Medieval Jewish Medicine

Jewish practitioners participated in the exchange of knowledge between Christian and Muslim writers and practitioners. The Book of Remedies, the earliest medical text written in Hebrew, to Asaph the Jew, dates to the seventh or eighth century.[1] The text comprises four parts; a story of the transmission of medicine from God to mankind, a medical[…]

The Jewish Roman World of Early Christianity

In 63 B.C.E. Pompey was invited to settle a dispute between two Maccabeans. Thus came the Romans. By Dr. Dennis C. DulingProfessor Emeritus of Religious StudiesNiagara University Introduction “Judaism” in the time of Jesus is more properly designated “Judaisms” as it can include a rich variety of forms and practices that flourished during late Second[…]

Esther Nisenthal Krinitz: A Memory of Survival of the Holocaust in Art

A woman tells the story of her Holocaust survival through her embroidered art. “I am not going to Kraśnik,” Esther Nisenthal told her parents one night in the fall of 1942. The Nisenthals lived in Mniszek, Poland. Like all Jews in this village, they had been ordered to leave their homes and go to the[…]

Chicken Soup and Other Remedies: A History of Jewish Medicine in America

An exhibit touring many sites where Jewish culture and medicine intersect. By Paula Wasley Introduction Your bubbe was not the first to notice the restorative powers of chicken soup, aka “Jewish penicillin.” The Egyptian Jewish philosopher physician Maimonides prescribed the broth in the twelfth century as a curative for respiratory illnesses—a recommendation that was backed up in[…]

Books That Bind: Passover and the Rothschild Pentateuch

How shared texts offer community in a time of isolation. Every spring for millennia, Jews around the world have gathered to celebrate Passover, which commemorates the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Pharaonic Egypt. On the first two nights of the eight-day holiday, we participate in long festival meals called seders, where we sing[…]

A Long History of Ritual Innovation in Judaism

A historian of the Bible explains how ancient Israelites changed the ways of their worship. As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe, it is affecting how families celebrate important religious events such as Easter, Passover and Ramadan, which would normally involve the gathering of families. For example, in Judaism, Passover, which commemorates the exodus[…]

Ancient Hebrew Texts on Pregnancy and Abortion

The foundational Jewish texts assert that a fetus does not attain the status of personhood until birth. Traditional Jewish practice is based on careful reading of biblical and rabbinic teachings. The process yields “halakha,” generally translated as “Jewish law” but deriving from the Hebrew root for walking a path. Even though many Jews do not[…]

How Jewish Women Used Survival and Sabotage Strategies at Auschwitz

The women chose psychological sabotage and developed unique strategies. Introduction Nearly all the 1.3 million people sent to Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp in occupied Poland, were murdered – either sent to the gas chambers or worked to death. Life expectancy in many of these camps was between six weeks and three months. Over a[…]

Searching for Israelite Origins in Religious and Secular Sources

Most Jews today are the descendants of the Israelites, as are the Samaritans, only a few of who still survive. Introduction The Israelites, as described in the Hebrew Bible, were the descendants of the patriarch Jacob, later known as Israel. Jacob’s 12 sons formed the 12 tribes of Israel after emigrating to Egypt. Under the[…]

Kristallnacht 80 Years On: Some Reading about the Most Notorious State-Sponsored Pogrom

Eight decades on, the thought of the state encouraging people to attack groups of citizens is hard to believe. Here are some books that might help. Introduction On the evening of November 9 1938 a Nazi pogrom raged across German and Austrian cities. Nazis branded the atrocity with a poetic term: Kristallnacht or “Crystal Night”.[…]

The Mass Destruction of Jewish Homes during ‘Kristallnacht’

Most histories highlight the shattered storefronts and synagogues set aflame. But it was the systematic ransacking of Jewish homes that extracted the greatest toll. By Dr. Wolf GrunerShapell-Guerin Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of HistoryFounding Director, USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide ResearchDornsife College of Letters, Arts and SciencesUniversity of Southern California Introduction[…]

Jewish Immigration to America: Three Waves

Sephardic, German, and Eastern European immigrants each contributed to the formation of American Jewry. By Dr. Joellyn ZollmanJewish Historian Introduction America’s Jewish community is largely c, meaning it is made up of Jews who trace their ancestry to Germany and Eastern Europe. However, the first Jews to arrive in what would become the United States[…]

Rosh HaShanah: History, Meanings, and Customs

“Rosh HaShanah” means ‘head [of] the year’, referring to the Jewish day of new year. Introduction Rosh Hashanah (Hebrew: רֹאשׁ הַשָּׁנָה), literally meaning the “head [of] the year”, is the Jewish New Year. The biblical name for this holiday is Yom Teruah (יוֹם תְּרוּעָה), literally “day of shouting or blasting”. It is the first of[…]

The Rabbi, the Telegram, and the Holocaust

Seventy-seven years ago, a telegram bearing a horrifying and unforgettable message reached America’s foremost Jewish leader. It revealed the first comprehensive details about the systematic mass murder that would come to be known as the Holocaust. The author of the fateful message was Gerhart Riegner, a 30 year-old attorney serving as the Geneva representative of the World Jewish[…]

“It Can’t Happen Here”: Americans and the Holocaust

Widely held beliefs in eugenic “science” and pervasive fear of foreigners led the US Congress to pass quota laws that had severely restricted immigration to the United States since 1924. Introduction On his first day in office in 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt told the American people, “The only thing we have to fear is[…]

Jewish Cosmology in its Ancient Near Eastern Context

Considering the spread of Judaism from the viewpoint of other cultures in the Ancient Near East. Introduction The cosmology of the Hebrew Bible is basic not only to Judaism but also to Christianity, and its central features are accordingly well known to all of us. Our familiarity with the subject has a drawback, however. It necessarily makes us[…]

Palaeography: Medieval Scribes and the Transmission of Hebrew Scientific Works

Before the age of printing, the texts and layouts of Hebrew works were not standardised. This is because the transmission of works was out of the hands of their authors and in the hands of scribes. Dr Israel Sandman considers the intervention of scribes when copying Hebrew scientific works. When transmitting Hebrew works, scribes were[…]

Times Like Good Friday Were Dangerous for Medieval Jews

Language about Jews in the medieval Good Friday liturgy often carried over into physical violence toward local Jewish communities. As Christians observe Good Friday they will remember, with devotion and prayer, the death of Jesus on the Cross. It is a day of solemnity in which Christians give thanks for their salvation made possible by the suffering[…]

Antisemitism in the Middle Ages

The medieval period saw Jews experience intense antisemitism. Introduction The roots of antisemitism can be found in ancient history. Antisemitism existed prior to Christianity, as the work of Manetho from the third century BCE shows. However, antisemitism increased considerably following the rise of Christianity in Europe. This was partly due to the differences in belief,[…]

A Brief Overview of Jewish History from the Diaspora to the Middle Ages

Jews living in Europe were easy, early targets for Crusaders while life was comparatively tranquil in Islamic lands. By Dr. Jessica Hammerman (left) and Dr. Shaina Hammerman (right)Jessica Hammerman: Professor of History, Central Oregon Community CollegeShaina Hammerman: Professor of Jewish History and Culture, Lehrhaus Judaica For every period of Jewish history, interactions with non-Jews have been essential to forming Jewish[…]

Dead Sea Scrolls: Esoteric Code Reveals Ancient Priestly Calendar

Painstaking reconstruction of fragments of text has revealed the working draft of an ancient Jewish calendar and priestly duty schedule. About 1,000 Dead Sea Scrolls discovered just over 70 years ago near Khirbet Qumran on the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea have been officially published since the turn of the millennium. But in the case of[…]

A Brief Overview of the History of the Dead Sea Scrolls – and Forgeries

Five of the Dead Sea Scrolls at the Museum of Bible were found to be forged. The scrolls are considered priceless. Here’s why. The Museum of the Bible in Washington, D.C., has removed five Dead Sea Scrolls from exhibits after tests confirmed these fragments were not from ancient biblical scrolls but forgeries. Over the last decade, the Green family,[…]

The Maccabean Revolt: The Seleucid Fall and Rise of the Hasmonean Dynasty

The outcome was the formation of the Hasmonean Dynasty, an autonomous Jewish rule over Palestine that would last a generation. By Harry Oates Introduction After the death of Alexander the Great, his Kingdom was divided into four; Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, the Kingdom of Pergamon and Macedon (including Greece). Egypt, governed by Ptolemy I Soter[…]

A History of Arts and Culture in Jewish Hamburg

Jewish life did not solely consist of worrying about one’s day-to-day survival. Summary Jewish culture reflects the experience of Hamburg’s Jewish population. Jews might be the creators, sponsors or the audience of a given cultural product. It is often difficult to clearly separate Jewish culture from Christian culture. For example, the richly ornamented graves at[…]

Religion and Identity in Jewish Hamburg

The urban region of Hamburg represents a special case in the modern religious history of German Jewry in several regards. Summary The urban region of Hamburg represents a special case in the modern religious history of German Jewry in several regards: first, because the Ashkenazi Jews of the towns of Altona, Hamburg, and Wandsbek were[…]

The Jewish People, Expatriate Artists, and Political Radicalism in Interwar France

Jewish would-be artists began arriving in Paris in the decade before the First World War. Jews were new neither to Paris nor to the artistic avant-garde in the 1920s. What was new were both their numbers and visibility. One French study estimates that over five hundred Jewish artists were working in Paris in the interwar[…]

Why the U.S. Bombed Auschwitz but Didn’t Save the Jews

Bombing bridges and railway lines over which both deported Jews and German troops were transported could have qualified as necessary for military purposes. By Dr. Rafael MedovFounder and DirectorThe David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies Seventy-five years ago this week—on March 19, 1944—German troops marched into Hungary. The country’s 800,000 Jews, the last major[…]