are listed for the following decade.

[55] See, for example, the students Foa, Fano, and Ben Porad listed in Modena and Morgurgo, op. cit., pgs. 57, 61, and 63.