When Gregory XIII instituted his new calendar in 1582, Jews, like all minorities in Europe, had to realign their timekeeping in accord with this momentous change. Investigating collections of calendars around the world, Carlebach brilliantly reconstructs the quotidian world of early modern Jewry. More than 55 color illustrations. 292 pages, hardcover. Harvard University.
Carlebach, professor of Jewish history at Columbia, takes a narrow subject--sifrei evronot (European Jewish calendars/almanacs) of the 15th to 18th centuries--and mines it for its considerable riches. She demonstrates how these works reflected both Jews' values and beliefs and their interaction with the external Christian society. She notes, for example, how some calendars recorded Christian holy days that Jewish tradesmen needed to know of, while subverting their meaning (a minor change in the Hebrew spelling of "all saints day" reversed its meaning). Carlebach is also particularly good at delving into Jewish folk beliefs as found in the calendars. She is equally illuminating on the calendars' iconography, illustrated by a 1716 calendar that shows the biblical Jepththah's daughter as a teenage European aristocrat. A couple of minor omissions are an explanation of the 19-year cycle of the Jewish lunar calendar and the omission of some Hebrew terms from an otherwise useful glossary. This well-organized and extensively researched book is a magnificent piece of scholarship and a pleasure to read, demonstrating the calendars' importance "as mirrors and agents of change,... indexes of acculturation, and... matchless reflections of the Jewish experience." 56 color illus. (Apr.) Copyright 2011 Reed Business Information.
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