‘Are you still my brother?’

In this study, the various aspects of the way the Jews regarded themselves in the context of the lapse into another religion will be researched fully for the first time. We will attempt to understand whether they regarded the issue of conversion with self-confidence or with suspicion, whether their attitude was based on a clear theological position or on doubt and the coping with the problem as part of the process of socialization will be fully analysed. In this way, we will better understand how the Jews saw their own identity whilst living as a minority among the Christian majority, whose own self-confidence was constantly becoming stronger from the 10th to the 14th century until they eventually ousted the Jews completely from the places they lived in, England, France and large parts of Germany. This aspect of Jewish self-identification, written by a person who converted to Christianity, can help clarify a number of

3 Theological confrontation with Christianity’s success Apostasy and Jewish identity Theological confrontation with Christianity T he success of the Christians in defeating the Muslims in the Holy Land, conquering it and establishing a Christian colony there, particularly in the Holy City of Jerusalem, was a harsh blow to the Jews from a theological viewpoint. The theological difficulty, which emerged during the course of the twelfth century, became a central issue, one which also affected the status of voluntary converts to Christianity. The Jewish sources

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The literature of pietists (Ashkenazic hasidim)

6 Alternative perspectives: The literature of pietists (Ashkenazic hasidim) Apostasy and Jewish identity Alternative perspectives T he halakhic responses examined in the previous chapters are not only what is required for a discussion of the issue of self-definition. From a methodological viewpoint, we also need to examine issues and attitudes pertaining to mentalities that are not exclusively halakhic, by whose means we may also view the attitude towards those who abandoned the Jewish religion. The book Sefer Hasidim, written during the first half of the

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2 Forced conversion during the First Crusade Apostasy and Jewish identity Forced conversion during the First Crusade T he tendency that emerges from Rashi’s words reflects a decisive leadership approach, establishing a clear direction of attempting to return converts to Christianity to Judaism. The self-definition of Judaism its leaders sought to establish was that of a religion that felt confident in its ability to deal with Christian theological claims and in its political ability to deal with the threat of forced conversion. This situation changed during

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5 Attitudes towards women Apostasy and Jewish identity Attitudes towards women T he Christian sources provide us with various examples of the fact that Jewish women voluntarily converted to Christianity and, moreover, that this female conversion was honest and authentic. As matters are presented by Miri Rubin: ‘Women, like children, were more likely than men to become good converts as they were seen as pliant, easily influenced, and lacking in the adamant and obstinate preoccupation with Jewish law.’1 The Christian sources speak primarily of Jewish women who

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The change in mentality

8 Conclusions: The change in mentality Apostasy and Jewish identity Conclusions: The change in mentality J ewish self-definition in medieval Europe was based upon classical Jewish values: first, the eternal covenant between God and the Jewish people as the chosen people; second, an explicit Jewish identity deriving from the world of commandments unique to Judaism. As the Jewish group lived within Christian society, the essence of whose theological view was that Christians and Christianity had supplanted Jews and Judaism as God’s chosen people and religion

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7 Converts to Judaism Apostasy and Jewish identity Converts to Judaism T he Jewish ethos sees the Jew as unique, by virtue of his being the offspring of the chosen group of people who left Egypt, stood at Mount Sinai, received God’s Torah, and entered into an eternal covenant with God. This ethos constituted the foundation of the Jew’s identity during the Middle Ages. The concept is expressed in the personality of the Jew and is transmitted in a direct and unmediated way to his descendants. Thus, only a Jew, himself the descendant of Jews, can recite the

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4 Self-definition and halakhah Apostasy and Jewish identity Self-definition and halakhah T he halakhic definition of Jewishness is one of the prime factors fashioning the Jew’s understanding both of himself and of his environment. The halakhic attitude towards those Jews who voluntarily embraced Christianity, or who were forced to accept that religion, shaped the disposition of those Jews who remained Jews as against those who became Christians. While the halakhic literature contains decisions deriving, by and large, from explicitly halakhic considerations

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1 Early beginnings Apostasy and Jewish identity Early beginnings I n a society defined by religion, the attitude towards those who leave it or who wish to join it is one of the fundamentals of self-definition. The attitude of Jews in the Christian world of the Middle Ages towards those Jews who converted to Christianity, or to Christians who sought to join the Jewish religion, reflects the central characteristics of Jewish self-definition as a unique, monotheistic group, chosen by God, which sees itself as fulfilling a particular task in the world.1 In the

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apostates that ‘may be counted by the million’, Smith countered in familiar terms that such claims were exaggerated, and, in any case, if true, ‘the explanation of apostasy will have to be made by their leaders at home’.2 These lines – the meat of their arguments – were well rehearsed, but the two men also offered further hallmarks of the Irish priest’s view of emigration from Ireland. Smith suggested that while the Irish migrant would find no better home than the United States, he should ‘consider change carefully, study the matter soberly, make shrewd preparations, and

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