Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg

Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg

Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg

Beyond Expulsion: Jews, Christians, and Reformation Strasbourg

Synopsis

Beyond Expulsion is a history of Jewish-Christian interactions in early modern Strasbourg, a city from which the Jews had been expelled and banned from residence in the late fourteenth century. This study shows that the Jews who remained in the Alsatian countryside continued to maintain relationships with the city and its residents in the ensuing period. During most of the sixteenth century, Jews entered Strasbourg on a daily basis, where they participated in the city's markets, litigated in its courts, and shared their knowledge of Hebrew and Judaica with Protestant Reformers. By the end of the sixteenth century, Strasbourg became an increasingly orthodox Lutheran city, and city magistrates and religious leaders sought to curtail contact between Jews and Christians. This book unearths the active Jewish participation in early modern society, traces the impact of the Reformation on local Jews, discusses the meaning of tolerance, and describes the shifting boundaries that divided Jewish and Christian communities.

Excerpt

“On Saturdays, we Jews have rest, and neither trade nor travel.” Thus wrote Jaeckel of Oberbergheim to the magistrates of the city of Strasbourg in May 1548. Jaeckel, a Jew residing in a small village in Upper Alsace, had been summoned to Strasbourg for a court case that was scheduled for the Jewish Sabbath. He sent the magistrates a written request for adjournment of the case, proposing that he appear before the municipal court on a different day of their choice instead. Similarly, Gotlieb of Hagenau negotiated with Strasbourg’s magistracy about extending a court date because of the Sabbath. in 1566, Gotlieb wrote to the magistrates concerning a court case between his wards and a local burgher, Heinrich Preusser:

As is evident from the aforementioned writing … I should appear
before your honors tomorrow, Saturday, at six o’clock…. However,
Your Honors [know] that as a Jew, on Saturdays I cannot perform cer
tain things; also it is not proper. So, therefore, to Your Honors, is my
subservient request. You will show me another day, during the week.

These brief exchanges have relatively little historical significance, other than that they neatly capture these surprising interactions, which, barring research in archives, would remain hidden. the city of Strasbourg had expelled its Jewish community in 1390. Jews were not readmitted into the city until 1791. and yet, despite the apparent exclusion of Jews from Strasbourg for four hundred years, Jews not only entered the city during that period but also appeared as litigants in its courts, corresponded with its magistrates, taught Hebrew and Judaica to the city’s Christian religious reformers, and worked and socialized with local residents. Jaeckel’s . . .

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