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.