My paper deals with the attitude of the Jews living in the medieval Christian world to Jews who converted to Christianity. The research refers to the areas of Germany, Northern France, and England. The research about otherness, self-identity, and socialization are based on Hebrew sources from the 11 century up to the end of the 14 century.
Jews in the Rhineland in the Middle Ages where a small religious minority, and they did fit the definition of The Other. From their own perspective, in order to enhance their self- perception as a unique religious group, the gentile had few theological definitions as the other. Yet, it is surprising to find out how scarce it was. In my paper I will present several Halakhik examples of efforts of rabbis in the Rhineland to describe the gentile as equal legally and theologically. They did that by annulling Talmudic laws that demanded separation from the gentiles. Although it seems that necessity caused this attitude, I claim that it was based upon a deep theological foundation. The paper will focus on Halakhik examples and on theological texts.
My lecture will refer to individuals in Jewish communities who deviate from social norms and do not see eye to eye with common regulations and morals. I will concentrate on Ottoman Jewish society in the 16th and 17th centuries, and discuss the various attitudes towards such ‘others’, who do not respect halakhic decisions, and the means available – or not – to halakhic and communal leaders in their struggle against obstinate law-breakers.