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Manual for Faculty
Unit 4: The Crucible of Europe
(Ninth to Fifteenth Centuries)
Introduction Teaching This Unit Directions to Students Bookmarks
Directions to Students
(From the Study Guide)

Before Viewing the Show

Examine map 6 in the Study Guide for the details of Jewish settlement in Europe in the late Middle Ages.

Watch for . . . and Think About

Look for the palace of the Alhambra and the synagogues Santa Maria la Blanca and El Transito. Did Muslim architecture influence the design of Jewish synagogues?

Note the statuary representation of Judaism as a beautiful but blindfolded woman, the walls that surrounded the Jewish quarters, and the drawings of Jews wearing special badges and pointed hats. Were Jews considered aliens and was Judaism respected in Christian European society?

See the illuminated manuscripts and graphics depicting Jewish scholars engaged in study and performing other religious rituals. What was the nature of Jewish religious and intellectual life in Europe during this period?

While Reading the Study Guide and Source Reader
Look for the following:
  • The Jewish culture created in Andalusia (Muslim Spain). How did it emerge? Who helped sustain it? What were the activities pursued by those who participated in this culture? Identify Sephardim, Jewish philosophy, and the Jewish law.
  • The Crusades and how they affected the European Jewish communities. Identify Ashkenazim.
  • The legal status of the Jews and their economic activities in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Identify blood libel and disputation.
  • The subjects the Jews studied in France, Germany, and England. What types of books did Jewish authors write? Identify mysticism.
  • What happened to Spanish Jewry in 1391. Identify conversos and the Inquisition. Who were Ferdinand and Isabella, and how did their policies affect the Jews?
After Viewing and Reading
  • Who were Hasdai ibn Shaprut and Samuel ibn Naghrela? How did both courtiers contribute to Jewish culture in Muslim Spain? Were they influenced by their Muslim surroundings?
  • Both Maimonides and Judah ha-Levi were Jewish writers and philosophers. Did they agree on a definition of Judaism?
  • Evaluate the Jews' response to the First Crusade in 1096.
  • What was the image of the Jew in the medieval mind? How did the rise of medieval anti-Judaism affect Church and governmental policies towards the Jewish minority?
  • What were the contributions of Rashi and the ba'alei tosafot to Talmudic scholarship?
  • What are the sefirot? How was the idea of sefirot integral to medieval Jewish mystical thought?
  • How and when did the converso class come into existence? Did this group's fortune become connected with the ultimate fate of Spanish Jewry?
Suggested Readings

Israel Abrahams, Jewish Life in the Middle Ages (Atheneum, 1969)

Eliyahu Ashtor, The Jews of Moslem Spain (2 vols.) trans. from the Hebrew by Aaron Klein & Jenny Machlowitz-Klein (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1973, 1979)

Yitzhak Baer, A History of the Jews of Christian Spain (2 vols.) trans. by Louis Lerensohn, Hillel Halkin, S. Nardi, and H. Fishman (Jewish Publication Society of America, 1962)

Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (Schocken, 1962)

Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jews and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism (Meridian, 1961)

Isadore Twersky, ed., A Maimonides Reader (Behrman House, 1972)

Isadore Twersky, "Aspects of the Social and Cultural History of Provencal Jewry," and Haim Hillel Ben-Sasson, "The 'Northern' European Jewish Community and Its Ideals," both in H.H. Ben-Sasson and S. Ettinger, eds., Jewish Society Through the Ages (Schocken, 1971)

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