We met Prof. Poleg in the National Library of Israel, where he showed us a manuscript of a late medieval bible, and discussed the methods of producing and using such an object. He noted that this material object can teach us much about the society which created and used it, and discussed questions regarding the material culture in medieval Europe. Read more about Seminar meeting with Prof. Eyal Poleg
Prof. David Shyovitz of Northwestern University discussed the ways in which Jews perceived animals and their symbolic meanings, according to the Jewish literature of medieval Ashkenaz. He showed that while Christians often compared Jews to dogs in a pejorative sense, some Jews embraced this image and depicted dogs in an admirable way. He also discussed new methodological attitudes to the study of the relationship between humans and animals in the Middle Ages, and the possible implications of this subject for the history of the Jews.
Prof. Eva Haverkamp discussed the economic status of the Jews of medieval Ashkenaz, and in particular their involvement in trade and loans. She challenged the accepted view stating that Jews had a monopoly over the interest loans market, and presented new methodological attitudes for the study of their economic history. Next, she presented two archival documents showing that Jews implemented their own religious law and community regulations also in their dealings with Christian courts and debtors.
The students in the course "Jewish Spaces and Places in Medieval Northern Europe" presented their research and their ideas for future papers. They offered original and thoughtful insights on the daily life of medieval Jews through the lens of space.
Dr. Tartakoff discussed the similarities and differences between conversions from Judaism to Christianity in the Middle Ages, and conversions in the other direction. She focused on two examples of such conversions and showed that despite the social and cultural differences between the communities, conversion in both directions were sometimes historically linked. Thus, in some cases it may be helpful to consider these two kinds of conversion together.
Dr. Galinsky reviewed the medieval Halachah literature written for laymen. He wondered about the identity of these laymen, who could read, understand and use such literature, and their distinction from the rabbinic elite. He then presented a few examples of medieval professions that required reading knowledge, and suggested that those involved in these professions were part of the non-rabbinic audience who read and used this new Halachic literature.
Entangled Histories: Knowledge, Authority, and Jewish Culture in the Thirteenth Century. Edited by Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017.
Dr. Furst discussed the medieval Jewish courts in northern Europe. She focused on the ways in which legal documents can be used as sources illuminating the daily life of medieval Jews, especially those who turned to the court for help. By analyzing one particular case, she showed us how fruitful such an historical method could be. Read more about Workshop with Dr. Rachel Furst