Littman Library of Jewish Civilization

The Golden Age of Aragonese Jewry

Community and Society in the Crown of Aragon
Yom Tov Assis

The medieval Crown of Aragon reached the peak of its power and influence in the thirteenth century, and Jews took an active part in this expansion. In this detailed and meticulously researched study Yom Tov Assis deals with many important aspects of this period, which was truly a 'Golden Age' in the history of Aragonese and Catalan Jews, both in terms of their relationship with the Crown and of their own cultural achievements.

More info

'An essential book for anyone interested in Jewish life in medieval Spain, or in medieval Europe.'
Elka Klein, Medieval Review

'A most welcome book, solidly based on vast documentation. It crowns several decades of work by the author in these sources . . . it offers the reader a richly textured understanding fo the real context of Jewish life in Iberia during this period.'
David J. Wasserstein, Mediterranean Historical Review

'Significant contribution to medieval Jewish history . . . absorbing and enlightening reading . . . One finishes the book with a satisfying impression of Jewish life in medieval Catalonia and Aragon.'
Leila Arvin, Jewish Book World

'Solidly based on both Jewish and non-Jewish sources . . . The picture that emerges from this monumental work does indeed contain many of the elements of a "Golden Age" . . . [contributes] significantly to our understanding of some vibrant Jewish communities which have often been neglected . . . is to be lauded . . . excellent and valuable.'
John Edwards, Journal of Jewish Studies

The medieval Crown of Aragon reached the peak of its power and influence in the thirteenth century, and Jews took an active part in this expansion. In this detailed and meticulously researched study Yom Tov Assis deals with many important aspects of this period, which was truly a 'Golden Age' in the history of Aragonese and Catalan Jewry, both in terms of their relationship with the Crown and of their own cultural achievements.

Professor Assis provides the most extensive treatment yet of Jewish self-government in the Hispanic kingdoms and the mutual interdependence of the Jewish and Christian communities. He describes institutions in very great detail, and examines the acute social problems that arose in the Jewish community and the dissent, polemics, and controversies that divided it. He shows how the proximity of the country to France and Provence on the one hand, and to Castile and Andalusia on the other, made Catalan Jewry a point of contact between Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jewry, demonstrating the effect this had on religious and cultural life, and in particular the consequences of the growing influence in Spain of Franco-German Jewry.

The book is based on a very wide variety of primary sources-Jewish and non-Jewish, archival and halakhic material, notarial and royal records-in Latin, Catalan, Aragonese, and Hebrew. By drawing on these extensive sources, the author has been able to create a comprehensive description of the social, religious, and administrative aspects of Jewish life that throws much light on the wider society and economy of that period under the Crown of Aragon. The abundant detailed source notes make this an indispensable work of reference for all scholars of medieval Spanish history.

 

About the author

Yom Tov Assis is Professor of Medieval Jewish History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, former Chair of the Institute of Jewish Studies and the Dinur Centre for the Study of Jewish History, and currently Head of the Ben-Zvi Institute for the Study of Jewish Communities in the East and Hispania Judaica Centre for the Study of Jewish History and Culture in Sepharad. He has published extensively on the history of the Jews in the Middle Ages, and his books include The Jews of Santa Coloma de Queralt (1988), with R. Magdalena, The Jews of Navarre in the Late Middle Ages (1990), Aljamía romance en los documentos hebraiconavarros (siglo XIV) (1992), Jewish Economy in the Medieval Crown of Aragon (1997), and with R. Magdalena and C. Lleal, Navarra hebraica (2003).

Contents

The Sources
Abbreviations
Maps
Introduction
The 'Golden Age' * The Crown of Aragon * The Jews of Catalonia and Aragon before 1213
Part 1 The Legal and Political Conditions
The Status of the Jews in the Crown of Aragon * Royal Privileges * The Crown, the Church, and the Jews
Part 2 Jewish Self-Government
The Jewish Community in the Crown of Aragon * The System of Communal Government * Elections and Appointments * Leaders and Leadership * Communal Functionaries and Synagogue Officials * The Law and the Judiciary
Part 3 Inter-Communal Relations
Relations between Communities * Regional Communal Organization * The Catalan Collectas * The Collecta in Roussillon * Inter-Communal Relations and Organization in Aragon * Inter-Communal Organization in Valencia
Part 4 The Jewish Quarter
The Call or Judería * The Synagogue and House of Study * The Miqve and Public Baths * The Slaughterhouse * The Bakery * The Cemetery
Part 5 Jewish Society
Social Classes * Social Welfare and Mutual Aid * Family Life * Daily Life and Moral Conduct * Crime and Violence in the Judería
Part 6 Religious Life
Jewish Religious Trends in the Crown of Aragon: Between Sepharad and Ashkenaz * Scholars and Scholarship * Religious Supervision * Religious Practice, Divine Worship, and the Crown * Pious and Synagogal Fraternities * Jewish Education in the Crown of Aragon
Conclusion
Appendix 1: The monetary system in the medieval Crown of Aragon
Appendix 2: The sovereigns of the House of Aragon in the Crown of Aragon, Majorca-Roussillon, and Sicily, 1213-1336
Glossary
Bibliography
Index

 

Reviews

'General readers, as well as specialists, cannot fail to learn from the wide sweep of [the book's] erudition.'
David Nirenberg, AJS Review

'Significant contribution to medieval Jewish history . . . absorbing and enlightening reading . . . One finishes the book with a satisfying impression of Jewish life in medieval Catalonia and Aragon. In addition to the superb text, bibliography and index, the book's appendices are of great value: maps, a glossary of relevant Hebrew Castilian, Catalan, Aragonese, and Arabic terms, a genealogical chart of sovereigns, and an explanation of the currency with monetary equivalents.'
Leila Arvin, Jewish Book World

'It is solidly based on both Jewish and non-Jewish sources . . . The picture that emerges from this monumental work (for the two books must be regarded as one for this purpose and together they constitute a worthy and much more complete successor to the pioneering efforts of Jean Régné) does indeed contain many of the elements of a 'Golden Age' . . . they contribute significantly to our understanding of some vibrant Jewish communities which have often been neglected . . . the achievement of these books is to be lauded . . . excellent and valuable work.'
John Edwards, Journal of Jewish Studies (reviewing this book together with Jewish Economy in the Medieval Crown of Aragon)

'A much needed distillation of the fruits of scholarship on the Jews in the Crown of Aragon . . . conveys a sense of the variety and creativity of the Jewish experience in the Middle Ages, and of Jewish history as viewed from the inside. When all is said and done, this is an essential book for anyone interested in Jewish life in medieval Spain, or in medieval Europe.'
Elka Klein, Medieval Review

'A most welcome book, solidly based on vast documentation. It crowns several decades of work by the author in these sources . . . it offers the reader a richly textured understanding fo the real context of Jewish life in Iberia during this period.'
David J. Wasserstein, Mediterranean Historical Review

'The thematic coverage is so broad that no survey can do it justice . . . Assis offers scholars a starting point (and much more) from which they can take up specific areas of interest . . . the fact that he clarifies the terminological confusion that frequently characterizes Hebrew sources is of great importance . . . a wealth of information and commentary that will serve researchers for many years.'
Marc D. Meirson, Zion

 

Prizes

Winner of the Sam Toledano Prize for the best book on Spanish Jewry 1999