Jews of Europe Syllabus

Study Questions, Week 4

Israel, Chapters 7-9

Chapter 7

How does Israel explain the timing of the debate over Jewish readmission?  Why did this take place at the end of the 1600s?

Who took the lead in fomenting anti-Jewish violence and opposing readmission  in Central Europe after 1648, and why?

Where all princes (and the Holy Roman Emperor) ready to protect the Jews?   Explain.  Why, for instance, were Jews expelled from Vienna?

Did most princes give in to anti-Jewish popular pressure? Explain.  (Use the example of "The Great Elector" [Fredrick William of Brandenburg-Prussia] to explain this phenomenon.)

What were the general aims of Fredrick William's Jewish policies, and did other rulers have similar aims and follow similar policies?

In Denmark, how was Jewish policy connected to international trade?

Why did Polish kings in the late 1600s pursue policies favorable to Jewish settlement, and what economic functions did Jews have in Polish settlements?

How and why did Jewish life in the Dutch Republic change in the late 1600s?  What forces permitted the growth of Jewish settlements there?

Why did princes in northern Italy invite Jewish resettlement in the late 1600s, who did they invite, and how did they go about issuing these offers?

Why did Cromwell readmit Jews to England, and were Jews simply passive observers in this process?

How does the twisted history of Jewish readmission to France under Louis XIV illustrate Israel's arguments about new political thinking?  And why did Louis change his policy in 1680?

In general, what did Jewish leaders offer to princes in exchange for allowing Jewish settlement and the practice of Judaism?

When Europe's population growth stagnated in the 1600s, did Jewish population growth also stagnate?  Explain,

Where was Jewish population growth greatest?

Explain the relationship between the weakness of Christian guilds and the strength of Jewish population growth in Poland.  Where in Poland did the Jewish population grow most rapidly?

What generalizations can we make about Jewish population growth in the 1600s in Bohemia and Moravia and in the German lands?

How did European Jewish economic activity in the late 1600s differ from that in the late 1500s?

What social classes existed in Jewish communities, and was there much class conflict?   Explain.

Be prepared to explain the importance of East-West and colonial trade to the Jewish economy.

Be prepared to discuss the kinds of economic activities (especially crafts) that Jews participated in during the late 1600s.

What made the growth of the Amsterdam Jewish community possible?


Chapter 8

According to Israel, what characterized Jewish self-government during this period?

Explain the hierarchy of Jewish self-government institutions in Poland.

Explain the hierarchy of Jewish self-government institutions in Habsburg Central Europe.

Explain the hierarchy of Jewish self-government institutions in the German princedoms.

What were the powers of the Council of the Four Lands, and did its influence stop at Poland's borders?  Explain.

What determined which towns or cities would have the most influence in a "land"?

How were individual kehillot usually organized, how were the boards chosen, and what were their responsibilities?

How were German Landjudenschaften organized, how were the boards chosen, and what were their responsibilities?

Why were the constitutions of the Prague, Vienna, and Berlin communities so complex?

How were Italian Jewish communities self-governed, and what factors complicated this?

Does Israel consider Jewish self-government during this period to be democratic?   Explain.  What were the communal boards most worried about?

Why did communal boards exercise such strict control over personal behaviors, censor Jewish publications, control people's dress, seclude women, regulate sexual conduct, etc.?

Does Israel consider Jewish self rule as only an "instrument of social repression"?  Explain.

What sort of benevolent functions did communal boards handle, and were there other forms of Jewish charity besides those provided by the community board?  (What, for instance, about health care, education, raising funds for emergency relief and for Jews in the Holy Land?)

Why did Israel call this chapter "A Republic Apart"?


Chapter 9

How does Israel explain the growing messianic expectations of Jews in the late 1600s?

Who was Shabbatai Zevi?  How does Israel explain Shabbatai's self-proclamation as the Messiah?

How did word of the "Messiah" spread, and what was the response among Jews?

What do we know about those who welcomed Shabbatai?

How did Christians respond?

What quelled the Shabbatain movement, and what was its impact?

Who as Spinoza?  Was he the only Sephardi in Amsterdam challenging the divine origin of the Torah?

What were the basic philosophical positions taken by Spinoza, and what does Israel see as "new" in the "Spinozist revolt"?

According to Israel, how did reaction to Spinoza shape Enlightenment thinking about Jews?

How does Israel explain the trend towards Jewish apologetics in the late 1600s?   What connection does he see between Jewish polemics after 1666 and the foundations of the Enlightenment?  (In particular, explain the arguments of people like Isaac Orobio and how he may have influenced non-Jewish skeptical thinkers.)

How  does Israel explain the origins of Christian philosemitism in the late 1600s?

How does the example of Antonio Vieira demonstrate the connection between philosemitism and mercantilism?

Explain this statement on p. 187:  "the roots of philosemitism...lay in conflict with official Christianity..."

In what kinds of ways did Christian scholars become engaged with Judaic-Hebraic studies?

Did this intellectual philosemitism mean an end to anti-Semitism?

What new intellectual element was added to anti-Semitism at this time, and how would it influence the Enlightenment?

What influences were promoting popular anti-Semitism during this period?

What do you see as Israel's main point in this chapter?



1) Declaration Protecting the Interests of Jews Residing in Holland (1657) (from Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World) (handout)

Explain the main intent (and justification) of this declaration, and explain how it illustrates points argued by Israel.


2) Emperor Leopold, Appointment of Samson Wertheimer as Imperial Court Factor (1703) (from Mendes-Flohr and Reinharz, The Jew in the Modern World) (handout)

Explain the main intent (and justification) of this declaration, and explain how it illustrates points argued by Israel.

Jews of Europe Syllabus