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 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.”
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.
Baumgarten, Elisheva. “Minority Dress Codes and the Law: A Jewish-Christian Comparison.” In Religious Minorities in Christian, Jewish and Muslim Law (5th - 15th centuries), edited by John Victor Tolan, Capucine Nemo-Pekelman, Nora Berend, and Youna Hameau-Masset, 8:289–299. Religious Minorities in Christian, Jewish and Muslim Law (5th - 15th centuries). Turnhout: Brepols Publishers, 2017.
Baumgarten, Elisheva. “"Tales in Context: A Historical Approach" Epilogue.” In Tales in context: Sefer ha-Ma'asim in medieval Northern France: (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Ms. Bodl. Or. 135), edited by Rella Kushelevsky, Ruchie Avital, and Chaya Naor, 687–672. Tales in context: Sefer ha-Ma'asim in medieval Northern France: (Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, Ms. Bodl. Or. 135). Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press, 2017.
The fruit of a sustained and close collaboration between historians, linguists and jurists working on the Christian, Muslim and Jewish societies of the Middle Ages, this book explores the theme of religious coexistence (and the problems it poses) from a resolutely comparative perspective. The authors concentrate on a key aspect of this coexistence: the legal status attributed to Jews and Muslims in Christendom and to dhimmis in Islamic lands." –Back cover
From Halakhic innovation to blood libels, from the establishment of new mendicant orders to the institutionalization of Islamicate bureaucracy, and from the development of the inquisitorial process to the rise of yeshivas, universities, and madrasas, the long thirteenth century saw a profusion of political, cultural, and intellectual changes in Europe and the Mediterranean basin. These were informed by, and in turn informed, the religious communities from which they arose. In city streets and government buildings, Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived, worked, and disputed with one another, sharing and shaping their respective cultures in the process. The interaction born of these relationships between minority and majority cultures, from love and friendship to hostility and violence, can be described as a complex and irreducible "entanglement." The contributors to Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century argue that this admixture of persecution and cooperation was at the foundation of Jewish experience in the Middle Ages.
Natural Materials of the Holy Land and the Visual Translation of Place, 500-1500, focuses on the unique ways that natural materials carry the spirit of place. Since early Christianity, wood, earth, water and stone were taken from loca sancta to signify them elsewhere. Academic discourse has indiscriminately grouped material tokens from holy places and their containers with architectural and topographical emulations, two-dimensional images and bodily relics. However, unlike textual or visual representations, natural materials do not describe or interpret the Holy Land; they are part of it. Tangible and timeless, they realize the meaning of their place of origin in new locations.
What makes earth, stones or bottled water transported from holy sites sacred? How do they become pars pro toto, signifying the whole from which they were taken? This book will examine natural media used for translating loca sancta, the processes of their sanctification and how, although inherently abstract, they become charged with meaning. It will address their metamorphosis, natural or induced; how they change the environment to which they are transported; their capacity to translate a static and distant site elsewhere; the effect of their relocation on users/viewers; and how their containers and staging are used to communicate their substance.
This article reexamines the idea prevalent in existing historiography that Jews were accused of well poisoning before 1321. It argues that the historians who studied the origins of such accusations were misled by sources written in the early modern period to think that Jews were charged with well poisoning as early as the eleventh century. However, a careful analysis of the sources reveals that there is little reliable evidence that such cases happened before the fourteenth century, much less on a large scale. Thus, the conclusions of the article call for a new chronology of well-poisoning charges made against Jews, starting closer to the fourteenth century.