Regional Identities and Cultures of Medieval Jews

BookRegional Identities and Cultures of Medieval Jews

Regional Identities and Cultures of Medieval Jews

The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization


May 4th, 2018



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Though the existence of Jewish regional cultures is widely known, the origins of the most prominent groups, Ashkenaz and Sepharad, are poorly understood, and the rich variety of other regional Jewish identities is often overlooked. Yet all these subcultures emerged in the Middle Ages. Scholars contributing to the present study were invited to consider how such regional identities were fashioned, propagated, reinforced, contested, and reshaped—and to reflect on the developments, events, or encounters that made these identities manifest. They were asked to identify how subcultural identities proved to be useful, and the circumstances in which they were deployed. The resulting volume spans the ninth to the sixteenth centuries, and explores Jewish cultural developments in western Europe, the Balkans, North Africa, and Asia Minor. In its own way, each contribution considers factors—demographic, geographical, historical, economic, political, institutional, legal, intellectual, theological, cultural, and even biological—that led medieval Jews to conceive of themselves, or to be perceived by others, as bearers of a discrete Jewish regional identity. Notwithstanding the singularity of each essay, they collectively attest to the inherent dynamism of Jewish regional identities.

‘[The essays] make unexpected and intriguing links between Jewish and non-Jewish literature and ideas, and (rightly) raise as much questions as they seek to answer. In that respect, they have helpfully indicted possible directions of future research.’
Stefan C . Reif, Journal of Jewish Studies

'Provides a wealth of new information… a first quality working tool.'
Jean-Pierre Rothschild, Revue des études juives

Author Information

Javier Castaño is a research fellow in Jewish history at the Spanish National Scientific Research Council in Madrid. He is a former editor of the journal 'Sefarad'. Talya Fishman is Associate Professor of Jewish Intellectual and Cultural History of the Medieval and Early Modern Periods at the University of Pennsylvania. She is the author of 'Becoming the People of the Talmud: Oral Torah as Written Tradition in Medieval Jewish Cultures' (2013). Ephraim Kanarfogel is E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature and Law at Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies, Yeshiva University. He is a leading expert in the fields of medieval Jewish history and rabbinic literature, an ordained rabbi and Torah scholar and the author of numerous books, including Between Rashi and Maimonides: Studies in Medieval Jewish Thought, Literature, and Exegesis (2010).