JHI1300LevNotes1 - JHI 1300 Medieval Jewish History...

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JHI 1300 – Medieval Jewish History Fall 2002 Professor Levin Notes by Yonatan Miller Downloaded from: www.yumesorah.com Page 1 of 49 JHI1300LevNotes1.pdf Medieval Jewish History We deal with four distinct cultures when it comes to Medieval Jewry: 1. Jews in the world of Islam (most numerically significant) 2. Ashkenazic Jewry (N. Europe, N. France and Germany 9 th Century period) 3. Provencal Jewry – bridge between Ashkenaz and Islamic orbit 4. Italian Jewry - roots in Israel; cultural source for the Ashkenazic Jews Definitions : 1. History - The study of things related to the past. What is the scope of Jewish history? Who is included – missionaries, Karaites…? 2. Medieval – Middle Ages, middle of the Roman Empire and Renaissance; Also known as the Dark Ages. What do we study as a product of the Jewish Middle Ages? Can the Dark Age be used to describe one of the most fertile intellectual periods of Jewish history? We should view the Jewish Middle Ages in two different contexts: 1. The Jews in the Muslim world (1453 – Fall of Constantinople) 2. The Jews in the Christian world (gradual exile of Jews from Western Europe to Eastern Europe). Perhaps we could speak of the Jewish corporate community, in which no one could just drop out of the Jewish community; rather everyone was either a Jew or a Christian/Muslim. The irreligious/non-frum Jew, as we know him, didn’t exist back then. This quality didn’t end until the Emancipation in the 18 th century (an internal boundary being marked by the Sabatian movement at the end of the 17 th century). All of this flies in the face of the theory of Ben Sasson (Between scholars, nobody likes dealing with the period between the end of the Medieval period and the Emancipation). Were the Middle Ages personified by the persecution of the Jews? Many of the works written by the Jews in this time period were named appropriately to that classification, though Baron, a premier Jewish scholar, fought against what he called a “lachrymose” (lit. full of tears) perception of Jewish history. The perception exists to this day, and was magnified by the Holocaust, and the new study of the Christo-Jewish relationship starting from Medieval times, and how that later affected the events of the Holocaust. There is a recent trend among Medievalists, especially in the 60s and 70s, that scholars must analyze the cultures of minorities, including Jews. All this, of course, was due to the Civil Rights movement. It is now commonplace among scholars to call the Middle Ages a Persecuting Society. A new movement doesn’t want to focus on persecution, but rather the shared and mutual environments of the Jews and Christians. In order to examine the Jews under Islam, we must first take a look at Islamic attitudes towards the Jews. 7 th Century Arabia: The Jews lived in the Arabian peninsula, centered in the city of Medina, focused on agriculture and commerce. In addition, there was a tribal organization of sorts among the Jews, and they created coalitions among the pagans.
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