This article explores the place and religious activities of medieval Jewish women in northern France and especially in Germany during the High Middle Ages. The centrality of the synagogue in Jewish life in medieval Ashkenazi communities invites a reassessment of the role of women in the synagogue and of their ritual participation more generally. The article is based on four exemplary case studies, the first of which relates to Dolce, the famous wife of the German rabbi R. Eleazar b. Judah. The article then addresses the question of women’s presence in the synagogue when menstruating and during the circumcision ceremony, and ends with a look at changing attitudes toward women benefactors. Based on an analysis of liturgical, archaeological, halakhic and poetic sources, this article demonstrates the extent to which women were active and present in Ashkenazi synagogues and provides an explanation of their gradual segregation and marginalization starting in the thirteenth century.
This essay examines similarities between the Hebrew chronicle of Shlomo bar Shimshon and the Latin chronicle of Albert of Aachen. Both sources describe the massacre of Rhineland Jews during the First Crusade and the subsequent defeat of the Crusaders by the Hungarians and the Bulgarians. On the basis of similarities in structure, content, and language between these two accounts, I argue that Shlomo chose to integrate at least one Christian source into his narrative. At the same time, I assert that it is unlikely that Shlomo’s Hebrew account was translated directly from Albert’s Latin chronicle. I present evidence indicating that the information conveyed in the Latin text reached the Jewish chronicler via vernacular channels, either oral or written.