Daily commodities and religious identity in the medieval Jewish communities of Northern Europe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The Hebrew chronicle written by Solomon b. Samson recounts the mass conversion of the Jews of Regensburg in 1096.’ The Jews were herded and forced into the local river where a ‘sign was made over the water, the sign of a cross’ and thus they were baptized, all together in the same river. The local German rivers play another role in the accounts of the turbulent events of the Crusade persecutions. They were also the place where Jews evaded conversion, drowning themselves in water, rather than being baptized by what the chronicles’ authors call the ‘stinking waters’ of Christianity. Reading these Hebrew chronicles, one is immediately struck by the tremendous revulsion expressed toward the waters of baptism. Indeed, in his analysis of the symbolic significance of the baptismal waters for medieval Jews, Ivan Marcus has suggested that baptism by force in the local rivers was so traumatic that they instituted a ritual response during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. One component of the medieval Jewish child initiation ceremony to Torah study was performed on the banks of the river, expressing Jewish aversion to baptism (see Fig. i).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReligion and the Household
Number of pages25
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameStudies in Church History
ISSN (Print)0424-2084
ISSN (Electronic)2059-0644

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Jewish communities -- Europe -- History
  • Jews -- Europe, Northern -- History -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
  • Jews -- Germany -- Social life and customs
  • Judaism -- Relations -- Christianity -- 11th century


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