How has Judaism helped society?

THE JEWS IN THE
MEDIEVAL TOWN

Table of Contents:

1 Introduction
2. The settlement of Jews
3. The legal position of the Jews
4. Social position of the Jews
5. Economic activity
6. Position of the Jews in the time of the Crusades
7. Hostility towards Jews in the late Middle Ages 14
8. Important structural facilities 16

8.1. The synagogue 17
8.2. The Mikveh 18
8.3. The cemetery 19
8.4. The slaughterhouse 19
8.5. The dance house 20
9. Celebrations and everyday customs 20
10. Bibliography 22
11. Draft of lesson 23
11.1. Factual analysis 23
11.2. Framework conditions 25
11.3. Lesson picture 26
11.4. Detailed execution of the planning 27

1 Introduction
The history of the Jews in the European Middle Ages has undergone massive changes over the centuries. In the early days of urban development, the Jewish population experienced a true heyday, with privileges over Christian townspeople and was well respected among broad sections of the population. They were considered to be the bearers of the natural sciences and philosophy and thus played an important role as cultural mediators. Not infrequently, the personal physicians and financial advisors were the rulers of Jewish origin.

After the first crusade in 1095, however, there was a profound change in the social and legal position of the Jews. The growing hostility towards the Jewish minority on the part of the Christian population led to violent attacks, expulsions and murder.

The reasons for this change are complex. Anti-Jewish tendencies have probably always existed in spite of the wide acceptance. Church doctrine, but also ignorance of the foreign culture, were probably the main causes of hostility in the Christian environment.

Another, no less important, cause can be found in the social change of the urban population. In the course of the centuries a strong, economically active middle class and craftsmen developed, who saw in the Jews a serious economic competition.

The consequences were reflected in social and legal restrictions on the Jewish minority.

 

2. The settlement of Jews

Most of the Jews came to Western Europe through immigration. They came as traders from Spain as well as from the Eastern Roman-Byzantine and Islamic domains. Most of these Jewish merchants settled along the trade routes. This is how Jewish settlements arose that expanded across Europe from west to east and from south to north.

However, there were Jewish settlements in German-speaking countries as early as Roman times.

The Jewish traders found that urban life favored their economic activities and subsequently settled there. Within the city walls or the bishopric, the Jewish merchants were under the protection of the city lords. Over time, the urban environment became the typical form of existence for the Jews.

At the beginning of urban development in the German-speaking area, the Jews were practically on an equal footing with the other city dwellers. So is in legal certificates of the 11th century. of ceteris cives Speech.

The existence of a Jewish community reflected the economic prosperity of a city and was therefore of particular importance.

The Jews were part of every major urban settlement in the Middle Ages. At the same time, however, they moved away from country life. For in feudal society it was unthinkable that an unbeliever could be a serf and his master a Christian or vice versa.

The reputation of the Jews in urban society was initially high. This was positively supported, above all, by the emergence of increased local and long-distance trade. The Jewish population had been active in this branch of business for centuries and so the German population was able to benefit and learn from their diverse experiences.

The bishops as well as the secular city lords and landlords often entrusted the Jews with the coinage, the handling of financial affairs and the recording of economic data.

Most of the Jews settled near castles and in market towns and soon formed their own communities there. Others lived in independent "Jewish villages" outside a city. Even today you can find numerous place names that are reminiscent of such branches.

It was not infrequently the city lords themselves who tried to get Jews to settle. On the one hand they wanted to benefit from their knowledge of trade and money business, on the other hand they hoped for a revival of the urban market.

 

3. The legal position of the Jews

In the Middle Ages, Jews were subject to certain legal norms that regulated their legal position in the Christian environment.

Since the early Middle Ages, these rights were regulated by privileges, which were issued either to individuals or to entire communities. Nevertheless, the rights were relatively homogeneous throughout the empire.

Such privileges were granted by the German king. However, he could also enfeoff another, such as the bishop, with the Jewish shelf, who then subsequently issued the privileges. The ruler's duty to protect the Jewish minority was tied to the Jewish shelf.

However, in order to receive this protection from the Lord against attacks, the Jews had to pay taxes regularly.

The Jewish population was initially assured of their property, both lying and moving. They were also allowed to own property inside and outside the city walls. They could inherit, trade or sell their property without being subject to any legal restrictions.

An important point of the privileges was the assurance of the free exercise of trade, as well as the freedom from customs duties and the waiver of road money and other fees.

Furthermore, the Jews were exempt from the obligation to host guests, which means that they were not obliged, like the other townspeople, to take members of the retinue into their homes when they were traveling to the court.

Furthermore, they were exempt from the obligation to provide horses or other services on royal campaigns.

Furthermore, the Jews were permitted not to return stolen property that had been acquired in good faith to the previous owner without compensation.

Later this privilege, the so-called "fence privilege", contributed to the deterioration of the position of the Jews in society, since the Christian population over this

Right and the Jews thus came into contact with the unauthorized and criminals.

Basically, Jews smell of acquiring all kinds of goods and possessions. The acquisition was usually made through purchase, exchange or pawn shop. So they were not subject to any restrictions with regard to the right to purchase.

In the late 11th century. the right to change money was added.

The Jewish community was also given its own court. On the one hand, this was intended to prevent the Jews from being discriminated against the Christians in terms of procedural law; on the other hand, it was an attempt to enable them to live according to their religious rules and traditions.

The judge of the Jews was the German king or emperor, provided that he had not passed the Jewish shelf to anyone else. In a legal dispute between Jews, the head of the synagogue, the so-called archisynagogus or episcopus judeorum, to be responsible.

If no agreement could be found, they were free to turn to the royal or episcopal court. The same was true of disputes between Jews and Christians. Legal disputes of the latter type came before an ordinary court, whereby great importance was attached to the equality of witness statements.

The forced baptism of Jewish children was forbidden. Adult Jews were only allowed to be baptized after a period of three days. This provision was made because Jews who adopted a different faith lost their father's inheritance and often later had to be supported by the church.

Christian servants and wet nurses were allowed to be employed in Jewish households. However, services on Sundays and public holidays were prohibited. The keeping of Christian slaves, however, was strictly forbidden.

From the 12th century onwards, there was a change in the legal position of the Jewish population.

As a result of the boom in trade, the rulers' need for money and credit increased. In contrast to the Jewish population, the Christian population could not be imposed any new taxes without the approval of the estates.

The Jews were placed under what is known as "chamber servitude". Originally intended as protection, it soon became an extremely practical pretext to impose new taxes on Jews. Emperor Friedrich II declared in a privilege in 1237 that he was their master, "since imperial power has imposed eternal bondage on these Jews as a punishment for sin since ancient times"

The fate of the Jews was therefore closely related to the discretion of the respective ruler.

The rulers' right to property over the Jews, as well as the protective function, was never questioned. However, in the course of the 14th and 15th centuries, the Jewish shelf came more and more to the lower classes of the Empire in the form of loans, pledges, objects of purchase or donations, who were not always well disposed towards the Jewish population.

 

4. Social position of the Jews

In the early phase of urban development, the Jews were not discriminated against the Christian city dwellers. On the contrary, they enjoyed many rights that were withheld from the Christian population.

The Jews lived in their own quarters, but this fact had nothing to do with exclusion, rather it corresponded to the settlement habits of the time. Non-Jewish merchants could also settle in the same quarter.

In some cities the Jewish quarter was demarcated by a wall, which was a special privilege of the city rulers and not, as was later, a discriminatory measure.

The residential districts of the Jews were mostly in an upscale area of ​​the city, near the castle, the bishop's church or the town hall.

The Jews were also allowed to own weapons and, like the Christian townspeople, took part in guard duty and town defense.

In some cities they themselves worked in administration and other important positions.

The Jewish population was generally well integrated into the urban environment.

At first they enjoyed a relatively high reputation and were given equal rights to the rest of the population. However, this fact should not hide the fact that the Christian environment was by no means tolerant and the Church vehemently defended the principle that salvation can only be achieved through the Christian religion.

Despite the general acceptance in the Christian environment, anti-Jewish tendencies were always present.

The Jewish population was collectively accused of being responsible for Christ's death. That is why they were included in the so-called general land peace in 1103 as a particularly vulnerable group. Linked to the peace in the country was the ban on carrying arms. This rule otherwise only applied to priests, unfree people and servants. However, since only the weapon bearer was considered to have full legal capacity, the socio-legal situation of the Jewish population deteriorated within a short time.

5. Economic activity

The spectrum of Jewish activities was broad and ranged from tannery to medicine. Jews were to be found in almost every occupation in the cities.

In addition to their function as moneylenders and money changers, the Jewish urban population carried out a variety of other activities. They worked as artisans, small traders and wholesalers, and also carried out commercial transactions in a large sense. They were also active as peddlers and in outpatient trading.

Until the 11th century, the Jews were indispensable in their function as traders for the empire. That is why they were under the special protection of the ruler and enjoyed some privileges, such as tariff privileges and exemption from other sales taxes.

It was precisely the diversity of economic activity that was characteristic of the Jewish population.

Forms of income such as money lending and trade helped many Jews to prosperity, which came close to the Christian upper class.

In the 14th century, however, there was a significant restriction in terms of areas of activity. The reason for this change lay in the emergence of an organized class of merchants and craftsmen - the guilds and guilds - to which the Jewish population had no access. Thus, the production of Jewish craftsmen was limited to their own use.

The urban bourgeoisie gradually took over the trade in goods and it was in their interest to largely eliminate Jewish competition.

Due to the expulsion from many occupations, the economic activity of the Jews was almost exclusively limited to credit transactions.

 

6. Position of the Jews in the time of the Crusades

With the advent of the idea of ​​a crusade, the situation of the Jews worsened. It was not uncommon for forced baptisms, violent attacks, expulsions and murder to occur.

When Pope Urban II called for a fight against the enemies of Christians at the Council of Clermont in 1095, the result was severe persecution of Jews in France and Germany.

Shortly after the crusader army broke up, violent attacks on the local Jewish population occurred in northern France. Germany was soon gripped by the wave of violence. The Rhenish Jewish communities suffered the worst.

The German Emperor Heinrich IV, the protector of the Jews and at the time in Italy, instructed the bishops to protect the Jews. However, these excesses could not always be prevented. In some cities, neither the financial means nor the troops available were sufficient to provide effective protection.

The fate of many Jewish communities depended on the behavior of their respective citizens. Where the bourgeoisie supported the bishop, such as in Speyer, a catastrophe could be prevented. The persecution became severe in other cities where the citizenry was opposed. In Worms, the Jewish community mourned 800 deaths, although not a few of the Christian townspeople had taken Jews into their homes for protection.

Already at the time of the first crusade in Germany there were allegations of ritual murder, i.e. the murder of a Christian boy for ritual purposes, and well poisoning. Such accusations were quickly picked up by the superstitious population and were often the catalyst for attacks on Jewish communities.

When the emperor returned from his stay in Italy, he cracked down on those responsible with the utmost severity.

Against the will of Rome, he allowed the forcibly baptized Jews to return to their faith.

The events of the First Crusade clearly showed that the Jewish population could not really be protected.

That is why the emperor included them in the Mainz State Peace in 1103. As a result, the Jews achieved a new status, namely that of homines minus potentes. They were therefore particularly in need of protection. This new status affected all imperial residents who could defend themselves to a lesser extent, including clergymen, women, widows and children. A crime against a member of this group was at the same time a crime against the Reich and could be atoned for by an embarrassing punishment.

In contrast to the earlier privileges, this right was valid for all Jews in the entire empire.

However, this new provision also restricted the former rights of the Jewish minority. Until now they had been allowed to carry weapons. As imperial residents in particular need of protection, however, they had to be unarmed. If they carried arms, they were only subject to the general protection of the Reich, just like all other free and unfree people. The Jews were therefore not subject to a direct ban on weapons. However, the reduction in the ability to carry weapons and the emphasis on their need for protection involuntarily led to a lowering of the social status. The fact that the Jews could no longer defend themselves diminished their honor.

The impairment caused by the incidents of the First Crusade was particularly evident in economic life. The Jews lost their monopoly in long-distance trade. That was also the reason why they turned to lending and pawnbroking more and more in their economic activity.

There were riots again in the second crusade in 1147. Money lending at exorbitant interest rates was cited as the reason for the violent repression against the Jews. However, the number of victims did not reach the proportions of the first crusade.

It was not until the third crusade in 1189/90 that Frederick I.Barbarossas and the bishops, worse excesses are prevented.

7. Anti-Semitism in the late Middle Ages:

The situation of the Jews had already deteriorated significantly in the 13th century when the artisans of the cities gained influence. Many city dwellers of the lower classes saw in the Jews allies of the ruling classes.

The protection of Jews had changed in the late Middle Ages. Usually it was in the hands of the respective territorial lords. In the event of a pogrom, the ruler would claim the property of the murdered man. Thus, the Jews were practically at the mercy of the ruler, who only protected them in his own interest. However, since they were an important source of income for the Reich as taxpayers, they were largely protected.

The Jews, in their role as moneylenders, for their part raised ever higher securities for their loans.

However, the arbitrary issuing of letters of death or the complete waiver of interest payments to the Jews, and later also the complete abolition of loan repayments by the ruler, led to the impoverishment of the Jewish communities.

The negative attitude of some rulers towards this ethnic group, which according to the law was actually considered particularly in need of protection, was of course not without reverberation among the broad masses.

Since the end of the 13th century there have been repeated accusations of ritual murder, well poisoning and desecration of the host, which found expression in violent attacks.

The persecution of the Jews in the middle of the 14th century represented the deepest turning point in Jewish history in the Middle Ages.

The causes of the persecution were profound social conflict situations within the urban population.

The plague epidemic that hit Europe at the time was just a trigger.

The suspicion spread among the Christian population that the Jews had poisoned the wells. It usually preceded the plague and resulted in the Jewish population falling victim to persecution before the epidemic hit. Hardly any place was spared from the pogroms.

At that time, the Jewish population was already subject to massive social discrimination. A special dress code for Jews was introduced as early as the 4th Lateran Council in 1215, but this was not followed everywhere. They were also subject to restrictions on building houses and purchasing land in cities. Now they had to surround their residential area with a wall, which no longer represented a privilege of the city lords, as in earlier times, but served to separate them from the Christian population. In some cities the Jews were resettled from the posh residential areas to poorer neighborhoods.

The Jewish businesses were recorded separately from the Christian businesses in a separate Jewish book.

It was not uncommon for the rulers to arrest Jewish communities in entire regions due to financial difficulties in order to confiscate all of their property.

The accusation of collaborating with the Hussites, desecrating hosts and killing Christian children led to the murder of entire Jewish communities.

As a result, Jews were expelled from large areas of the German Empire at the end of the 15th century.

Most of the displaced migrated eastwards, where the economy was not as developed.

It must be noted, however, that the Jewish population did not live in demarcated ghettos in all cities and that they had to distinguish themselves from the Christian city dwellers through dress codes. In many cities the Jews were granted citizenship.

The ghetto could offer protection as well as demarcation and the dress code sometimes complied with demarcation requests on the part of the Jews. The typical Jewish hat had no discriminatory function. The yellow stain, on the other hand, that was sewn onto clothing was considered discriminatory, but is rarely shown in image sources.

 

8. Important structural facilities of the Jewish communities

The term "Jewish community" is understood to mean the entirety of the Jews who lived in a demarcated area, were under a certain rule and had access to various facilities.

In Jewish settlements, buildings used for the performance of religious duties were of particular importance.

In addition to the residential buildings, larger communities had a whole range of facilities such as a synagogue, ritual bath, slaughterhouse, cemetery and dance hall.

 

8.1 The synagogue

The synagogue was the center of every congregation. It was the center of intellectual and cultural life. It was also the seat of the rabbinical court. The synagogue was also the place where public pronouncements were read. In older times the synagogue was also used for studying the Torah and was therefore also referred to as the "Jewish school".

If there was no financial means, a private house was often used as a synagogue. However, as soon as money was available and the size of the community allowed, a synagogue was built.

The location of the synagogue was always in the middle of the community. This fact should underline the central place of religion in life.

In the Jewish religious code, the so-called Halacha, there are precise rules on how a synagogue is to be built. A synagogue consisted of a central room and a front building from which one could get to the street. According to the regulations, it was not allowed to adjoin other houses.

In the interior there were two facilities that were needed for the Jewish services. The first was the shrine or niche. It was on the east wall that faced Jerusalem. This is where the scrolls were kept.

The second facility was the lectern, Bima or Almemor called. It was in the middle of the synagogue. In front of the synagogue was the school yard, a place where weddings, but also judicial proceedings within the community, were held. The school yard was the only open space in the neighborhood.

The Jewish shelf was also connected with the protection of the synagogues. If the Jewish population was expelled, however, the synagogues were often torn down, converted into churches or given away.

8.2 The mikveh

The mikveh was the Jewish bathhouse and was a religious institution. In addition to the mikveh, however, there was also a public bath that was used for personal hygiene. The church prohibited Jews and Christians from bathing together as a penalty.

The ritual bath, the so-called mikveh, was an immersion bath. Complete immersion resulted in ritual purity.

Over time, the mikveh was mainly used by women who were obliged to visit this facility before marriage, after childbirth and after menstruation.

However, the mikveh also served other ritual purposes. New dishes were submerged in the basin before they were used for the first time, and religious Jews were submerged before the Sabbath.

The water basin was subject to specified regulations regarding the amount of water. The mikveh had to use groundwater or rainwater

be filled. Most of the time the plunge pool was at the bottom of a deep shaft, which was reached by stairs. A bathing tower was usually built over this.

 

8.3 The cemetery

Only larger communities also had their own cemetery. According to ritual regulations, this was always outside the city.

Smaller communities buried their dead in the cemeteries of larger communities. The transportation costs and funeral fees, which they had to pay for themselves, were often very high.

If the Jewish population of a city was expelled or withdrawn, the fate of the cemeteries was similar to that of the synagogues. Most of them were destroyed, the tombstones smashed and used as building material.

 

8.4 The slaughterhouse

Each community had its own slaughterhouse or meat bank. This facility was of particular importance because the Jewish religion had certain rules governing the preparation and consumption of meat. Accordingly, they were not allowed to eat various parts of the meat and often tried to sell them to Christians. However, the Christian population was prohibited from buying meat from animals that had been slaughtered by Jews.

This prohibition was not difficult to obey, because among the Christians the belief was widespread that the Jews did the part

of the meat that they were not allowed to eat "spit on and

left the water on it so that Christians could swallow death from it ".

 

8.5 The dance house

Banquets and wedding celebrations took place in the community's own "Judenspielhaus". This facility was also called "Judentanzhaus" or "Hochzeitshaus".

At the wedding celebrations, great value was placed on good and rich food.

Jewish, but also non-Jewish musicians provided entertainment. It was forbidden for men to dance with women.

Nonetheless, same-sex dancing was amused, mostly in the form of a mitzvah dance.

 

9. Celebrations and everyday customs

The main expressions of Jewish life are festivals that accompany the course of the year. While in the Christian world the festivals changed their form over the centuries or disappeared completely, the Jewish celebrations show a centuries, even millennia old continuity.

In the medieval city, the Jewish festivals took place mainly in the context of the family. Thus the customs were withheld from the eyes of Christians. Since such a way of handling the privacy of the Christian population of that time was unknown, this behavior aroused suspicion. It was suspected that something illegal was going on behind the walls. Perhaps that was also one of the reasons for the growing hostility towards Jews among Christian townspeople.

The Jewish religion has a number of holidays and festivals that already played an important role in the lives of Jews in the Middle Ages.

On the weekly Sabbath, the Jewish day of rest, there was no work, the women did not cook and no one left the place. No business was done or goods transported through the city streets.

Other important festivals, such as Purim, Pesach, Hanukkah, Shabhuot and others, all with a religious character, spread over the year.