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 article discusses the ways scholars have outlined the process of Jewish adaptation (or lack of it) from their Christian surroundings in northern Europe during the High Middle Ages. Using the example of penitential fasting, the first two sections of the article describe medieval Jewish practices and some of the approaches that have been used to explain the similarity between medieval Jewish and contemporary Christian customs. The last two sections of the article suggest that in addition to looking for texts that connect between Jewish and Christian thought and beliefs behind these customs, it is useful to examine what medieval Jews and Christians saw of each other's customs living in close urban quarters. Finally, the article suggests that when shaping medieval Jewish and Christian identity, the differences emphasized in shared everyday actions and visible practice were no less important than theological distinctions. As part of the discussion throughout the article, the terminology used by scholars to describe the process of Jewish appropriation from the local surroundings is described, focusing on terms such as “influence” and “inward acculturation,” as well as “appropriation.”
Elisheva Baumgarten. 2018. “The Family.” In The Cambridge History of Judaism, edited by Robert Chazan, 1st ed., Pp. 440–462. Cambridge University Press. Publisher's Version
Abstract The discovery of pawned objects in treasure troves attributed to Jews enables investigation of the use and understanding of these objects by Jews, especially regarding those of a more secular nature, i.e. objects that have little relationship to Jewish or Christian liturgy and that lack explicit Jewish or Christian religious iconography or inscriptions. One of these pawned objects is a girdle, which was found in a Jewish context in Erfurt. Through examining this girdle in the context of similar imagery in Jewish art, we see that Jews were not only exposed to such girdles but also were well aware of their symbolic meaning in noble love and romance .
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.