CORDIS - Forschungsergebnisse der EU
CORDIS

Beyond the Elite: Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Europe

Periodic Reporting for period 4 - BeyondtheElite (Beyond the Elite: Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Europe)

Berichtszeitraum: 2021-05-01 bis 2022-10-31

The two fundamental challenges of this project are the integration of medieval Jewries and their histories within the framework of European history without undermining their distinct communal status and the creation of a history of everyday medieval Jewish life that includes those who were not part of the learned elite. The study focuses on the Jewish communities of northern Europe (roughly modern Germany, northern France and England) from 1100-1350. From the mid-thirteenth century these medieval Jewish communities were subject to growing persecution. The approaches used to access daily praxis seek to highlight tangible dimensions of religious life rather than the more common study of ideologies to date. This task is complex because the extant sources in Hebrew as well as those in Latin and vernacular were written by the learned elite and require a broad survey of multiple textual and material sources.
Four main strands are examined and combined:
1. An outline of the strata of Jewish society, better defining the elites and other groups.
2. A study of select communal and familial spaces such as the house, the synagogue, the market place that have yet to be examined as social spaces.
3. Ritual and urban rhythms especially the annual cycle, connecting between Jewish and Christian environments.
4. Material culture, as objects, were used by Jews and Christians alike.
Aspects of material culture, the physical environment and urban rhythms are often described as “neutral” are mined to demonstrate how they exemplified difference while being simultaneously ubiquitous in local cultures. The deterioration of relations between Jews and Christians provide a gauge for examining change during this period. The final stage of the project includes comparative case studies of other Jewish communities. I expect our findings will inform scholars of medieval culture at large and promote comparative methodologies for studying other minority ethnic groups. They also will provide insight for similar problems in contemporary modern society related to religious and ethnic minorities.
We have pursued aspects of our four objectives. This was done through our seminars, guests lecturers, conferences, publications and talks at academic events. One can say the phrase "Going Beyond the Elite" has become a working term in scholarship on medieval Jewish society and brought some of the questions we are pursuing to the forefront of research.
We have developed a website, a teaching website for teachers, held multiple conferences/strands at larger events, delivered dozens of talks at conferences, and public events and published over 30 articles at this point. We have published 4 joint fascicles in journals, one additional journal fascicle is underway. We have published a sourcebook for college instruction and a volume the PI edited is about to appear. In addition, our final volume is underway. We will be sending it out for peer review at the end of our winter break. We also developed an art exhibit in collaboration with seven Israeli artists. We produced a catalogue that includes some aspects of our research that is available online and in physical copies, the exhibition in Jerusalem was on display until Sept. 2022 and we have a virtual exhibit on line. In Nov. 2022 we opened the exhibit in a new reiteration in Erfurt, Germany. There too we produced a revised catalogue, an online exhibit and a physical one. We are currently exploring offers to host the exhibit in the Czech Republic and Paris. This has been an excellent way to disseminate our research beyond the academy. In addition, colleagues abroad have used the virtual exhibits for teaching.
team members and the PI attended and presented at many conferences in Israel, Europe and North America and hosted many foreign scholars in Israel. As a team, we travelled twice to Europe for two week long trips and this expanded our network and horizons as a group. This has allowed many members of the group to be hosted in European institutions and caused many foreign students to be our guests.
The project has opened up multiple directions previously unexplored. We found a wealth of documentation concerning economic records and especially the medieval marketplace and interactions between Jews and Christians around it. We served as advisors to museums, for example the MIQUA museum in Cologne has asked us to advise them as they plan an exhibit on the medieval Jewish quarter in the city. These developments are indications of the necessity of our studies and we hope to further enhance our public and academic presence even after the end of the project. Our art exhibit and teaching website, along with our open access sourcebook that has been downloaded hundreds of times since its publication (I am writing these lines one week after its publication online) have allowed our findings to disseminate and will be the path of future dissemination.
We have changed the way Jews are considered within medieval studies at large and the way Jewish studies scholars explore medieval sources. The expression "to go beyond the elite" is now used in multiple studies. I am very proud of my students who have developed a new model that is now being emulated.
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