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Alienated Minority: The Jews of Medieval Latin Europe.

Edward Flannery, author of the classic work on Christian antisemitism, The Anguish of the Jews, once remarked that the pages missing from Christian history books are those which Jews know the best. This is especially applicable to the Medieval period. Stow's new volume will not make for easy reading; the sensitive Christian will come face-to-face, page after page, with the reality described in a recent PBS documentary as "the longest hatred."

The volume covers a period of some 1000 years, beginning with the fifth century. The life of the Jewish community during these centuries is set within the overall framework of European culture and political life. Clearly the earlier part of the Medieval era found Jews in a comparatively better position than the end of the period. During the initial centuries of the Medieval period, though Jewish life was without question circumscribed by specific papal policies framed in large part by Pope Gregory the Great, the Jewish community of Europe was able to develop a fairly rich communal and intellectual life. But as we move towards the dawn of modernity, the status of the Jews becomes increasingly precarious. Jews were steadily depersonified and reduced to a set of mythical roles. Eventually, as we reach the late 13th, the 14th, and especially the 15th century, Jews assume an explicitly satanic image. All this would pave the way for the royal expulsions of Jews from various countries of Western Europe.

Stow, Professor of Jewish History at the University of Haifa, has given us an important, even if disturbing, volume. For the Christian reader it can restore those missing pages about which Flannery spoke. The volume comes complete with an extensive bibliography for further reference. If there is a drawback to the book, it is that there is little or no coverage given to countries such as Poland. While this is admittedly due to S.'s decision to limit his study to "Latin Europe," it would have been helpful to have some comparisons readily at hand.
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Author:Pawlikowski, John T.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Sep 1, 1993
Words:333
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