Jewish Culture and Society in Medieval France and Germany: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Jewish Culture and Society in Medieval France and Germany

1st Edition

By Ivan G. Marcus


344 pages

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Hardback: 9781472436344
pub: 2014-10-01
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These studies explore the history of the Jewish minority of Ashkenaz (northern France and the German Empire) during the High Middle Ages. Although the Jews in medieval Europe are usually thought to have been isolated from the Christian majority, they actually were part of a 'Jewish-Christian symbiosis.' A number of studies in the collection focus on Jewish-Christian cultural and social interactions, the foundations of the community ascribed to Charlemagne, and especially on the fashioning of a martyrological collective identity in 1096. Even when Jews resisted Christian pressures they often did so by internalizing Christian motifs and turning them on their heads to argue for the truth of Judaism alone. This may be seen especially in the formation of Jews as martyrs, a trope that places Jews as collective Christ figures whose suffering brings about vicarious atonement. The remainder of the studies delve into the lives and writings of a group of Jewish ascetic pietists, Hasidei Ashkenaz, which shaped the religious culture of most European Jews before modernity. In Sefer Hasidim (Book of the Pietists), attributed to Rabbi Judah the Pietist of Regensburg (d. 1217), one finds a mirror of everyday Jewish-Christian interactions even while the author advances a radical view of Jewish religious pietism.

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction. The Jews of Medieval Northern France and Germany (Ashkenaz): A Jewish-Christian symbiosis: the culture of early Ashkenaz; The foundation legend of Ashkenazic Judaism; Rashi's historiosophy in the introductions to his Bible commentaries; The dynamics of Jewish Renaissance and renewal in the 12th century; Honey cakes and Torah: a Jewish boy learns his letters; A pious community and doubt: Jewish martyrdom among northern European Jewry and the story of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz; History, story and collective memory: narrativity in early Ashkenazic culture; From politics to martyrdom: shifting paradigms in the Hebrew narratives of the 1096 crusade riots; Jews and Christians imagining the other in medieval Europe. Medieval German Pietism (Hasidei Ashkenaz): The recensions and structure of Sefer Hasidim; The song of songs in German Hasidism and the school of Rashi: a preliminary comparison; Exegesis for the few and for the many: Judah he-Hasid's biblical commentaries; Narrative fantasies from Sefer Hasidim; The historical meaning of Hasidei Ashkenaz: fact, fiction or cultural self-image?; The devotional ideals of Ashkenazic pietism; Prayer gestures in German Hasidism. Index.

About the Author

Ivan G Marcus is Frederick P. Rose Professor of Jewish History, Yale University, USA.

About the Series

Variorum Collected Studies

The first title in the Variorum Collected Studies series was published in 1970. Since then well over 1000 titles have appeared in the series, and it has established a well-earned international reputation for the publication of key research across a whole range of subjects within the fields of history.

The history of the medieval world remains central to the series, with Byzantine studies a particular speciality, but the range of titles extends from Hellenistic philosophy and the history of the Roman empire and early Christianity, through the Renaissance and Reformation, up to the 20th century. Islamic Studies forms another major strand as do the histories of science, technology and medicine.

Each title in the Variorum Collected Studies series brings together for the first time a selection of articles by a leading authority on a particular subject. These studies are reprinted from a vast range of learned journals, Festschrifts and conference proceedings. They make available research that is scattered, even inaccessible in all but the largest and most specialized libraries. With a new introduction and index, and often with new notes and previously unpublished material, they constitute an essential resource. 

For further information about contributing to the series please contact Michael Greenwood at

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Medieval