Judaism in Christian Eyes: Early Modern Description of Jews and Judaism
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Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover
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Judaism in Christian Eyes: Early Modern Description of Jews and Judaism

Oxford University Press / 2012 / Hardcover

In Stock
Stock No: WW756532


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Product Description

This book examines Christian ethnographic writing about the Jews in early modern Europe, offering a systematic historical analysis of this literary genre and arguing its importance for understanding both the period in general and Jewish-Christian relations in particular. The book focuses on nearly 80 texts from Western Europe (mostly Germany) that describe the customs and ceremonies of contemporary Jews, containing both descriptions and illustrations of their subjects.

Deutsch is one of the first scholars to study these unique writings in detail. Examining books in which Christian authors describe Jewish life, he provides new interpretations of Christian perceptions of Jews, Christian Hebraism, and the attention paid by Hebraists to contemporary Jews and Judaism.

These works also present new perspectives on the study of religion, developments in the field of anthropology and ethnography, and on internal Christian debates that arose from the portrayal of Jewish life. Despite the lack of attention by modern scholars, some of these books were extremely popular in their time and represent one of the important ways by which perceptions of Jews were disseminated during the period.

The key claim of this study is that, although almost all of the descriptions of Jewish customs and ceremonies are accurate, their authors chose to concentrate mainly on details that portray Jewish ceremonies as anti-Christian, superstitious, and ridiculous and to show the deviation of Judaism from Biblical law. Deutsch argues that such descriptions are better defined as "polemical ethnographies".

Nevertheless, he claims that despite their polemical tendency these texts represent a shift from writing about Judaism as a religion to writing about Jews, and from a mode of writing based on stereotypes to one that is based on direct contact and observation.

Product Information

Format: Hardcover
Number of Pages: 352
Vendor: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2012
ISBN: 0199756538
ISBN-13: 9780199756537

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Publisher's Description

This book examines Christian ethnographic writing about the Jews in early modern Europe, offering a systematic historical analysis of this literary genre and arguing its importance for understanding both the period in general and Jewish-Christian relations in particular. The book focuses on nearly 80 texts from Western Europe (mostly Germany) that describe the customs and ceremonies of contemporary Jews, containing both descriptions and illustrations of their subjects.

Deutsch is one of the first scholars to study these unique writings in detail. Examining books in which Christian authors describe Jewish life, he provides new interpretations of Christian perceptions of Jews, Christian Hebraism, and the attention paid by Hebraists to contemporary Jews and Judaism. These works also present new perspectives on the study of religion, developments in the field of anthropology and ethnography, and on internal Christian debates that arose from the portrayal of Jewish life. Despite the lack of attention by modern scholars, some of these books were extremely popular in their time and represent one of the important ways by which perceptions of Jews were disseminated during the period.

The key claim of this study is that, although almost all of the descriptions of Jewish customs and ceremonies are accurate, their authors chose to concentrate mainly on details that portray Jewish ceremonies as anti-Christian, superstitious, and ridiculous and to show the deviation of Judaism from Biblical law. Deutsch argues that such descriptions are better defined as "polemical ethnographies". Nevertheless, he claims that despite their polemical tendency these texts represent a shift from writing about Judaism as a religion to writing about Jews, and from a mode of writing based on stereotypes to one that is based on direct contact and observation.

Author Bio


Yaacov Deutsch received his Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem (2005). He is currently the head of the history department at David Yellin Academic College, the director of the World Union of Jewish Studies, and teaches in the School of History at the Hebrew University. His research focuses on Christian-Jewish relations in the medieval and early modern period, and especially on Christian Hebraism.

Editorial Reviews


"Yaacov Deutsch's new book aims at providing a study of Jews in ethnographic
writings and 'a comprehensive survey of this genre's assorted works, with a stress on their general characteristics, the writing objectives they betray, the interconnections between the different works, and the ramifications of this entire exercise' (1)... Deutsch demonstrates a mastery of his subject and a wealth of knowledge about Jewish lifestyles the early modern Europeans had at their disposal." --Renaissance Quarterly


"Deutsch's book, which takes us from the early 16th century (beginning with the work of Johan Pfefferkon in 1508) through the late 18th century... is the only comprehensive survey of all ethnographic works about Jews, Judaism, and Jewish rituals published in Western Europe in this pivotal period and should serve as a reference for any future scholarship on the perception of Jews in the early modern world." --The Blog of the Center for Jewish Law


"Deutsch's mastery of the literature written by Christians about Jews and Judaism in the early modern period is unparalleled. Judaism In Christian Eyes will not only illuminate the changing perceptions of Jews in works written by Christians, it will also defamiliarize Jewish practices and allow us to see them in a new light. Deutsch's work is a welcome addition to the scholarship on early modern culture and to the difficult passage of Jewish-Christian relations in the age of religious turmoil."
-- Elisheva Carlebach, Salo Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society, Columbia University


"Yaacov Deutsch gives us a brilliant and fascinating account of how Jewish religious practices, from circumcision to kosher food to Passover Seders, were described and interpreted by Christian witnesses in the early modern period."
-- Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College


"Yaacov Deutsch has mined the previously only sporadically explored field of early modern Jewish ethnographies, uncovering a rich deposit of sources for everyone interested in the history of Christian-Jewish relations. Drawing on his profound erudition, Deutsch offers an illuminating and finely nuanced reconstruction of diverse Christian perceptions of Judaism across a nearly three hundred year span. All told, this insightful, highly original study constitutes an important, new chapter in the historiography of Christian-Jewish relations."
- David H. Price, author of Johannes Reuchlin and the Campaign to Destroy Jewish Books (2011)


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