IMC 2017: Sessions

Session 1725: Conversion and Reversion

Thursday 6 July 2017, 14.15-15.45

Moderator/Chair:Irven Resnick, Department of Philosophy & Religion, University of Tennessee, Chattanooga
Paper 1725-aGrief and Glory: Hebrew Crusade Chronicles and Piyyutim as Deterrents for Adolescent Conversion
(Language: English)
Esther Bernstein, Graduate Center, City University of New York
Index terms: Crusades, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Language and Literature - Other
Paper 1725-bDebaptism, Rebaptism, and Recircumcision: Spiritual Transformation among Jews and Christians in 13th- and 14th-Century France
(Language: English)
Jessica Marin Elliott, Department of History, Missouri State University
Index terms: Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Religious Life, Social History
Abstract

Paper -a:
The 12th-century Hebrew literature about the Crusades of 1096 may have been used, in part, to influence adolescent Jewish boys who were at that time perceived as susceptible to conversion to Christianity. The adolescent audience is situated in a chain of Jewish glory via narratives of parental pride and depictions of children’s grief and awe for young martyrs. With the chronicles and poetic lamentations causing them to look back to their parents, whose hopes for the future rest with them, and forward to the generations they may inspire, the boys would be persuaded not to leave their religion and community.

Paper -b:
Rituals of baptism and circumcision have been central to recent discussions of medieval religious practice and identity. This research has primarily focused on baptism and circumcision as birth rituals among Christians and Jews, respectively, in northern Europe. Less attention has been paid to these rituals as initiation rites for adult converts and the ways in which such rituals could be adapted to mark a repentant apostate’s return to Judaism. This paper will focus on 13th and 14th-century France, examining cases of ambivalent converts to Christianity who underwent multiple baptisms, as well as the use of debaptism and recircumcision rituals to reintegrate repentant apostates into the Jewish community. The paper will draw on evidence from rabbinic texts, chronicles, inquisitorial records, and episcopal visitation registers to argue that in certain circumstances, rituals of spiritual transformation could be both repeated and undone, as individuals crossed and re-crossed the boundary between the ‘Other’ and the ‘Familiar’.