Learning from the Dead about the Living: Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Northern Europe
David S. Lobel Visiting Scholar Lecture
This talk focuses on Jewish cemeteries in medieval Germany to investigate what can be said about the lives of medieval Jews based on the landscape and artifacts related to death that have survived. The epitaphs from these cemeteries are especially useful as they shed light on members of the community who left no written record and are rarely mentioned in extant documents, be they rabbinic or administrative. The evidence from these cemeteries and what remains from them will be assessed and discussed in light of some of the working assumptions of historians to date and the implications of these findings will be used to suggest some revisions to known theses. Especially important in the talk will be information related to daily religious practice and to social categories.
This study is part of the ongoing research project Beyond the Elite: Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Europe (funded by the European Research Council).
Elisheva Baumgarten is the Prof. Yitzchak Becker Chair for Jewish Studies and professor in the Department of Jewish History and Contemporary Jewry and the Department of History. Her research focuses on the social history of the Jews of medieval Ashkenaz. Her book Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton, 2004) won the Koret Prize for the Best Book in Jewish History (2005) and the AJS Schnitzer award for the Best Book in Gender Studies (2008).She is the author of many articles and the editor of half a dozen collections of essays. Her second book Practicing Piety in Medieval Ashkenaz: Men, Women and Everyday Religious Observance was published by University of Pennsylvania Press in fall 2014. Her book Biblical Women and Jewish Daily Life in Medieval Ashkenaz is forthcoming.