Liv­ing Togeth­er, Liv­ing Apart: Rethink­ing Jew­ish-Chris­t­ian Rela­tions in the Mid­dle Ages

Jonathan Elukin
  • Review
By – November 14, 2011

Jew­ish life among Chris­tians in the Mid­dle Ages is often imag­ined as an expe­ri­ence of unmit­i­gat­ed suf­fer­ing: eco­nom­ic exploita­tion fol­lowed by bloody per­se­cu­tion, cli­max­ing in a series of expul­sions from West­ern Europe. In this book, Jonathan Elukin asks us to change that men­tal image by shift­ing our focus. Instead of empha­siz­ing the con­flicts between Chris­tians and Jews, Elukin shows how deeply inter­con­nect­ed the two groups were in their every­day lives. They lived togeth­er, worked togeth­er, and even attend­ed each other’s wed­dings. This day-to-day inter­ac­tion cre­at­ed habits of tol­er­ance” that made liv­ing togeth­er possible. 

Elukin, who teach­es his­to­ry at Trin­i­ty Col­lege, makes use of cut­ting-edge schol­ar­ship on medieval Europe to clar­i­fy the dif­fer­ing cir­cum­stances that con­trolled Jew­ish lives. Jews in dif­fer­ent places learned how to defend them­selves appro­pri­ate­ly, depend­ing on the local bal­ance of pow­er between princes, bish­ops, mer­chants, and peas­ants. Span­ning more than a mil­len­ni­um (5th to 16th cen­turies), he gives the read­er a flow­ing account of both indi­vid­ual events and large-scale trends. Some­times, the com­plex­i­ty of the details does not receive jus­tice, and it is a shame that almost no inter­nal Jew­ish sources are dis­cussed. As a lucid, up-to-date sur­vey of Chris­t­ian- Jew­ish rela­tions in the pre-mod­ern peri­od, it is help­ful and thought-pro­vok­ing. Index, notes.

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