Menachem Mendel

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Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages

My friend Dr. Jonathan Elukin has just published a book titled Living Together, Living Apart: Rethinking Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages. In this book Jonathan argues that we must rethink how we perceive the relationship between Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages. The description of the book reads as follows,

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.

While not having yet read the book, a sample chapter can be found here, I have spoke with Jonathan about this topic on a number of occasions and I am sure that all of its readers will be challenged by its thesis.

One Response to “Jewish-Christian Relations in the Middle Ages”

  1. 1
    Menachem Mendel:

    There was a Hebrew version of some of the King Arthur stories in 1290. This shows that there was an exchange of ideas between the Jewish and Christian communities during the Middle Ages. How the writer took the Christian Arthur stories and made them Jewish is facinating. See the article at…WordPress/? p=46
    Shana Tobesman | Homepage | 01.02.08 – 11:01 am | #




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