Who was a "Ḥasid" or "Ḥasidah" in medieval Ashkenaz? reassessing the social implications of a term

Elisheva Baumgarten*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the use of the words ḥasid and ḥasidah in a wide variety of medieval texts, primarily from Germany, in order to question current scholarly understandings of Ḥasidei Ashkenaz as a social entity. The article outlines the appearance and contexts in which the term can be found in poems, on tombstones, lists of dead, and in stories. The final section of the article investigates possible parallels for the word ḥasid/ah in vernaculars spoken by Jews. The result of this broad survey that seeks out not just men but also women, and that focuses on a variety of genres rather than primarily on Sefer Ḥasidim, is that the words ḥasid and ḥasidah did not indicate a particular group, circle, or movement. Rather these terms were used to describe honest, upstanding members of the community who were seen as fulfilling their religious and social duties.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)125-154
Number of pages30
JournalJewish History
Issue number1-3
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature B.V.


  • Commemoration
  • Gender
  • Medieval Ashkenaz
  • Medieval Germany
  • Pietists
  • Piety
  • Social history

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Judah ben Samuel -- approximately 1150-1217 -- Sefer hasidim
  • Hasidism, Medieval
  • Jews -- Germany -- Social life and customs -- 13th century
  • Jewish women -- Germany -- History


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