This paper includes two essays:
-A Jewish-Christian Symbiosis: The Culture of Early Ashkenaz, Ivan G. Marcus :
Ashkenazic Jews living in Northern and Eastern Europe differ from Sephardic Jews from Southern Europe in their respective relationships with surrounding religions. Whereas Sephardic Jews were very integrated in the society they were living in, which was composed of both Muslims and Christians, Ashkenazic culture was a much more isolated one. Ashkenazic Jews developed a very ambiguous relationship with Christians as they both rejected and integrated aspects of Christian religion at the same time. The author's thesis is that although the persecution of Ashkenazic Jews by Christians is the most commonly accepted view, members of both religions were more often in contact than is believed. Moreover, they were both attracted by the other religion to the point of taking over certain aspects of it, even if each denigrated the other. This very ambiguity is essential in the way Ashkenazic Jews built their own identity in relationship with Christians.
- Urban Visibility and Biblical Visions: Jewish Culture in Western and Central Europe in the Modern Age, Richard I. Cohen
The Emancipation brought a whole new paradigm for European Jews in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The willing from the countries they were living in to better integrate them led the Western and Central European Jews to reposition themselves in relation to their surrounding environment. The essay analyzes the acculturation of the European Jewish population through the reorganization of their public and private spaces as well as the consequences that this new reality had on a major Jewish element: the Bible.
[...] Besides participating to the larger cultural world, Jews became more and more interested in non- Jewish cultural attributes such as painting and literature. Thus, they both let the outside cultural environment come into their private spheres and participated to the cultural activity in their countries. Jewish women had a specific role to play in this general process of integration: they taught their children Jewish values and were in some way the guardians of Jewish tradition among the general acculturation. Finally, Jews at this time developed a different approach to an essential religious element: the Bible. [...]
[...] However, even if the common belief in Ashkenazic Jewish religion was to regard Christianity as inferior, they couldn't help but being attracted by this religion. The author refers to Hasidei Ashkenaz, pietistic Jews, who were tempted to read “romances”, which are adventure tales about famous Christians but also appreciated by Ashkenazic Jews. Some Jews went as far as to convert themselves to Christianity. It was the same for some early Christians, who were also attracted by Judaism and seemed to observe both Jewish and Christian habits. [...]
[...] However, they still kept strong links to Jewish tradition, even if some aspects of traditional Judaism sometimes had to be adapted in order to fit the new reality caused by Emancipation. The Dead Sea Scrolls The Dead Sea Scrolls were found between 1947 and 1956. The largest part of the documents was written before the war against Rome (66-70 C.E.). They were discovered in the Northwestern part of the Dead Sea, in Qumran. According to many scholars, they would have been placed there by members of the Essene community, a Monastic Jewish sect in Palestine, either as an archive or for safekeeping the documents during the war against Rome. [...]
[...] Jews from Vienna, on the other hand, although physically concentrated in Jewish quarters, sought to tone down their Jewishness to better integrate themselves, which was traduced by a high rate of conversion. Each of these behaviors is different, but they all reflect the effort of the Jews to forge a new identity in order to adapt themselves to the new reality of Emancipated Europe. The construction of synagogues also reflects the degree of visibility that Jews desired. Synagogues were the only communal Jewish monument in the city: thus, the location chosen to build the synagogue mirrored the presence that Jews wanted in the city. [...]
[...] During the Black Death a great anti- Jewish sentiment grew as they were suspected of poisoning the wells and of causing the plague. As a result, a great part of the Jews converted to Christianity, thus becoming New Christians, or Conversos. Some of them became churchmen and significant number occupied positions they could never have reached before. But soon, the Conversos were accused of being insincere to Christianity and of backsliding into Judaism. The issue of the Conversos led Ferdinand and Isabelle, recently married, to introduce the Inquisition into Spain. [...]
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