Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz
Men, Women, and Everyday Religious ObservanceUniversity of Pennsylvania Press Jewish Culture and Contexts
344 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in, 17 illus.
- Published: July 2016
- Published: October 2014
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In the urban communities of medieval Germany and northern France, the beliefs, observances, and practices of Jews allowed them to create and define their communities on their own terms as well as in relation to the surrounding Christian society. Although medieval Jewish texts were written by a learned elite, the laity also observed many religious rituals as part of their everyday life. In Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz, Elisheva Baumgarten asks how Jews, especially those who were not learned, expressed their belonging to a minority community and how their convictions and deeds were made apparent to both their Jewish peers and the Christian majority.
Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz provides a social history of religious practice in context, particularly with regard to the ways Jews and Christians, separately and jointly, treated their male and female members. Medieval Jews often shared practices and beliefs with their Christian neighbors, and numerous notions and norms were appropriated by one community from the other. By depicting a dynamic interfaith landscape and a diverse representation of believers, Baumgarten offers a fresh assessment of Jewish practice and the shared elements that composed the piety of Jews in relation to their Christian neighbors.
Chapter 1. Standing Before God: Purity and Impurity in the Synagogue
Chapter 2. Jewish Fasting and Atonement in a Christian Context
Chapter 3. Communal Charity: Evidence from Medieval Nürnberg
Chapter 4. Positive Time-Bound Commandments: Class, Gender, and Transformation
Chapter 5. Conspicuous in the City: Medieval Jews in Urban Centers
Chapter 6. Feigning Piety: Tracing Two Tales of Pious Pretenders
Chapter 7. Practicing Piety: Social and Comparative Perspectives
"Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz . . . displays an excellent use of Jewish and Christian sources, both ancient and medieval, as well as a mastery of contemporary research that deals with both Jewish and Christian European medieval communities. . . . Elisheva Baumgarten . . . provides the reader with an astute gendered analysis in her presentation of piety in the high Middle Ages."—Speculum
"Baumgarten argues that as practices changed in Ashkenaz scholarly authorities reacted by seeking out the appropriate ancient texts that supported their decisions to curb or foster these practices. Her approach yields a vivid picture of this medieval Jewish community that makes a great contribution to Medieval studies. It also lends itself more readily to comparison and even understanding by those outside of Jewish studies. I encourage all those interested in high medieval culture, social history, gender, and inter-religious entanglement to read this important book."—The Medieval Review
"This fascinating and persuasive book will play an important bridging role as the study of medieval Christianity focuses more on lay piety, and as medievalists seek more and more to integrate material on diverse cultures into their scholarship and teaching."—Ruth Mazo Karras, University of Minnesota
"Elisheva Baumgarten assesses the presence, development, and extent of Jewish piety in northern Europe, from the eleventh through the fourteenth centuries. Her emphasis on women's issues and the attempts to isolate the practices of the Jewish layman, rather than the rabbinic elite, are in many ways pioneering."—Ephraim Kanarfogel, Yeshiva University