The main objective of this paper is to understand which type of Judaism existed in late ancient European Jewish communities during late antiquity. In order to achieve that objective, I will analyze not only evidence produced by the Jews in Western Europe – mainly epigraphic evidence – but also texts created by non-Jewish groups. The main hypothesis of this paper is that late ancient European Jews were not rabbinized in Late Antiquity. Their languages, their names, their religious offices and other cultural markers were not yet influenced by a rabbinic movement that – as the latest historiographical approaches show – grew slowly even in the Land of Israel and Babylonia.
The paper compares Jewish and Christian chronicles of the First Crusade (1096), which commemorate the massacre of Jews in Mainz in Germany, and the Hebrew historical account Sefer Zekhirah (Book of Remembrance) written by Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn (1132-1197), which commemorates the massacre of Jews in the French city Blois in 1171. Ephraim wrote the Sefer Zekhirah and dirges on the sufferings of the Jews during the Second Crusade (1147-1149). The purpose of the contribution is reading of the documents in their own light in order to make clear the textual history in relation to historical circumstances of massacres of Jews and to influences of the texts of the 12th century on transmission and perception of Jewish martyriological tradition which transcends historical conditions with dimensions of Jewish faith and theology.