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Although Jews constituted the largest minority in medieval Europe, they tend to be largely ignored in general studies of the Middle Ages, with the result that their history and culture are both overlooked and misunderstood. Jews and Judaism in the Middle Ages attempts to correct that situation by presenting, in clear and accessible language, an introduction to Jewish thought as well as to medieval Jewish history and texts. This volume examines the everyday life of medieval Jews in both Christian and Muslim environments, looks at the causes of medieval anti-Semititism and anti-Judaism, and includes a brief history of the persecutions to which medieval Jews were subjected. Despite popular opinion today, medieval Jewish life consisted of far more than persecution and suffering, and the volume examines Jewish accomplishments in the fields of biblical commentary, literature, philosophy, and mysticism, demonstrating that Jewish life, while often difficult, also had its creative and glorious side. Because the Talmud was the most important Jewish text throughout the Middle Ages, this volume introduces readers to the intricacies of that long and involved work, which helped to shape medieval Christianity.
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"Steinberg (English, SUNY Fredonia) argues that Jewish perspectives are crucial to understanding medieval life, literature, and culture....Accessible style and frequent reference to anthologies and seminal studies in English recommend the book for medievalists and generalists without Jewish studies training. Recommended." - Choice
"[A] well-researched yet highly accessible overview of medieval Jewry that takes neither a predominantly Western Christian approach to medieval history nor one limited to Hebrew-speaking audiences. Steinberg bridges the gap between works by medieval historians possessing a deep knowledge of the period but having almost no knowledge of the unique role and contributions of Jews during the era, and works by Jewish scholars presuming in the reader a prior knowledge of Jewish identity, history, culture, and language....Scholarly yet highly accessible, this book fills a significant gap in the literature of the field and is recommended for all academic and most public libraries." - Library Journal
"Steinberg offers an accessible and lively history of the Jewish experience in the Middle Ages for both scholars and non-scholars while also providing insight into Christianity and Islam by comparing and contrasting the three major Abrahamic faiths of the medieval world. His extenisve citations encourage further exploration for readers interested in pursuing the subject." - MultiCultural Review
Theodore Steinberg illuminates many aspects of medieval Jewish life, not as historical curiosities but as living history. He follows two major themes - the survival and accomplishment of Judaism in a world that became increasingly hostile and the survival of rabbinic Judaism - but also attempts to capture what life might have been like for Jewish men and women as they went about their ordinary activities. Despite popular misconceptions, Jewish life in the Middle Ages was not merely a succession of horrors. There were horrors aplenty - massacres, oppression, absurd accusations, expulsions - but Judaism during what we call the Middle Ages must not be defined by those horrors. The survival of the Jews in the face of those horrors is, on one level, miraculous; but on another level, mere survival may not in itself be significant. What is more so is that in the face of those horrors, Jews created a vibrant personal, moral, intellectual, artistic culture.In the Middle Ages, philosophy and religion were often intertwined.Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of medieval Jewry, however, and a major theme throughout this study, is the creation, transmission, and development of rabbinic Judaism. Even though Judaism continued to develop after the Middle Ages, that medieval construct continues to exercise a powerful influence on modern Judaism.
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