This book presents a synthetic history of the family--the most
basic building block of medieval Jewish communities--in Germany and
northern France during the High Middle Ages. Concentrating on the
special roles of mothers and children, it also advances recent
efforts to write a comparative Jewish-Christian social history.
Elisheva Baumgarten draws on a rich trove of primary sources to
give a full portrait of medieval Jewish family life during the
period of childhood from birth to the beginning of formal education
at age seven. Illustrating the importance of understanding Jewish
practice in the context of Christian society and recognizing the
shared foundations in both societies, Baumgarten's examination of
Jewish and Christian practices and attitudes is explicitly
comparative. Her analysis is also wideranging, covering nearly
every aspect of home life and childrearing, including pregnancy,
midwifery, birth and initiation rituals, nursing, sterility,
infanticide, remarriage, attitudes toward mothers and fathers,
gender hierarchies, divorce, widowhood, early education, and the
place of children in the home, synagogue, and community.
A richly detailed and deeply researched contribution to our
understanding of the relationship between Jews and their non-Jewish
neighbors, Mothers and Children provides a key analysis of
the history of Jewish families in medieval Ashkenaz.
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