Jewish Life in European and Middle Eastern Towns: A Cultural Transformation (1475-1750)

Fall Quarter, 2013

Tuesdays, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m.

Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern, The Crown Family Professor of Jewish Studies: Professor, History

Tuesday mornings, 9:30 - 11:30 a.m., Norris University Center

This course takes a close look at the everyday life and culture of Jewish communities in early modern towns, from the mid-15th to the mid-18th century. It explores three centuries of radical changes that triggered a more tolerant political and religious treatment of Jews and, in general, a less discriminating attitude toward them. We will discuss how the era of mercantilism reshaped the Jewish community economically and culturally; how and why Jews were readmitted to urban centers from which they were expelled in medieval times; why early modern communities welcomed Jewish religious revivalist movements and several pseudo-Messiahs; how Sephardic and Ashkenazic Jewish identities came into being; and finally, why the revolutionary upheavals in Netherlands, Britain, and France sped up the process of emancipation that bolstered Jewish integration into the fabric of European urban society. We will talk about Jewish communities in non-Jewish urban context, focusing on the most important towns in Europe and beyond.

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