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Archive for Ashkenaz

Origins of the Mourner’s Kaddish

The most recent issue of the AJS Review has a very good article about the origins of the mourner’s kaddish (קדיש יתום). Unlike many scholars who have written about the origins of the mourner’s kaddish and located its origins as a response the Crusades, David Shyovitz (“You Have Saved Me from the Judgement of Gehenna”: […]

Did Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg Refuse Release from Prison

One of the most important figures in Jewish history during the Middle Ages is Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg (Maharam), author of hundreds of responsa and communal leader. A tragic episode of his life is his imprisonment (1286) after a failed attempt to flee Germany, his eventual death in prison (1293), and that it was forbidden […]

New Book: Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz

I can’t wait to get my hands on this new book by Elisheva Baumgarten, Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women, and Everyday Religious Observance. In the urban communities of medieval Germany and northern France, the beliefs, observances, and practices of Jews allowed them to create and define their communities on their own terms as […]

The Origins of Ashkenazi Jewry

Manuscript Boy has an interesting post in which he tries to situate the most recent study about the genetic origins of Ashkenazi Jewry in the context of research into rabbinic literature and tradition.

Book Reviews on Non-Jews in Ancient Rabbinic Culture and Medieval Ashkenaz

The blog of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization has posted two recent book reviews that may be of interest. The first is a review of Jenny Labendz’s Socratic Torah: Non-Jews in Rabbinic Intellectual Culture. In Socratic Torah, Jenny Labendz sets out to challenge assumptions of insularity and parochialism among the rabbis of […]

Video: The Myth of the Khazar Conversion

Shaul Stampfer and the Jewish-Khazar connection (or lack thereof) [HT Jesús de Prado Plumedon on Twitter]: For previous posts about Jews and the Khazars see here, here, and here.

Summary of Ashkenaz at the Crossroads of Cultural Transfer

For those who weren’t able to attend the conference on “Ashkenaz at the Crossroads of Cultural Transfer” that was held this Fall in Germany, a summary of the conference proceedings has been posted online. (here) It looks like it was a very good conference with a wide variety of topics addressed, and I hope to […]

Hebrew in Medieval Europe

In Haaretz there is an article by Ephraim Shoham-Steiner that describes the mounting evidence for the use of Hebrew in the public sphere in Medieval Europe. Shoham-Steiner discussed a number of important archaeological discoveries in Germany, among them the “Hebrew Cesspit” discovered in Cologne, and over a thousand tombstones with Hebrew inscriptions from Wurzberg. The […]

Memorial Volume for I.M. Ta-Shma

A two-volume memorial volume has just been published for Prof. I.M. Ta-Shma. (hat tip) The book can be ordered from It is nine hundred pages of research into liturgy, Jewish law, customs, history, etc.

Rashi and Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray Soda

The following question was published in today’s New York Times. (here) Q. I recently overheard a conversation about food in which someone mentioned “Jewish Champagne.” What is that? A. We’re going to assume the speaker was not referring to the French region, centered on Troyes, whose rabbinical scholars led an intellectual flowering in the 12th […]

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