Bernard Revel Graduate School
Jews in Late Medieval and Early
Modern Christian Europe

Spring 2002

Professor Marc Saperstein

A study of Jewish historical experience during the transition from the Middle Ages to the early modern period (ending ca. 1650, before the outbreak of the Sabbatian movement). Following the reversals of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the course will examine the dynamics of Jewish life in Portugal, Italy, Reformation Germany, Prague and Poland, Amsterdam and England. Emphasis will be on new trends in historiography (studies written in the past generation, and especially in the past decade, by American and Israeli scholars).

Basic Texts, recommended for purchase:

David Nierenberg, Communities of Violence: Persecution of Minorities in the Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 1996; pb $19.95 on Amazon).

*R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial (Yale University Press, 1992; pb $16 on Amazon).

Leon Modena, The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi, ed. Mark R. Cohen (Princeton, 1988; pb $23 on Amazon).

*Bodian, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation (Indiana U Press, 1997; pb: $13.96 on Amazon)

1. January 23 - Introductory Meeting: Why Did It Get Worse for the Jews?

2. January 30 - "Normal" Life in the Late Middle Ages

Joseph Shatzmiller, Shylock Reconsidered (University of California Press, 1990), pp. 1-42, 71–126

*Nirenberg, 127–230

Yom Tov Assis, "Sexual Behavior in mediaeval Hispano-Jewish Society," in Jewish History: Essays in Honour of Chimen Abramsky (London, 1988), pp. 25–60.

Ariel Toaff, Love, Work and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria (Littman Library, 1996), pp. 195–253.

3. February 6 - Fourteenth-Century Reversals, Black Death

Nirenberg, 3-124, 231-49

Malcolm Barber, "Lepers, Jews, and Moslems: The Plot to Overthrow Christendom in 1321," History 66 (1981): 1–17.

Philip Ziegler, The Black Death (Penguin Books, 1982), pp. 85–111.

4. February 13 - Spain: 1391 Pogroms, Conversos

Philippe Wolff, "The 1391 Pogrom in Spain: Social Crisis or Not?" Past and Present 50 (1971): 4–18.

Ram ben Shalom, "Vikkuah Tortosa, Vicente Ferrer, u-Ba’ayat ha-Anusim al Pi Eduto shel Yitzhak Natan," Zion 66 (1991): 24–45.

B. Netanyahu, The Marranos of Spain (AAJR, 1966), pp. 1–76.

Renee Levine Melammed, Heretics or Daughters of Israel? The Crypto-Jewish Women of Castile (Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 3–30.

5. February 20 – Spain: Inquisition, Expulsion

B. Netanyahu, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth-Century Spain (New York: Random House, 1995), pp. 925–1004.

Haim Beinart, Conversos on Trial: The Inquisition in Ciudad Real (Magnes Press, 1981), pp. 1–47.

Stephen Haliczer, "The Castilian Urban Patriciate and the Jewish Expulsions of 1480–92," American Historical Review 78 (1973): 35–58.

Haim Beinart, "The Expulsion from Spain: Causes and Results," in The Sephardi Legacy, ed. Beinart (Magnes Press, 1992), pp. 11–41; text of the edict pp. 28-31.

6. February 27 - Portugal

Isaiah Tishby, Meshihiyut be-Dor Gerushei Sefarad u-Fortugal (Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 1985), pp. 11–36.

Avraham Gross, Iberian Jewry from Twilight to Dawn: The World of Rabbi Abraham Saba (Brill, 1995), pp. 5–39.

Yosef Yerushalmi, The Lisbon Massacre of 1506 and the Royal Image in Shevet Yehudah (Cincinnati: HUC Press, 1976).

7. March 6 – Italy: Session 1: Intolerance

*R. Po-Chia Hsia, Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial (New Haven: Yale, 1992).

Franco Mormando, The Preacher’s Demons: Bernardino of Siena and the Social Underworld of Early Renaissance Italy, pp. 164–218.

Benjamin Ravid, "Between the Myth of Venice and the Lachrymose Conception of Jewish History: The Case of the Jews of Venice," in The Jews of Italy: Memory and Identity, ed. by Barbara Garvin and Bernard Cooperman (University of Maryland Press, 2000), pp. 151–92.

8. March 13 – Italy: Session 2: Cultural Life

Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (University of California Press, 1994), pp. ix–xiii, 1–15, 101–24.

*Leon Modena, The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi, ed. Mark R. Cohen (Princeton, 1988; pb $23 on Amazon).

Anthony Grafton, "The Historian as Hero," The New Republic, October 8, 2001, pp. 38–43 (review of Azariah de’ Rossi’s The Light of the Eyes (Me’or Einayim), translated and annotated by Joanna Weinberg).

9. March 20 - Germany and the Reformation

Martin Luther, On the Jews and Their Lies,

Heiko Oberman, The Roots of Anti-Semitism In the Age of Renaissance and Reformation (Fortress Press, 1984), pp. 93–124.

Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (Yale University Press, 2001), pp. 47–76.

March 26 – April 4: Pesach Recess

10. April 10 - Prague and Poland: Cultural Life

Jacob Elbaum, Petihut ve-Histagrut (Magnes Press, 1990), pp. 7–64.

André Neher, Jewish Thought and the Scientific Revolution of the Sixteenth Century: David Gans (1541–1613) and His Times (Oxford University Press, 1986), pp. 5–11, 27–50, 216–60.

Byron Sherwin, Mystical Theology and Social Dissent (Littman Library, 1982), pp. 161–84.

April 17 – Yom ha-‘Atzma’ut: No Classes

11. April 24 - Poland: Economic Life, Persecution

Hillel Levine, Economic Origins of Antisemitism, chap. 2, pp. 57–74.

Edward Fram, Ideals Face Reality: Jewish Law and Life in Poland, 1550–1655, pp. 67–128.

Joel Raba, Between Remembrance and Denial (Columbia University Press, 1955), pp. 37–120.

12. May 1 – Amsterdam: Creation of a New Community

*Bodian, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation (Bloomington: Indiana U Press, 1997; pb: $13.96 on Amazon), pp. 1–110.

Yosef Kaplan, "Wayward New Christians and Stubborn New Jews: The Shaping of a Jewish Identity," Jewish History 8 (1994): 27-41.

13. May 8 – Amsterdam: Tensions and "Heresy"

Bodian, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation, pp. 110-61.

Yosef Kaplan, "The Social Functions of the Herem in the Portuguese Jewish Community of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century," Dutch Jewish History 1 (1984): 111–55.

Saperstein, Jewish Preaching 1200–1800 (Yale University Press, 1985), pp. 270–85

Saperstein, "The Rhetoric and Substance of Rebuke: Social and Religious Criticism in the Sermons of Hakham Saul Levi Morteira," Studia Rosenthaliana 34 (2000): 131–52.

14. May 15 - England

David Katz, "Shivat ha-Yehudim le-Angliyah u-Visus Qehillatam," in Gerush ve-Shivah (Merkaz Zalman Shazar, 1993), pp. 105–22.

Katz, Philo-Semitism and the Readmission of the Jews to England, 1603–1655 (Oxford University Press, 1982), 1–8, 190–244.

James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews, 55–66, 189–93.

15. May 22 – Final Examination

Requirements for the Course:

Each student is to submit two pieces of written work and take the final examination.

1. Due in class no later than March 20 (it will not be accepted after this): an analysis of motifs in Martin Luther’s "On the Jews and Their Lies." The purpose of this exercise is not to dismiss what Luther wrote as ridiculous, or to "refute" his arguments, but to determine reflect on what there is in traditional Jewish life and thought (including liturgy, messianic doctrine, and Jewish historical experience) that might have served as the basis for the Luther’s diatribes. Students are not to base this on secondary works, but on their own critical reading of the text. Up to 10 pages, double-spaced. (20%)

2. Due in class no later than May 15 (the last meeting before the final exam): a final paper on a subject of the student’s choosing, in consultation with the instructor. This may be based either on primary sources, or on a critical review of an issue of debate in the scholarly literature. At least some Hebrew sources must be used for this paper. 15-20 pages, double-spaced. (35%).

3. Final Examination, May 22. All students must take this. It will cover all the material of the course. (35%).

4. Attendance, preparation, participation. (10%)