Jews of Europe Syllabus

Study Questions, Jews of Europe, Week II Part A


Israel, European Jewry

Preface to the Third Edition

What is the author’s aim in this book?

Does he consider the difference between Sephardi and Ashkanzi to have grown or decreased during the period 1450-1750?

Does he think that internal or external dynamics were the main force changing Jewish society during this period?

What sort of economic and cultural changes in European society does he see as shaping Jewish life?

What seem to be the main points of Israel’s argument?


How does Israel challenge the usual periodization of Jewish history?

How did restrictions on Jews change from the 1570s?

Did Jewish culture decline or flourish in the 1600s? How does this compare to the period after 1750?

How does he explain the reversal of trends in Jewish history from the 1570s? And how did new developments in Jewish history fit into the larger scheme of developments in European history?

How does he connect the Jewish "re-entry" into European life to early Enlightenment thinking about the state?

What does he mean by "mercantilism"?

In what sense did mercantilism partially emancipate Jews?

According to Israel, who did this emancipation in the 1600s differ from the later emancipation that followed the French Revolution?

What does he mean by the terms "New Christian," "Marrano," and "Crypto-Jew"?

Chapter 1

Where did most of Europe’s Jews live in 1400?

When were Jews expelled from England and France?

There was much anti-Jewish violence in Germany and Spain in the 1300s, and expulsions from the German states in the early 1400s, and forced conversions in Spain—but according to Israel, when did the mass expulsions of Jews begin?

According to Israel, why were the expulsions of the late 1400s different from those in the Middle Ages?

What part did Catholic clerics play in expulsions, and why? Besides local priests, who else was calling for expulsions and why?

Jews were expelled from Iberia, Southern France, and Italy in the late 1400s and early 1500s; when were they expelled from Swiss and German lands?

Who in particular demanded expulsions in the German towns?

Did the Papacy generally promote expulsions in the Papal States?

How did the main base of support for expulsions change during the Reformation and Counter-Reformation?

What did Martin Luther expect from the Jews, and at what point and why did he "give up" on the Jews?

Did Jewish religious authorities passively accept Luther’s charges and the expulsions? Explain.

Was Calvin as hostile toward Jews as Luther was? Explain.

But did Calvinists object to expulsions?

Did studying Hebrew and Jewish religious texts make Christian Humanist scholars (like Erasmus) less anti-Jewish? Explain.

What prevented the complete collapse of Jewish life in the West (outside Italy) in 1470-1570?

Did Jews support Holy Roman Emperor Charles V? Explain.

But was Charles V really a stronger defender of the Jews? Explain.

What was the Papacy’s position regarding Jews up to the 1550s?

When and why did Papal policy change?

What were the aims of Paul IV’s Jewish policies, and in what sense was this hostility towards Jews a "symbol of a new age"?

When and why were Italy’s Jews secluded in ghettos?

Did all Jews passively accept acts of repression and violence, like the 1555 burnings in Acona? Explain.

In general, how did Jewish communities respond to the Papal anti-Jewish campaign?

Did Catholic officials have good reason to worry about crypto-Judaism?

What was the low point for Jews in the Papal states and the rest of Italy? Was Pious V (1566-72) a defender of the Jews? Explain.

How had expulsions, ghettoization, and other restrictions effected the Jewish community (eg, its livelihood?)?

When faced with repression, did most Jews convert to Christianity?

According to Israel, why were crypto-Jews able to keep their Judaism alive in Portugal but not in Spain? Explain (3 reasons).

Where did most Iberian Jews go after the expulsions?

Where did most Italian Jews flee to? What about German Jews?

Why did the Polish kingdom and the Ottoman Empire welcome Jews?

Did Jews remain a tiny minority in Poland in the 1500s? Explain.

Where in Poland did Jews settle, and why? What role did Jews play in the economy of Eastern Poland?

Why did big landowners in Easter Poland need the Jews, and what was the aim of their Jewish settlement policy?

What factors allowed for the rapid growth of the Jewish population in Eastern Poland?

Did Jews live in big cities in Poland at this time, as they did in the Ottoman Empire? Explain.

In general, what was the economic function of Jews in Poland, and how did this relate to the growth of the European and world economies?

How did the exodus East change Jewish economic life? Were Jews still concentrated primarily in the money-lending trade?

Why does Israel call to exodus to the East a "revolution in Jewish life"?

In the 1600s, Jews economic contacts with Christians increased; did their cultural contacts also increase? Explain.

Why did the exodus East create a more unified Jewish culture?

How did the use of Spanish and German isolate Jews from their Christian neighbors in the East? How did it create greater cohesion between Jewish communities?

Does Israel think that Ashkenazi and Sephardi become more culturally different or more similar as a result of the exodus East? Explain.

How did the move East effect the Jewish role in trade between Europe and the Ottomans (especially in the Balkans)?

Why did the Ragusan Republic reverse its Jewish policy in 1538 and allow Jews to return? (For Israel, this for-shadowed developments in the 1570s.)




1) Synod of Castilian Jews, 1432 (

As you read this rather long document, I want you to make a list of the kinds of powers that the Communal organization had and the kinds of institutions it established.   Also, was there a clear division between the Community's secular and religious functions?


2) The Expulsion from Spain, 1492 CE (a first-hand account) (

As you read this document, which explains the Expulsion from a contemporary Jewish perspective, I want you to note a few things in particular:

On whom does the author blame the Jews' misfortune?

How did Spain's Jewish community at first respond to the expulsion order?

Where did Spain's Jews  go when expelled?


3) The Expulsion Edict, 1492 (from Edwards, The Jews in Western Europe, 1400-1600)

I will give you this document as a hand-out.  As you read it, I want you to give particular attention to how Spain's King and Queen justify their decision to expel the Jews.  Did they consider it possible for Jews and Christians to live in the same land?  Explain!

Jews of Europe Syllabus