Jewish Daily Life in Germany, 1618-1945

By Marion A. Kaplan | Go to book overview
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Social Relations

While the constellation of residential and economic factors brought Jews in most locations into continual contact with Christians, Jews maintained most of their social relations with other Jews. Spare time activity and social relations may have been at a premium and are among the least researched spheres of Jewish daily life, but this should not imply that Jews did not enjoy leisure activities. Many males studied in their spare time. They also occasionally gambled, drank, and traveled together. Some males joined societies that provided companionship, and in a few communities, women formed such societies as well. Usually Jews and Christians encountered each other primarily in business, but some maintained sporadic casual relations as well.

Among Jews

Memoirs by men contain only a few references to leisure and friendship. Pinchas Katzenelenbogen (1691-c. 1765) mentioned episodes from his youth in which boys studying in yeshivah spent time together, and he felt that he was well liked by the other boys in the group. Sometimes, however, their playfulness turned unpleasant, and he regretted for the rest of his life one incident that proved offensive to one of his friends.1 The anonymous seventeenth-century memoirist of his youth revealed more about the playfulness of boys as he described a group of lads who went out regularly for good times with women. He had moved to Prague at the age of 15, where he found employment as a tutor in the house of a wealthy family. He wrote about his 10-year-old charge that he "knew better how to behave than I did, the only son of rich parents, fondled and spoiled." He then described his own circumstances with mixed feelings:


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