Jewish Daily Life in Germany, 1618-1945

By Marion A. Kaplan | Go to book overview

4 Economic Life

A seventeenth-century rabbinic responsum from Germany related the following incident.

In some households in a certain town, more established Jews raised
chickens, while the women of some of the poorer households would rise
early in the morning and milk the cows of the gentiles before they were
taken out to pasture. Then they would sell this milk in the street. It once
happened that a woman set down her tub of milk on the doorstep of a
store in front of her house. And while she was tending to some other
errands, she forgot about the tub of milk. And a neighbor came out with
her chicklets and the little chicks got into the tub of milk and they
drowned. Each side suffered a financial loss, one from the milk; the other
from the drowned chicks.1

This simple story underscores two important dimensions of Jewish economic life. First, everyday Jewish commerce was mostly far removed from the dealings of the court Jews and rich merchants emphasized in so many descriptions of economic life. Second, the family very often worked together as an economic unit, with women filling an integral role in the family's economic endeavors.

Excluded from professions and crafts monopolized by the guilds and with only sporadic rights to own land, Jews had in earlier ages concentrated on moneylending as their primary source of income. The major development in everyday Jewish economic life during early modern times was the diversification from a high concentration on moneylending and pawn brokerage to a rich variety of commercial activities. This emphasis on commerce began in the late sixteenth century and intensified during the Thirty Years' War.2

-54-

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Jewish Daily Life in Germany, 1618-1945
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Jewish Daily Life in Germany, 1618-1945 iii
  • Acknowledgments v
  • Contents vii
  • English Glossary ix
  • Title Page 1
  • Introduction: Marion A. Kaplan 3
  • Part I: On the Threshold of Modernity 9
  • 1: The Environment of Jewish Life 11
  • 2: Family Life 24
  • 3: Childhood and Education 41
  • 4: Economic Life 54
  • 5: Religious and Communal Life 70
  • 6: Social Relations 84
  • Part II: The Beginning of Integration 93
  • 7: Jewish Residential Patterns 95
  • 8: Family Life 107
  • 9: Education 118
  • 10: Economic Life 130
  • 11: Religious Practice and Mentality 144
  • 12: German Jews and Their German Jews and Their 159
  • Part III: As Germans and as Jews in Imperial Germany 173
  • 13: Surroundings 175
  • 14: Family 182
  • 15: Education 201
  • 16: Work 215
  • 17: Religious Practices, Mentalities,And Community 235
  • 18: Social Life 252
  • Part IV: From Everyday Life to a State of Emergency 271
  • 19: Housing and Housekeeping 273
  • 20: Family Life 283
  • 21: Education and Vocational Training 291
  • 22: Career and Employment 306
  • 23: Religious Practice in the Synagogue and at Home 323
  • 24: Leisure Time and Social Life 333
  • 25: Constricting and Extinguishing Jewish Life 346
  • Conclusion 375
  • Notes 387
  • Bibliography 477
  • Index 507
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