Love Work And Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria

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Love, Work, and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria

by Ariel Toaff  Translated by Judith Landry

Littman Library of Jewish Civilization Paperback – Illustrated, 31 Aug 2010

 The latter part of the thirteenth century is regarded as a key period in the history of Italian Jewry. During that time many Jewish communities sprang up in the regions of central and northern Italy. Their appearance marked a turning-point in the history of Jews in the Italian peninsula as the Jewish presence had previously been focused on Rome and the south. In this much-acclaimed study, originally published in Italian, Ariel Toaff captures all the intricacies of everyday life in the medieval Jewish communities of Umbria.

A thorough examination of Hebrew and Italian archival sources enables him to characterize in detail the defining features of Jewish life in the region at that time and to show clearly how the common stereotype of a single, undifferentiated Jewish community does not reflect the reality. Instead, he presents a picture of a complex society that-far from being a 'mere' minority and somewhat isolated-actually contributed greatly to contemporary society and played a significant role in shaping it, while at the same time also being influenced by the surrounding Christian society.

Professor Toaff elaborates contemporary Jewish traditions and practices associated with love, marriage, food, work, sickness, and death in the context of everyday social relations between Christians and Jews. In so doing he presents a full and fascinating reconstruction of the Jewish life of the period that faithfully reflects the links and divides between the two communities.

Engagingly written, Love, Work, and Death: Jewish Life in Medieval Umbria will be of interest to the general reader, while its detailed references to archival documentation make it a particularly valuable source for students of medieval Jewish history and specialists in the social history of medieval and Renaissance Italy.