‘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

Open Access (free)

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

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe
Open Access (free)
The change in mentality

sealing off or closing of his heart. The convert to Christianity takes the impure foreskin, removed from him at his Brit as a symbol of purification, and returns it to his heart. There is no conversion of the heart but, to the contrary, the convert to Christianity is now ‘uncircumcised of heart’; his heart is closed, impure. The self-characterization of the Jew in the Middle Ages as ‘pure’ and ‘righteous’ is in stark contrast to the definition of one who has joined Christianity as being impure in his very essence. Generally speaking, the Goldin, Apostasy and Jewish

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe
Open Access (free)

and then returned to their Judaism by using identical terms for both. As against the halakhic argument invoked by R. Yitzhak, R. Shmuel writes quite simply, in a brief sentence, ‘I do not know who allowed him to see daughters of Israel as presumed to be harlots.’16 Another respondent, R. David ben Shealtiel, criticized primarily the halakhic viewpoint of R. Yitzhak Or Zaru’a. He reiterated what Rabbenu Hannanel had already explained, that the precedents brought in the Talmud relate, in their own time (i.e., the Middle Ages), only to those women married to kohanim

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe

described by the author in terms of a demon attacking the young son.8 Many scholars have noted that the Jews of the Middle Ages lived among Christians and were familiar with the Christian religion, and that it fascinated and tempted them. The struggle against the attraction of Christianity, with which the Jews had to contend, was the outcome of fear and the desire to integrate into society and succeed economically, as well as theological persuasion. Several scholars have dealt with this issue and invoked various proofs in support of their views. Here I wish to deal with

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe
Open Access (free)
The literature of pietists (Ashkenazic hasidim)

as a messenger of Sennacherib in order to destroy Jerusalem was, according to the midrash, likewise an apostate Jew. The negative attitude towards him derives from the arrogance implicit in his daring to tell the Jews what God thinks of His people. In the Middle Ages, the answer to such an apostate was found, according to Sefer Hasidim, in the words of the prophet Isaiah: ‘Shame on you, scorn on you, O virgin daughter of Zion; they wag their heads after you, O daughter of Jerusalem’ (2 Kings 19:21–22).6 But the principled approach of this book is even more extreme

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe
Open Access (free)

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

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe

. Elukin, ‘The Discovery of the Self: Jews and Conversion in the Twelfth Century,’ in: Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, eds. M. Signer and J. Van Engen, Notre Dame, Ind. 2001, pp. 63–76. 3 J. W. Parkes, The Conflict of the Church and the Synagogue, London 1934, pp. 79– 81; J. Elukin, ‘From Jew to Christian? Conversion and Immutability in Medieval Europe,’ in: Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. J. Muldoon, Gainesville, Fla. 1997, pp. 171–189. 4 A. S. Abulafia, ‘The Interrelationship between the Hebrew Chronicles of the First Crusade

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe

/08/2014 12:34:45 74 Apostasy and Jewish identity Organization,’ PAAJR (Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research) 36 (1968), pp. 13–31. 9 S. Goldin, ‘Jewish Society under Pressure: The Concept of Childhood,’ in: Youth in the Middle Ages, eds. P. J. Goldberg and F. Riddy, York 2004, pp. 29–43. 10 Tosafot Pesahim 92a s.v. Aval; Kanarfogel, ‘Returning to the Jewish Community in Medieval Ashkenaz,’ p. 76, note 16. 11 Kanarfogel, ‘Returning to the Jewish Community in Medieval Ashkenaz,’ pp. 69–97. 12 Zidkiya ben Abraham, Sefer Shibolei haLeqet haShalem

in Apostasy and Jewish identity in High Middle Ages Northern Europe

This is a study of noblewomen in twelfth-century England and Normandy, and of the ways in which they exercised power. It draws on a mix of evidence to offer a reconceptualization of women's role in aristocratic society, and in doing so suggests new ways of looking at lordship and the ruling elite in the high Middle Ages. The book considers a wide range of literary sources—such as chronicles, charters, seals and governmental records—to draw out a detailed picture of noblewomen in the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman realm. It asserts the importance of the life-cycle in determining the power of these aristocratic women, thereby demonstrating that the influence of gender on lordship was profound, complex and varied.