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Living Together, Living Apart

Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages

Jonathan Elukin
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    Living Together, Living Apart
    Book Description:

    This book challenges the standard conception of the Middle Ages as a time of persecution for Jews. Jonathan Elukin traces the experience of Jews in Europe from late antiquity through the Renaissance and Reformation, revealing how the pluralism of medieval society allowed Jews to feel part of their local communities despite recurrent expressions of hatred against them.

    Elukin shows that Jews and Christians coexisted more or less peacefully for much of the Middle Ages, and that the violence directed at Jews was largely isolated and did not undermine their participation in the daily rhythms of European society. The extraordinary picture that emerges is one of Jews living comfortably among their Christian neighbors, working with Christians, and occasionally cultivating lasting friendships even as Christian culture often demonized Jews.

    As Elukin makes clear, the expulsions of Jews from England, France, Spain, and elsewhere were not the inevitable culmination of persecution, but arose from the religious and political expediencies of particular rulers. He demonstrates that the history of successful Jewish-Christian interaction in the Middle Ages in fact laid the social foundations that gave rise to the Jewish communities of modern Europe.

    Elukin compels us to rethink our assumptions about this fascinating period in history, offering us a new lens through which to appreciate the rich complexities of the Jewish experience in medieval Christendom.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2769-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xi)
    (pp. 1-10)

    After teaching a course on relations between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages for several years, I noticed a recurring query posed by many students. How did Jewish communities continue to survive in Europe despite facing what seemed to be endless persecution, violence, and expulsion? A fundamental question to be sure, but one to which I did not have a ready answer. My own work on the conversion of Jews to Christianity grew out of the sense that relations between Christians and Jews were driven largely by Christian antagonism to Jews.¹ In trying to resolve the paradox of persecution...

  5. 1 From Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages
    (pp. 11-42)

    The period from the fifth century and the first incursions of non-Roman peoples into the territories of the empire to the end of the Carolingian hegemony in the ninth century is usually seen as a period of relative security and tolerance for Jews.¹ By trying to explain the tolerance, scholars have emphasized how unusual it is and how it degraded into more “normal” persecutorial relations after the year 1000. This division of medieval history between an early period of tolerance and a later period of persecution prevents us from seeing the dynamic nature of the Jewish experience before and after...

  6. 2 From the Carolingians to the Twelfth Century
    (pp. 43-63)

    As Carolingian rule became a reality, Jews had lived in Europe for hundreds of years and had survived scattered outbursts of Christian zeal. The domination of the Carolingians would not fundamentally disrupt the localized nature of the Jewish experience or the integration of Jews into European society. However, it would shape that experience in several interesting ways as the Carolingians created a more unified religious and political society. Carolingian dominance grew slowly as the family of Pippin and Charles Martel, beginning as the mayors of the palace for the last weak Merovingian kings, extended its rule over Gaul, northern Spain,...

  7. 3 Cultural Integration in the High Middle Ages
    (pp. 64-74)

    To follow Jews from the eleventh into the twelfth century is to cross an invisible and arbitrary dividing line. The twelfth century—a period stretching from the middle of the eleventh to the middle of the thirteenth century—is usually considered the great age of expansion in theMiddle Ages. All areas of European life saw growth and movement. The most important of these included an aristocratic diaspora and conquest, the spread of bishoprics, the expansion of towns and settlements, the rise of more centralized states and royal governments, and the multiplication of religious institutions and identities. The extension of aristocratic...

  8. 4 Social Integration
    (pp. 75-88)

    The variety of local conditions in which Jews found themselves make any generalizations about their lived experience very tenuous and artificial. How much a part of European society each Jew felt may have been based on personal factors or individual personality. Christian society was variegated, dynamic, and diverse. It accommodated Jews in many settings and conditions. We surely distort the historical experience of medieval Jews by focusing only on evidence of their alienation. Feelings may have changed during one’s lifetime or at different points in the liturgical year. Feelings of integration might have been replaced by alienation after prayers and...

  9. 5 Violence
    (pp. 89-115)

    Violence is traditionally perceived to be at the core of the Jewish experience in medieval Europe. The history of Jews on one level is the story of rising levels of anti-Jewish polemic, accusations of atrocities, physical attacks, and finally expulsion from much of western Europe as Christian toleration of Jews declined. It is not surprising that this is the dominant image of the medieval Jewish experience. The information about Jews that has survived in the documentary record has usually been about instances of persecution or expulsion. Peaceful coexistence often went unrecorded. Moreover, moments of antagonism and violence occurred with a...

  10. 6 Expulsion and Continuity
    (pp. 116-134)

    Although jews survived periodic outbursts of violence in the Middle Ages, they were not able to escape the expulsions ordered by most European monarchs by the end of the fifteenth century. The expulsions have provided a convenient terminus to shape the narrative of the Jewish experience. They have served as the natural end to a story of persecution and suffering. England expelled its Jews in 1290, and France’s final expulsion of the Jews occurred in the late fourteenth century. Jews were forced out of Spain in 1492 and then a few years later from Portugal. The expulsions apparently confirmed that...

    (pp. 135-138)

    Convivenciais traditionally used to describe the positive cultural and social interaction between Jews and Christians in medieval Spain. It is easy to romanticize theconvivenciaof Iberia. The reality is more complicated, but historians are reluctant to abandon the term. Recently, scholars have come to an informal consensus on the meaning ofconvivencia. Thomas Glick writes, for example, that “the word, as we use it here, is loosely defined as ‘coexistence,’ but carries connotations of mutual interpenetration and creative influence, even as it also embraces the phenomenon of mutual friction, rivalry, and suspicion.”¹ This produces a “process of normalization...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 139-166)
    (pp. 167-182)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 183-193)