Bastards and Believers: Jewish Converts and Conversion from the Bible to the Present 0812251881, 9780812251883

A formidable collection of studies on religious conversion and converts in Jewish history Theodor Dunkelgrun and Pawel M

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Bastards and Believers: Jewish Converts and Conversion from the Bible to the Present
 0812251881, 9780812251883

Table of contents :
Introduction • Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko
1. The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion in the Hebrew Bible • Sara Japhet
2. Ex-Jews and Early Christians: Conversion and the Allure of the Other • Andrew S. Jacobs
3. Conversion to Judaism as Reflected in the Rabbinic Writings and Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz: Between Germany and Northern France • Ephraim Kanarfogel
4. Of Purity, Piety, and Plunder: Jewish Apostates and Poverty in Medieval Europe • Paola Tartakoff
5. “Cleanse Me from My Sin”: The Social and Cultural Vicissitudes of a Converso Family in Fifteenth-Century Castile • Javier Castaño
6. Converso Paulinism and Residual Jewishness: Conversion from Judaism to Christianity as a Theologico-political Problem • Claude B. Stuczynski
7. Return by Any Other Name: Religious Change Among Amsterdam’s New Jews • Anne Oravetz Albert
8. The Persuasive Path: Giulio Morosini’s Derekh Emunah as a Conversion Narrative • Michela Andreatta
9. “Precious Books”: Conversion, Nationality, and the Novel, 1810–2010 • Sarah Gracombe
10. Between Eu ro pean Judaism and British Protestantism in the Early Nineteenth Century • Elliott Horowitz
11. When Life Imitates Art: Shtetl Sociability and Conversion in Imperial Russia • Ellie Schainker
12. Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity: Toward a History of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Policies on Conversion to Judaism • Netanel Fisher

Citation preview

Bastards and Believers

JEWISH CULTURE AND CONTEXTS Published in association with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania Series Editors: Shaul Magid, Francesca Trivellato, and Steven Weitzman A complete list of books in the series is available from the publisher.

BASTARDS AND BELIEVERS Jewish Converts and Conversion from the Bible to the Present

Edited by Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

u n i v e r s i t y o f p e n n s y lva n i a p r e s s philadelphia

Publication of this volume was assisted by a grant from the Publications Fund of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania.

Copyright © 2020 University of Pennsylvania Press All rights reserved. Except for brief quotations used for purposes of review or scholarly citation, none of this book may be reproduced in any form by any means without written permission from the publisher. Published by University of Pennsylvania Press Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4112 Printed in the United States of America on acid-free paper 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Names: Dunkelgrün, Theodor, 1976– editor. | Maciejko, Paweł, 1971– editor. Title: Bastards and believers : Jewish converts and conversion from the Bible to  the present / Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko. Other titles: Jewish culture and contexts. Description: 1st edition. | Philadelphia : University of Pennsylvania Press, [2020] |  Series: Jewish culture and contexts | “Publication of this volume was assisted by a  grant from the Publications Fund of the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced  Judaic Studies of the University of Pennsylvania.” | Includes bibliographical  references and index. Identifiers: LCCN 2019031271 | ISBN 9780812251883 (hardcover) Subjects: LCSH: Christian converts from Judaism. | Jews—Conversion to  Christianity. | Jewish converts from Christianity. | Jewish Christians. |  Conversion—Christianity—History. | Conversion—Judaism—History. Classification: LCC BV2620 .B35 2020 | DDC 248.4/466—dc23 LC record available at


Introduction Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko


Chapter 1. The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion in the Hebrew Bible Sara Japhet


Chapter 2. Ex-Jews and Early Christians: Conversion and the Allure of the Other Andrew S. Jacobs


Chapter 3. Conversion to Judaism as Reflected in the Rabbinic Writings and Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz: Between Germany and Northern France Ephraim Kanarfogel


Chapter 4. Of Purity, Piety, and Plunder: Jewish Apostates and Poverty in Medieval Europe Paola Tartakoff


Chapter 5. “Cleanse Me from My Sin”: The Social and Cultural Vicissitudes of a Converso Family in Fifteenth-Century Castile Javier Castaño


Chapter 6. Converso Paulinism and Residual Jewishness: Conversion from Judaism to Christianity as a Theologico-political Problem Claude B. Stuczynski




Chapter 7. Return by Any Other Name: Religious Change Among Amsterdam’s New Jews Anne Oravetz Albert


Chapter 8. The Persuasive Path: Giulio Morosini’s Derekh Emunah as a Conversion Narrative Michela Andreatta


Chapter 9. “Precious Books”: Conversion, Nationality, and the Novel, 1810–2010 Sarah Gracombe


Chapter 10. Between European Judaism and British Protestantism in the Early Nineteenth Century Elliott Horowitz


Chapter 11. When Life Imitates Art: Shtetl Sociability and Conversion in Imperial Russia Ellie Schainker


Chapter 12. Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity: Toward a History of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Policies on Conversion to Judaism Netanel Fisher








Introduction T h e od o r du n k e l g rü n a n d Paw e ł M ac i e j ko

In The Merchant of Venice (act 3, scene 5), the clown Launcelot Gobbo briefly becomes a theologian, explaining to Shylock’s daughter, Jessica, that she is damned beyond salvation: Clown Yes, truly, for look you, the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children therefore, I promise you, I fear you. I was always plain with you, and so now I speak my agitation of the matter. Therefore be of good cheer, for, truly, I think you are damned. There is but one hope in it that can do you any good, and that is but a kind of bastard hope neither. Jessica And what hope is that, I pray thee? Clown Marry, you may partly hope that your father got you not, that you are not the Jew’s daughter. Jessica That were a kind of bastard hope indeed, so the sins of my mother should be visited upon me. Clown Truly, then, I fear you are damned both by father and mother: thus, when I shun Scylla your father, I fall into Charybdis your mother; well, you are gone both ways. As David Nirenberg has written, The Merchant of Venice is “a drama of chronic conversion whose every participant—including playwright and viewer—moves suspended like a compass needle trembling between Judaism and Christianity.”1 It is only through conversion that Jessica escapes the collective guilt that Christian doctrine had attributed to Jews for centuries


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and would continue to attribute to them for centuries to come. Without conversion, her hopes to escape her Jewish heritage would be illegitimate “bastard hopes.” Yet no sooner has Jessica declared her salvation by marrying a Christian than Gobbo the theologian turns back into Gobbo the clown: Jessica I shall be saved by my husband; he hath made me a Christian! Clown Truly, the more to blame he; we were Christians enow before, e’en as many as could well live on by another. This making of Christians will raise the price of hogs if we grow all to be pork eaters, we shall not shortly have a rasher on the coals for money. Gobbo’s (that is, Shakespeare’s) joke is on the Christians: even beyond conversion, the Jew continues to affect their lives for the worse—and indeed, remains somehow essentially Jewish. Or, in this case, it is Jessica who becomes the true Christian, while the clown exchanges his economy of salvation for the supply and demand of the Venetian market. In terms of the play, Gobbo (whose name alludes to the Italian form of Job) becomes more Jewish than Jessica. Nirenberg speaks of the play’s “systematically staged confusion of Christian and Jew,” arguing that “it is through this more general—indeed all-pervasive—confusion that Shakespeare achieves his dramatization of a crucial question: How can a society built on ‘Jewish’ foundations of commerce, contract, property, and law consider itself Christian?”2 The questions spring forth: Can a Jew become a legitimate Christian? Is Christianity a legitimate offspring of Judaism? How do answers to these questions change when the terms of that legitimacy change? Is it possible to leave Judaism entirely? Is it possible to become a Jew? Are all Christians somehow Jewish? Are all Jews potentially Christian? Is a convert a Jew, a Christian, or perhaps a category unto itself? Does he or she become an illegitimate child of the old tradition? A legitimate child of the new one? Is such an individual a bastard or a believer? Or both? The term conversion is profoundly polysemous. We use it to speak of a change of religion: Jews who turn to religions other than Judaism and nonJews who tie their fates to that of the Jewish people. We use it when talking about Christians becoming Muslim (or vice versa), Christians becoming “born again” or moving from one Christian church or confession to another, or efforts to Christianize or Islamize indigenous populations of Asia, Africa,



and the Americas. And we use it to speak about modern, secular people discovering spiritual creeds and joining religious communities. Once a metaphor drawn from astronomy and alchemy to describe religious change, we now use it as a metaphor drawn from religion to describe various changes of mind, such as “conversions” to political ideologies, philosophies of life, and all manner of vocation. Converts themselves use the term for a plurality of experiences, too: forced and voluntary, sudden and extended, public and private, social and metaphysical. This vast historical, cultural, and contextual variety implies, as the medievalist Karl F. Morrison puts it, that “it would be a confusion of categories to use the word conversion as though it were an instrument of critical analysis, equally appropriate to any culture or religion. . . . The word is more properly a subject, rather than a tool, of analysis.”3 At the same time, to label something “conversion” is not to describe but to interpret. Thus, conversion can certainly be an analytical instrument in the hands of both the convert and her historian, just not an objective one. The history of conversion, in this sense, is a history of such subjective interpretations—that is, a history of what it meant for people to have been called, or to call themselves, converts. It is a central premise of this volume that, while we do take Jewish conversion to be a particular version of a universal phenomenon (“conversion”) in a religiously diverse world, we also consider it a specific phenomenon, quite unlike any other act we use that term to describe. Our sphere of interest, then, encompasses conversions of non-Jews to Judaism but especially conversions of Jews to Christianity. The importance of conversion to Judaism for understanding what a “Jewish conversion” is seems self-explanatory; restricting conversion from Judaism to cases of conversion to Christianity is not. The decision, then, warrants a word of explanation. We believe that the Jews’ conversion to Christianity offers a unique lens through which one can see Jewish conversion. To be sure, conversions of Jews to Islam were numerically as important and shaped the histories of entire branches of world Jewry over hundreds of years. Yet—we posit—the understanding or concept of Jewish conversion that prevailed among Jews and nonJews alike was shaped by conversions to Christianity more than anything else. We can account for this in several ways. First, Christianity’s relation to Judaism differs from its relation to any other religion. Christianity teaches that it is the set of prophecies of the Hebrew Bible that Jesus Christ fulfills; it is that fulfillment which turns the Tanakh into the Old Testament, incomplete without the New. In this supersessionist sense, Christianity is


Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

Judaism’s fulfillment and replacement, rendering the latter itself obsolete and Judaism in the Christian era historically anomalous. Jewish converts to Christianity, in this view, are more than simply saved souls: they are living proof of the truth of Christianity. In his or her individual life, the Jewish convert reenacts the world-historical transition that the collective has already made. The life of the Jewish convert corroborates the Christian structure of the history of salvation and mirrors it in nuce. Without taking into account the significance of this perceived exemplarity, one is liable to misunderstand the rhetoric and representations of Jewish converts in much Christian writing and art. Until recently, Christian teaching and selfunderstanding across the confessions widely considered Judaism in the Christian era to have ceased to be verus Israel. Jews might remain Israel according to the flesh, but the church is the True Israel—that is, Israel according to faith. It was only with the Second Vatican Council (1962–65), and its declaration Nostra Aetate (proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on October  28, 1965), that the Roman Catholic Church abandoned the doctrine of collective Jewish guilt for the death of Jesus Christ—the responsibility for deicide that Shakespeare has Gobbo put to Jessica with apparent self-evidence (“the sins of the father are to be laid upon the children”). Until that council, moreover, converts from Judaism to Roman Catholic Christianity were required to profess an additional formula not required of any other converts: to forswear the errors of the Jews. Second, Christianity’s unique relationship to Judaism is in many ways reciprocal. Both Jesus of Nazareth and Paul of Tarsus were Jewish. Recent scholarship on late antiquity has largely rejected the “parting of the ways” paradigm in which Christianity “branched out” from Judaism as a daughter religion that emancipated herself from her parent.4 Yet—historically inaccurate as we might consider it today—this very paradigm defined mutual perceptions of Jews and Christians for almost two millennia. Jesus’ Jewish origins have posed challenges to Christians throughout the Christian era. One of our contributors, Andrew Jacobs, has explored late antique and early medieval Christian debates about Jesus’ circumcision (commemorated on January  1, eight days after the Nativity), which paradoxically confounded both the Old Law and the New, the corporeal and the spiritual, the Jewish and the Christian.5 Martin Luther wrote an early treatise, “That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew” (1523), in the hope of encouraging Jewish conversion to Reformed Christianity.6 In the sixteenth century, Jesus’ Jewishness became a topos in historical scholarship, too. Joseph Scaliger (1540–1609) did as much



as any early modern scholar to persuade the world of European learning that Jewish texts and contexts were indispensable to understanding the world of the Gospels. At Leiden, where he studied the Talmud with a Polish Jewish convert, Scaliger told his students about the knowledgeable Jewish woman he had met as a young man in Avignon who reminded him that Jesus was Jewish and must have been circumcised.7 Yet unease about Jesus’ Jewishness appears time and again among Christian theologians and scholars of history alike, in ways that have persisted into the modern search for the “historical Jesus”: Ernest Renan famously set a “northern” Galilean Jesus against the “eastern” Pharisaic Judaism of Jerusalem, and Christian theologians in Nazi Germany built an entire corpus of scholarship around an “Aryan Jesus.”8 Jews, for their part, have also long been ambivalent about Jesus’ belonging-notbelonging to Judaism. Even the most critical medieval writings about Jesus— Maimonides’ uncensored Code, for instance, or the satiric Toledot Yeshu—deny Jesus’ divinity but not his Judaism. In the nineteenth century, Abraham Geiger turned to the historical Jesus and Paul to show Christianity not as Judaism’s replacement but as Judaism’s creation. In an age when Christian historians wrote immensely popular histories of the Jews that all culminated with Jesus—maintaining therewith a salvific structure according to which Judaism has no history after Christ—Geiger appropriated Jesus for Jewish history while polemicizing against its Christian rewriting. In so doing, he wrote a critical contribution to the debates about the historical Jesus and helped to forge modern Jewish historiography.9 This Hassliebe relationship between Jews and Jesus extended to believers in Jesus and, especially, Jewish believers in Jesus. Into modern times, the phenomenon of Jews becoming Christian—whether voluntarily or under coercion—has carried an emotional, theological, and cultural load unlike any other form of leaving the Jewish fold. The Christian became Judaism’s ultimate Other. Indeed, a fundamental tenet of rabbinic theology, the distinction between Jew and gentile (goy), is historically entangled with the emergence of the notion of the gentile (ethnê) in Pauline Christianity.10 However responsible the historical Paul may have been for this entanglement, as the self-proclaimed Apostle to the Gentiles, the author of the Epistle to the Romans made the distinction central to Christianity’s self-conception.11 As the student of Gamaliel (i.e., Rabban Gamliel the Elder; see Acts 22:3), Paul also inscribed his education in Jewish law into the story of his own conversion. As the following pages will show, Paul’s conversion would become exemplary for countless subsequent Jewish converts to Christianity


Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

who sought to conceptualize their Jewish heritage in positive, Christian terms (an exemplarity that will become the foundation for what Claude Stuczynski calls, in his contribution to this volume, “converso Paulinism”). The Pauline adoption and adaptation of the notion of the gentile and Paul’s own self-confessed identity as a nongentile Christian might originally have mirrored an ancient Mediterranean reality in which the Christ believers were either Jewish or not; over time, however, it came to mean that the category of the Jew, both theologically and historically, persisted beyond conversion. In many medieval, early modern, and modern eyes, a Jewish convert to Christianity was essentially different from other converts for this reason, too: he or she remained a Jew in the Pauline sense. As one such convert told a British traveler to the Levant in 1839, “We shall always be a distinct people. We may become Christians, but we cannot become Gentiles.”12 The history of Jewish conversion to Christianity may be told as an unending set of variations on the persistence of Judaism within Christianity, beyond conversion: on the impossibility of Jews becoming gentiles. From the point of view of rabbinic Judaism, there are strikingly parallel reasons why Jewishness persists beyond conversion. By the time Shakespeare sat down to write The Merchant at the end of the sixteenth century, the ongoing confessionalization of European societies had made religious identity a question of personal choice to an extent never seen before. By that same time, the belief that it was impossible for a Jew to leave the community of Israel entirely had grown deep roots in Jewish thought and law. In the wake of the First Crusade, as Jacob Katz famously showed, the Franco-Jewish exegete Rabbi Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi) determined that in certain cases the Talmudic saying “A Jew, even though he has sinned, remains a Jew” (bT Sanhedrin 44a) applies to converts as well.13 Moses Maimonides, writing in Egypt a century after Rashi, condoned outward conversion to Islam in circumstances of duress and forced conversion such as those he and his family experienced under the Almohads in Andalusia and the Maghrib. For these towering figures of Jewish legal authority in the Christian and Muslim worlds, conversion did not break the halakhic bond with the community. Rashi’s opinion contributed to the emergence of groups whose Judaism was questioned by Jews just as their Christianity was questioned by Christians. Socially, converts had left the community into which they were born: in the eyes of many of their former coreligionists, they were no longer Jewish. Yet in Rashi’s reading, baptism had no decisive purchase on halakhic belonging.



Conversion was a sin that called for repentance and return; it was not a complete rupture. A Jew, even a converted Jew, simply could not become a goy. This complex of dilemmas became acute in late medieval Iberia. The mass conversion of Jews to Christianity in 1391 led to what Nirenberg has called a “crisis of classification,” as old boundaries and markers of difference vital to Christian self-definition disappeared (Christian prostitutes, which Nirenberg highlights as an extreme case, could no longer identify whether their clients were Christians, Jews, or Muslims on the basis of circumcision). From the 1430s on, the mass conversions went from being miraculous to being catastrophic in the eyes of many Spanish Christians. Jewish converts and their descendants were still suspected of secretly practicing Judaism, but they came to be seen as guilty of a different kind of crime. Theological damnation by adherence to Judaism as a creed, escapable hitherto through conversion to Christianity, turned into damnation by Judaism as an infection of the blood, from which baptism offered no escape. Nirenberg notes how this “re-Judaization” of the conversos in the mid-fifteenth century amounted to a Christian denial of the efficacy of baptism itself, reflecting a profound change of Christian religiosity to one “carved by nature rather than by grace.”14 This change found expression in the introduction of the so-called statutes of limpieza de sangre (purity of blood), a vast mechanism of legal restrictions against anyone with Jewish ancestors. Throughout the Iberian world, descendants of Jewish converts were stigmatized and oppressed for generations after the conversion of their ancestors. As Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi once pithily put it, “The statutes of limpieza . . . originated as an attempt, ultimately successful, to find new juridical means to impose legal restrictions against the converso, now that the old laws which had been formulated against professing Jews no longer applied. Thus they mark the ironic retaliation of Iberian society against the intrusion of the Jew through a conversion toward which that same society had labored so assiduously.”15 Numerous historians have argued that one of the most significant consequences of this late medieval Iberian perception of the conversion of Jews (and Muslims) was the reconceptualization of cultural difference as a product of nature—that is, the creation of the modern notion of race.16 The statutes of limpieza represent, in the specific Iberian context, a kind of mirror image of Rashi’s earlier confirmation of the indestructability of the covenantal bond.17 Nonetheless, one cannot juxtapose Rashi’s reading of the Talmudic passage on sin and the statutes of the purity of blood without


Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

introducing both anachronism (there is a centuries-long gap between them) and confusion (Rashi’s authority spread across the Jewish world, while the Iberian context is incomparable in essential ways). The distinction between law and culture, however, bears relevance here. While, from a halakhic point of view, a Jew is a Jew after baptism and beyond, culturally, conversion is an act of high treason. Although halakhically a Jew can never leave Judaism, the community condemns a Jew precisely for doing so, to the point of mourning converts to Christianity as though they were dead (with an additional parallel: that which is a rebirth in Christian eyes amounts to a death in Jewish ones). One can also observe a complex parallelism negatively. Rashi’s reading of the Halakhah is not only a positive claim of continuity: his intention is also driven by the desire to wrest religious significance from the baptism of Jews (mirroring the refusal of substantial parts of Iberian Catholic society to acknowledge the efficacy of baptism in Jewish cases). The case of a Jewish Holocaust survivor from Poland, Oswald Rufeisen (Brother Daniel), who had converted to Catholicism and applied for immigration to Israel based on his Jewish identity according to the Halakhah, demonstrates the endurance of this dynamic. Following a protracted legal battle, the state turned him down.18 The case highlights the yawning gap between the letter of the ancient rabbinic law and the attempts of modern legislators to take into account prevailing Jewish sensibilities. Or take the case of Rufeisen’s near contemporary, Aaron Lustiger (1926–2007). Born in Paris to Polishborn Jewish parents, he converted to Catholicism in 1940. As Jean-Marie Lustiger, he eventually became archbishop of Paris, and a cardinal in 1983. A major French public intellectual, Lustiger believed all his life that, while a Catholic, he nonetheless remained a Jew no less than his murdered family members. His visit to Israel prompted bitter protests, with the Ashkenazi chief rabbi at the time, himself a survivor of Buchenwald, accusing him of having betrayed his people in their hour of direst need. The Orthodox Jewish philosopher Michael Wyschogrod, however, agreed with Lustiger, while insisting, in a letter that remained unanswered, that according to the cardinal’s own halakhic logic, he remained obligated to live his life in observance of the Torah’s commandments.19 If we take this volume’s title from the Merchant, it is in no small part because Shakespeare’s play continues to speak to the interrelation of these abiding issues.20 This volume appears at a moment when a complex set of circumstances has brought converts and conversion to the forefront of contemporary scholarly concerns. Across the humanistic disciplines—history,



art history, literature, religious studies, and anthropology but also sociology and psychology—scholars are devoting ever more attention to converts and conversion. We are studying cases and narratives of conversion; discovering or revisiting legal, theological, literary, and visual artistic sources; and asking new questions about the history of belief at the level of society, the city, the community, the family, and the solitary. Scholarship on conversion between Judaism, Christianity, and Islam has been particularly prolific of late. Recent studies of conversion have ranged widely not only across the disciplines but also across historical periods and sources. Once a marginal phenomenon, conversion has become an increasingly central concern for scholars of many stripes. Some of these studies focus on epochal individuals who embody pivotal moments in the history of religion or empire—witness the recent proliferation of historical, theological, philosophical, psychological, and literary studies of Paul. Scholars of late antiquity, the Middle Ages, and (early) modernity have studied individual converts, persuasively arguing that some previously marginal or obscure figures had major historical significance.21 Others have probed written narratives of conversion as a spiritual and literary genre in their own right, reading these in novel and profound ways.22 Alone and in collaboration, social and cultural historians are scrutinizing ever more cases of individual and collective conversions, from antiquity to the present. Working with dramatically diverse textual and visual material, they aim to think critically with, through, and beyond existing theoretical frameworks (theological, sociological, psychological) that developed out of the pathbreaking work of William James, Emile Durkheim, Sigmund Freud, Max Weber, and A. D. Nock.23 In one telling sign that this wave of scholarship is reaching a point of some maturity, Oxford University Press has included conversion among its panoramic handbooks.24 Conversion features prominently not only in studies explicitly devoted to it but also in broader studies of the interrelation between religions or the perception of religious groups by each other. Indeed, in many ways, the barrage of studies on conversion is part of a general return of religion as a primary concern of the humanities and social sciences in the early twenty-first century, far beyond the walls of faculties of divinity, theology, or departments of religious studies. This volume seeks to contribute to this ongoing surge in scholarship on conversion (indeed, many of its authors have already written books or articles on the topic), but also to reflect on it. While, in these introductory reflections, we conceptualize conversion from Judaism to Christianity as distinct


Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

from other forms of conversion, it is clear to us that the transformations in the historical study of Jewish converts and conversion are an aspect of this wider historiographical trend. And so we hope that the book enhances the discourse on different levels. Each of the essays collected in this book is important in its own right. At the same time, the general historiographical trend might teach us as much about ourselves as about the subjects of our inquiries. Benedetto Croce once wrote that every true history is contemporary history. The flourishing of global history in our age of unprecedented globalization is one welcome way in which historians are trying to make sense of the present. 25 As conversion was often a major motivation, and effect, of cross-cultural encounter from antiquity onward, the present preoccupation with converts and conversion—and the closely related proliferation of studies of missionaries across the world—may be understood as a corollary of the writing of global histories. This extends into the present, too, as questions of both conversion and globalization are critical, for instance, to understanding the rapid rise of varieties of religious fundamentalism in our day. But a phenomenon of such breadth must have deeper underpinnings. It might well be the case that in a hyperindividualized age preoccupied with questions of identity—and the dynamics of identity as choice and identity as unchosen fate—questions of conversion take on increasing interest, urgency, and pertinence. From this point of view, religious conversion is one of a range of identity changes that are the focus of increasing historical investigation and that can be studied in relation to one another.26 One patent consequence of decolonization and globalization has been the movement of large populations, both voluntary and involuntary; movement from the Global South to Europe and North America has resulted in more religiously diverse Western societies and universities. Conversion history, then, can be a mode of global history. While the history of converts and conversion illuminates contemporary historiographical practice, we should not make it sit too neatly within it. As in the study of other historical subjects, there is a chasm between the lived experience and its historical record. We study the latter in an attempt to understand the former. But in the case of the conversion narrative, this is an especially difficult task. Conversion narratives represent a par ticular kind of historical source, often constructed long after the events they claim to record, self-consciously modeled on earlier conversion narratives in intricate and intertextual ways, and superimposing a logic of hindsight onto what might have appeared at the time as chaos, torment, or rapture.



Conversion narratives, moreover, often make claims on different classes of anticipated readers: new coreligionists and former coreligionists. Like other historical records, a conversion narrative is itself a subjective interpretation, reconstruction, or representation of an experience. Unlike other kinds of sources, many conversion narratives are designed to break through the fourth wall, so to speak, inviting the reader to follow the very path it describes, sometimes even providing a formal guide for doing so. And later writers can transform such manuals of conversion and put them to use for conversions of radically different kinds from those for which they were originally intended.27 The history of conversion narratives must therefore also be a history of their manifold readers, and of the demand for the stories converts tell. And that history, in turn, includes historical fiction about converts, as Sarah Gracombe shows for Victorian conversion novels and Andrew Jacobs demonstrates in his discussion of Victorian historical novels about early Christianity.28 While most contributions to this volume consider individual conversion cases, it is vital to note that the history of Jewish conversion is also marked by mass conversions in the medieval, early modern, and modern periods (such as in 1391, the 1490s, 1666, 1759, and the 1930s). Individual conversion and group conversion become entangled in critical ways. The mass conversion of the 1390s created the conditions for the emergence of the class of conversos, several members of which are studied in three of the following essays; conversely, the conversion of Sabbatai Tsevi to Islam occasioned mass conversions among his followers. This dynamic between individual and mass conversions prompts us to ask whether our mental image of conversion is shaped by narratives of individual experience or by that of groups. Several of the chapters that follow discuss individual conversos, yet the very use of the term implies the group to which they belong. The different forms of conversion come with different kinds of primary material: individual converts write narratives, and conversion narratives figure strongly in the coming pages. Groups do not write first-person accounts, and so the histories of mass conversions are based on rather different kinds of sources, which often lend themselves more to sociological than literary investigation. While we have not yet fully tested this hypothesis, it seems to us that, in the heyday of social history in the 1950s–1980s, there was much more interest in group conversion. Future investigation might bear out a correlation between the turn away from studying mass conversion and the turn away from an Annalesinspired form of historiography.


Theodor Dunkelgrün and Paweł Maciejko

The studies in this volume cover a longue durée, from the Hebrew Bible to the modern State of Israel. The opening and closing chapters stand apart, both in that they examine the adoption of Judaism by non-Jews rather than Jews’ conversion to Christianity and in that they question whether “conversion” is the best way to understand their objects of study. But whether one studies converts to Judaism or from Judaism, their histories have often been regarded as a mere footnote to Jewish history. The concept of conversion has played a marginal role in the development of Jewish law and culture, and it has long been questioned whether Jewish converts to Christianity even properly belong to Jewish history at all.29 The famous linguist, novelist, and historian of atheism (and scion of a Frankist family from Prague) Fritz Mauthner quipped that while he did not rule out the theoretical possibility of an adult Jew becoming a Christian out of honest conviction, he had never personally encountered such a person among the hundreds of converted Jews he knew.30 Mauthner’s bon mot, formulated in the early twentieth century, has encapsulated, at least until very recently, the attitude to conversion characteristic of Jewish historians. Yet one may argue that “sincerity” is a historically valued, specifically modern concept that Mauthner (and others) projected onto the past. From the assumption of fundamental insincerity followed the notion that the study of conversion has only a very limited value for the study of Judaism. Converts, it has been argued, were either victims of coercion or opportunistic turncoats; conversion either was forced or was a “strategic” or “pragmatic” choice: it might have been discussed within the limited contexts of the history of anti-Semitism on the one hand and assimilation on the other, but it shed no light on the inner workings of Judaism and Jewish history. A growing number of scholars, however, have been turning toward the inner lives of Jewish “converts of conviction,” attempting to understand both their motivations for changes of faith and the manifold ways in which questions of Judaism and Jewishness persist in the lives of these new Christians. And those scholars are writing these stories into Jewish history more generally.31 We agree with David B. Ruderman, Yaël Hirsch, and others that Jewish converts to Christianity, including those who converted out of “conviction” (however unverifiable that may be), have a place at the table of Jewish history. At the same time, we question the strict dichotomy of “sincere” and “false” conversion. The rhetoric of sincerity and falsehood, it seems to us, says more about those judging converts than converts themselves. It also occludes the fact that insofar as conversions between Judaism and Christianity



are inner changes, they are essentially unverifiable, and that unverifiability is itself a major actor in the history of conversion. Few real-life conversions (and few real-life choices) are fully sincere, if by that word we mean entirely free from material or social considerations. Many “strategic” conversions contained an element of genuine belief that the adopted religion was the true one. More important, regardless of its being “honest” or “strategic,” conversion is an indispensable category for the understanding of wider phenomena in ancient, medieval, early modern, and modern Judaism. Our aim in this volume, then, is not so much to explore the history of conversions to and from Judaism as to explore Jewish history from the perspective of Jewish conversion. Such an approach presupposes a broad chronological and conceptual frame indeed. Some of the more original work on our topic has been comparative across periods. But inquiries that range widely across historical periods, the present volume included, assume the validity of using “conversion” as a helpful heuristic category. As historians, we are acutely aware that words themselves have histories. A collection like the current one challenges us to do justice to an exceptionally protracted phenomenon without losing sight of the unending shifts in language, in naming and describing, that occur over time. To complicate matters further, there is no neutral, objective vocabulary for our phenomena. We noted earlier that conversion itself is not a descriptive term but already an interpretive one. There is no neutral term in the Hebrew language for a Jew who has converted to Christianity. The available words (mumar, meshumad) are essentially slurs of such impact that they have been adopted as terms of abuse in contexts that have nothing to do with a switch in religious adherence. Likewise, Hebrew does not treat conversion to Judaism (giyyur) as a subspecies of a wider category of “conversion” but as a phenomenon in and of itself. Indeed, the use of convert as an ostensibly descriptive term, a general phenomenon to be studied across religions, is, like the very terms religion and Judaism in this descriptive sense, in many ways a modern invention, and, scholars of (late) antiquity have argued, a Christianocentric invention at that.32 Thus, while we are tackling a phenomenon across more than a score of centuries, we have our sights set on the pitfalls of anachronism and strive to circumvent them. A further conceptual obstacle concerns the fact that the meanings of conversion remain multiple. From a Christian perspective, for example, conversion to Christianity need not be from another religion. For many Christians, conversion is finding a way home; in Hebrew, it is impossible to


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conceptualize “conversion” in that sense as a conversion. A culturally Christian unbeliever who “finds Christ” may be called a convert; the move from secular to religious—or, to put it in a certain contemporary parlance, from “nothing” to “spiritual”—would not be conceptualized as conversion in Judaism, whereas the process by which a “cultural” Christian unbeliever “finds Christ” would be. In Hebrew, that move is called teshuvah, a term that, like conversion, contains a notion of a turning back, but that also includes the idea of introspective self-reckoning. Indeed, its traditional and liturgical translation is “repentance.” When nonreligious Jews becomes observant, it is called hazara bi-teshuvah: in a Christian context, by contrast, one could legitimately describe this move as conversion. If its chronological scope makes our volume stand apart from the flood of recent studies, we must address the historicity of our vocabulary even as we employ it. The chain of studies collected in this volume highlights how the concepts of the convert and of conversion have histories of their own. It is a rich set of case studies that together form, among other things, a Begriffsgeschichte of these central concepts. Our hope is that this volume will speak to several scholarly conversations in the study of Jewish history from biblical antiquity to the troubled present, at our moment in contemporary academic culture and in society at large. The volume is framed by Sara Japhet’s study on conversion in the Hebrew Bible (in a sense, all Jews were once converts) and Netanel Fisher’s piece on conversion to Judaism in contemporary Israel (all non-Jews are Jews in potentia). Japhet’s essay opens with a discussion of the relationship between the meaning of the Hebrew term ger and other biblical conceptualizations of religious conversion. Ger is a term of biblical origin that became a standard designation for a convert to Judaism in rabbinic writings of later ages; scholars have long debated whether it had this meaning already in the original context. Japhet argues that in none of its biblical occurrences does the term denote a convert: in the Bible, it has purely social (as opposed to religious) meaning and signifies, roughly, an “immigrant” or perhaps “resident alien.” The Hebrew Bible does know, says Japhet, the concept of religious conversion, a spontaneous recognition that the God of Israel is the true God and voluntary accession to the people of Israel understood as a religious community. Conversion thus understood is first and foremost a change of heart; it does not have to (and indeed it does not) involve any formal rites or procedures. The Hebrew Bible expresses such a concept of conversion by the word nilveh, describing “a person who joins,” who becomes attached to Israel



and its God. Japhet therefore sees conversion as a thoroughly spiritual phenomenon: the acceptance of the true God is not only a necessary but also a sufficient condition for a conversion to occur. In this sense, perhaps, the Hebrew biblical concept of conversion is closer to the Greek metanoia of the New Testament or to Lutheran Bekehrung than to any notion of conversion typical of later Judaism. By arguing for a “purely religious” notion of conversion in the Hebrew Bible, Japhet’s piece lays the foundation for one of the main conceptual axes of this volume, posing questions that will be asked, answered, and reframed in the essays that follow. The first line of inquiry relates to the relationship between private conscience and societal expectations. Should conversion be understood as an individual act of will or heart, or as a fulfillment of certain criteria set by a community? Is acceptance by a community into which one converts automatic or does it require performative, ritualized procedures that have little to do with the interiority of conversion itself? Is Judaism a faith or a system of laws? Does it resemble other religions in its attitude to converts and the way it draws a boundary between converts and other Jews? Must a conversion be “sincere” in order to be genuine? We can also rephrase this last question as one about the “internal” and “external” aspects of conversion. Can the convert’s self be entirely transformed in an act of conversion? If not, what necessarily remains of his or her former self after the conversion? Can a convert (and especially an “honest” convert, Japhet’s prime example of which is the biblical Na’aman, the Aramean military commander from the book of Kings) continue to adhere “externally” to practices of a religion that he or she “internally” abandoned? What is the relationship between conversion and its post factum descriptions and ideologizations? Andrew Jacobs’s essay takes up precisely this last question. He examines the real or alleged Jewish background of three early Christian writers: Epiphanius of Salamina, Romanos the Melodist, and Ambrosiaster. In none of these cases do we find contemporary witnesses attesting that these prominent Christians converted from Judaism; accounts of their Jewish upbringing and later conversion to Christianity began to circulate only after their deaths. Rather than taking up the veracity of these testimonies, Jacobs attempts to tease out the logic underlying them. What is the appeal of a converted Jew? What might be gained by attributing Jewish origins to an important Christian writer? Jacobs’s point of departure is the idea, popular in recent scholarship, that, at least until the fifth century, the categories of “Jew” and “Christian” existed as ideological frames rather than as clear social


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realities. There was no clear delineation between Judaism and Christianity in late antiquity, nor any distinct moment when the two religions separated. The evolutionary paradigm in which Christianity grew out of Judaism was an ideological construction imposed on the past, and a relatively late ideological construction at that. But—and this is the thrust of Jacobs’s argument— once such a paradigm began to develop, there arose a need for providing a “missing link” in this evolution. Jewish Christians and, by extension, Christians of Jewish origins demonstrated the legitimacy of the uninterrupted transition from Judaism to Christianity. Ascribing a Jewish background to prominent Christian writers (or bringing to light such a background in cases in which it was authentic but suppressed from earlier accounts) served the twofold purpose of providing demonstrable examples of the triumph of Christianity over Judaism and of furnishing Christianity with historical (and ultimately soteriological) depth. Furthermore, biographies of Christian authors emphasizing their alleged or real Jewish past surveyed the epistemological boundary between knowing and being. Once Christianity positioned itself as a “ daughter religion” of Judaism, it became necessary to define the limits of family resemblance. In some cases, some Christian writers, whose biographies were not well documented, were posthumously provided with Jewish origins simply because they were—or seemed to be—more knowledgeable about Judaism than some of their contemporaries or later readers. This, according to Jacobs, reveals a deeper Christian anxiety: Can Christians come to know Judaism without rebecoming Jews or unbecoming Christians? By inventing a Jewish background for prominent writers and church leaders, one might say that Christianity in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages domesticated Judaism, showing that it can be known and experienced without impairing one’s orthodoxy. The two chapters after Jacobs’s focus on the social history of conversion in the Middle Ages. Ephraim Kanarfogel’s essay deals with conversions to Judaism and continues the thread of the ideologizations of conversions and the question of what remains of the convert’s former identity. Kanarfogel discusses different approaches to converts and conversion espoused by German and northern French Tosafists. While German rabbis tended to rehash the classical Talmudic material, French rabbis proposed innovative solutions to both the general halakhic issues pertaining to conversions and specific cases of individuals undergoing the conversion process. These rabbinic accounts display a hiatus between the acceptance of or even praise for individual converts and the resistance to or even rejection of the idea of the encouragement



of conversion or the acceptance of large groups of converts. Going beyond simply treating people who voluntarily accepted Judaism as Jews, medieval French rabbis devised a special legal category for converts who became “equal to but separate from” other Jews. Ultimately, the halakhic arguments were used as legal devices for achieving the effect most desirable from the cultural perspective: the true reason for the rabbis’ stringency and inflexibility regarding the converts and conversion were considerations of family lineage. Paola Tartakoff’s essay delves into the connection between conversion and the material well-being of converts. In contemporary accounts, and often in academic scholarship as well, it is commonplace to claim that apostasies to Christianity were motivated by a search for social advancement and that apostates tended to be opportunistic seekers of material gain. Tartakoff counters this view, arguing that such a negative stereotype of the converts might have been linked not to their attempts to “sell their souls” but to their status as irredeemable paupers. Although many converts to Christianity did come from the poorest sectors of Jewish society, generally speaking, their material situation did not improve in the wake of their conversion. Indeed, some became poorer following their apostasy: both the church and the rabbinate, each for its own reasons, pushed for the dispossession of converts. For the former, voluntary poverty was a high moral and religious virtue. In being divested of their worldly goods, converts to Christianity attested to the strength of their belief and the purity of their motives. For the latter, dispossessing converts separated them from the Jewish community, allowing it to step into the breach to care for the converts’ Jewish kin. Even if some wealthy converts found ways to protect their possessions after their conversion and the poorest had literally nothing to lose, people in the middle of the economic spectrum had no financial inducement (and many possible disincentives) to approach the baptismal font. The next three chapters move to the transition from the late Middle Ages to early modernity and discuss one of the most heatedly debated topics in scholarship on Jewish conversions and in early modern Jewish history more broadly: the issue of Iberian conversos. Javier Castaño’s essay focuses on conversos in fifteenth-century Castile. Castaño elaborates on the notion that a religious conversion is not a single act but a process that takes place over time. Regardless of whether the change of religion was “sincere” or “forced” (and, as noted, both these terms are highly problematic in the context of conversions), converts could not simply switch their patterns of behavior or modes of thought overnight. By homing in on the history of a particular


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family, Castaño shows that, in some cases, the process of conversion might have extended beyond the life of the convert. Not only did conversions typically affect families rather than single individuals, children born to these families were often seen—in both their own eyes and those of outsiders—as “born converts.” Iberian conversos were not merely descendants of converts: behaviorally, psychologically, and sociologically, they were converts, even if it had been their forefathers who had undergone the act of conversion. Thus, conversos’ self-conception was a particular “genealogical mentality.” Castaño is particularly interested in converso families that clung to Jewish practices not in an attempt to preserve some form of Judaism or out of a hope to reunite with Jews in the future but out of a genuine conviction that Judaism— understood anachronistically as a “culture”—was an important component, perhaps even the nucleus, of their new Christian identity. Thus, Castaño’s essay is a powerful counterweight to the paradigm of reading the faith of the conversos as a “crypto-Judaism” in which the fixed and immutable “essence” of the Jewish religion was concealed beneath an external Christian “facade.” It shows how conversos might have striven to preserve a form of Judaism and simultaneously considered themselves true Christians. In their view, modified Judaism enriched their Christian identity. Claude Stuczynski’s essay takes up two main themes that guide Castaño’s contribution. First is the question concerning the residue of conversion. Stuczynski develops the notion of the “Paulinist” attitude to Christianity among the conversos. Conversion is seen here as a fundamentally positive phenomenon—that is, not as an apostasy from Judaism but as an affirmative embrace of Christianity. Stuczynski’s “Paulinist” conversos utterly subverted Christian supersessionist theology. In this theological line of thinking, God did not reject Jews and Judaism by sending the Messiah to gentiles; God confirmed the value of Judaism by having his son be born a Jew. Accordingly, conversion was, for those conversos, a cause of pride and power: not only were they not inferior to “native” Christians; in some sense, they were elevated over them thanks to their Jewish “residue.” It is important to note that this residue—individual traits that remain unchanged after a conversion— was defined in both mental and physical categories. Thus, religious conversion would not simply erase one’s former identity: “Jewish character” and “Jewish physique” were carried over throughout the convert’s Christian life. This nucleus of Jewish spiritual, cultural, and physical identity was cultivated within the adopted faith and shaped the way in which it was experienced by the convert. This last element leads to Stuczynski’s second main



theme: the idea that conversion should not be seen as a discrete moment in time typified by the ritual of baptism but as a process that generally begins before the baptism and, in all cases, continues thereafter. For the conversos discussed by Stuczynski—as for those discussed by Castaño—religious conversion was a lifelong process that entailed the gradual shaping of a new identity while preserving elements of an old one. The third essay considering the conversos is Anne Oravetz Albert’s work on the descendants of Iberian converts in seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Just as Castaño challenges the traditional scholarly paradigm of the conversos’ Judaism as a clandestine faith hidden beneath merely accidental Christianity, Albert confronts the now common characterization of their reintegration into Judaism as a “return.” Surveying several generations of scholarship on early modern Iberian conversos who became practicing Jews, Albert observes a turn away from descriptions of that process as conversion in favor of such terms as re-Judaization, reeducation, reintegration, reversion, and above all, return. The re- in this vocabulary speaks to modern historians’ reluctance to deny conversos their Jewishness, however latent or vestigial, and the “emotional stakes of declaring them in or out of the Jewish people.” Many are also reluctant to use a term (conversion) widely considered inherently Christian, as implied in the very notion of the converso. Albert then explores the numerous rhetorical models, theological and literary but also cosmological and medical, that conversos who became practicing Jews employed to interpret their change. “Conversos and ex-conversos called Judaization ‘return.’ But they also called it ‘medicine,’ ‘health,’ ‘restoration,’ and reorientation or ‘turning’ of the soul,” Albert notes. Further, the conversos did not conceive “being Jewish” as a binary notion. In their view, the question was not whether an individual or a group was Jewish but rather the extent to which people were Jewish. Whereas some halakhists may have debated the conversos’ belonging to Judaism and the Jewish people, their own question was not whether they were Jewish but how Jewish they were. According to Albert, every convert in some sense creates a religion to which he or she converts. In the end, Albert’s essay explains and exemplifies how conversion works as a term to describe and interpret her subject. The conversos did not convert from Christianity but from “converso Christianity,” and not simply to Judaism but to “converso Judaism.” Neither their point of departure nor their destination was “pure”; indeed, both were hybrid, new. Michela Andreatta begins her chapter with the keen observation that the true subject of the historian’s study is not the event or experience called


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conversion but conversion narratives. Jewish apostates’ written accounts of their own conversion to Christianity form a literary genre in its own right. In fact, given the late emergence of autobiographic modes of writing in Hebrew and Yiddish literatures, the majority of premodern Jewish autobiographies were written by converts. Conversion narratives offer a singular window onto the everyday lives of premodern Jews and the daily functioning of Jewish families and communities. This kind of window cannot be opened by rabbinic literature or any other writings of “normative” Jews. Andreatta proposes a close reading of one such narrative, Giulio Morosini’s Derekh Emunah (1683). She places the work within the context of contemporary concepts of selfhood and subjectivity, developing a nuanced interpretation centering on the baroque question of the relationship between appearance and reality, the real face and the assumed mask. Thus, Morosini’s narrative is an account of his conversion as constructed for the eyes of others. Recounting his story, Morosini provided an inkling of the spiritual world of a seventeenth-century Italian Jew and the customs of his contemporary community. Yet his aim was not merely to depict a personal “transformative journey” leading him from Judaism to Christianity; he strove to construct an “exemplum” for others. Thus, in Morosini’s and numerous other cases, the conversion narrative functions simultaneously as a conversionary manual: it is meant to convey the vicissitudes of a particular convert but also to serve as a guide for future converts. Moreover, Morosini’s text aims not only to assist Jews’ entry into an undifferentiated “Christian society” (a theoretical construct that, as such, never existed): he intended it to serve as a guide into polite society. Not merely obsolete and superseded by Christian notions, Jewish rites were coarse and unrefined. For Morosini, in addition to being a superior religion to Judaism, Christianity was also a superior civilization. Conversion was a passport to a world that was perceived as nobler, higher, and more sophisticated. In the final analysis, a conversion narrative was a “symbolic construct” that depicted and performed self-refashioning and provided guidance for selfrepresentation that enabled a convert to enter a particular stratum of Christian society and to navigate its waters. Alongside being a religious trope, conversion turned into an exercise in manners and rhetoric. Morosini at once denied his former Jewish identity and mobilized it to maneuver himself into a special, elevated place among his new Christian coreligionists. The remaining chapters in our volume discuss conversions in the modern world. Sarah Gracombe’s essay revisits Andreatta’s observation that scholars never really study conversions but only conversion narratives. While



Andreatta analyzes narratives that purport to be “authentic” descriptions of conversionary experiences, Gracombe focuses on fictional conversion narratives: English novels from the early nineteenth to the early twenty-first centuries. While conversion narratives written by modern English Jews who converted to Christianity are scarce, fictional Jewish conversions abound in Victorian novels. One can trace their authors’ fascination with conversion to at least two points: First, as Gracombe puts it, “conversion aligns with the novel because they are premised on the same fundamental question: Can people change?” Second, as the novel is the modern literary genre par excellence, converts are paradigmatically modern people: they choose and shape their own identities rather than inhabiting their given selves. These fictional or fictionalized accounts posed two underlying questions: the question of the possibility of eradicating one’s original Jewish identity and the question of a “national conversion”—that is, an adoption of a cultural or national (and not only religious) English identity. In asking these questions, Gracombe argues that the conversion of Jews to Anglicanism served as a test balloon for the wider possibilities of absorbing different ethnic and religious groups into the texture of the British Empire. Thus, the focus is on cultural elements of identity, posing “a causal connection between habits of consumption and habits of mind.” Conversion here is not merely the taking on of a new religion; it also implies the taking on of new tastes, opinions, and manners. Identities are not only chosen; they need to be learned. In a gesture similar to that of Horowitz, Gracombe links conversion with texts and reading habits: just as many conversion narratives depict the encounter with the unmediated text of the Bible as a trigger for the change of religion and propose the reading of biblical narratives as equivalents (or prefigurations) of the convert’s personal story, so Victorian novels both describe and aim to prompt conversions. Reading, they assume, can transform interiority. A lesson from the novels read by Gracombe is this: if by conversion we mean full abandonment of the old self and complete absorption into a new religion or culture, no conversion is ever complete or ever successful. Jewish converts (fictional and otherwise) may have desired to become Christians or to become English. In the final analysis they became . . . converts. Elliott Horowitz’s case study of Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon, a Lemberg Jew who converted to Anglicanism in the early nineteenth century, shows that Jewish conversions cannot be conceptualized simply as conversions “to Christianity”: in search of the true religion, the converts chose between different Christian churches and denominations. Solomon’s rejection


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of Roman Catholicism was as strong as—and in many senses stronger than— his rejection of normative Judaism. From the sixteenth century but arguably even earlier, converts inhabited a polyvalent world of multiple creeds competing for the title of truest embodiment of the original Mosaic revelation. In this competition, different Christianities might have seemed more remote from each other than “Christianity” was from Judaism. Furthermore, while in the eyes of observers converts were crossing over from their “original” religion to a “new” faith, in their own eyes, they may have been returning home. Thus, from converts’ perspective, conversion was sometimes less a radical transformation than a discovery of their true identity. Solomon perceived his choice of Anglicanism as reflecting an existential grasp of the true meaning of Jewishness, a meaning to which he had always adhered but which he could not fully develop within the confines of rabbinic Judaism. In this process, it was an independent reading of the scriptures, unassisted by any religious guidance or commentary, that opened his eyes to this truth. It was in their interaction with Christianity—and especially with Protestant Christianity—that many converts had their first encounter with the Hebrew Bible as a complete material object, a single-volume whole. And for many, it was their first encounter with the text of the Bible read existentially, as the text speaking personally to them. Still, if the choice of religion was an existential one, Solomon, like many other converts, faced conflicting existential decisions. Ultimately, he was forced to choose between his powerful commitment to his chosen faith and his equally powerful commitment to his family. Horowitz offers a gripping testimony of a convert pulled between the opposite attractions of Judaism and Christianity, the demands of God and the demands of family. Ellie Schainker’s essay on conversions to Christianity in tsarist Russia challenges the oft-proposed iunctim between conversion and assimilation. Whereas the conversion of an individual may be explained with reference to inner conviction or other purely spiritual, theological, or psychological factors, a convincing historical analysis of large groups of people demands that historians take into account social, cultural, and economic stimuli. In Jewish historiography, conversions to Christianity have typically been situated somewhere between the twin poles of coercion, on the one hand, and emancipation and social advancement, on the other: mass conversions were seen as either results of external pressures or career choices. Tartakoff’s essay provides a nuanced understanding of the second part of this stereotypical picture. Schainker moves the question further: How should we understand



conversions of sizable groups of Jews who were neither forced to abandon Judaism nor presented with any obvious benefits for professing Christianity? They faced no stick and were offered no carrot. In taking up the neglected subject of Jewish acceptance of—mainly Russian Orthodox—Christianity among the Jewish population of the provinces of the Russian Empire, Schainker pinpoints the practicalities of conversion among the clichéd “shtetl Jews.” The shtetl was mythologized—both in works of literature and, albeit to a lesser extent, in academic writings—as a stronghold of traditional Judaism, and shtetl conversions were portrayed as a marginal phenomenon. Not only does Schainker’s chapter revise this picture by showing that the numbers of converts were much higher than usually assumed; it also proposes a different paradigm for thinking about conversion. In discussing his conversion, the polymath Daniel Chwolson (1819–1911) said he had preferred to be a professor in Saint Petersburg than a melamed in Eyshishok. Schainker is interested in Jewish converts to Orthodox Christianity who never became professors and never left their Eyshishoks—either physically or metaphorically. Most essays collected in this volume present conversion as a “life-transforming” event that “changes every thing,” from the converts’ psyches to the most minute aspects of their existences. Schainker’s cases of conversion, by contrast, exhibit no major spiritual, social, or cultural transformation. She presents examples of apostates who remained members of the Jewish community in a wider sense, converts who did not change their place of residence, language, social and economic position, appearance, or habits. Thus, Schainker provides yet another perspective on conversion: conversion as a matter of routine. The volume closes with Netanel Fisher’s essay, which grapples with the problem of conversion to Judaism in the modern State of Israel. While, according to Fisher, the Hebrew concept of giyyur always encompassed the twin elements of accepting Judaism as the true religion and identifying with or joining the Jewish people, the modern Jewish state was confronted with converts who were eager to join the Jewish people but less eager to accept the commandments of Mosaic Law. In the face of this reality, Israeli stateappointed rabbis came up with a number of creative responses. Israel knows no separation between “church” and state, and at least in the case of the socalled Law of Return, the state operates with a different definition of Judaism from that of Jewish law. In the 1950s the main aim of the state’s rabbis was to prevent those who were “culturally Jewish” or Jewish de facto but not de jure from mingling with halakhic Jews. In a predominantly Jewish society,


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non-Jews naturally blend in and adopt many Jewish customs and values. The true danger in such a society would be if these non-Jews became externally indistinguishable from Jews (and therefore possibly intermarried and produced offspring with them) without any change in their halakhic status. In order to avoid such situations, during the first decades of the state, Israeli rabbis encouraged conversions and made relatively few demands on potential converts. This trend culminated in the policies advocated during the tenure of Rabbi Shlomo Goren (1972–83) as Ashkenazi chief rabbi of Israel, who viewed religious transformation as an important prerequisite for conversion but not as conversion itself. In his view, if non-Jews were willing to tie their fate with the fate of the Jewish people in the State of Israel, rabbis should assume noble intentions. In later years, this lax policy underwent a radical—if gradual—change. First, Israeli secularism ceased to be the paragon of Israeliness; religion came to occupy a much more important place in Israeli culture and society. Second, the halakhic pluralism typical of Jewish life across the world, where each rabbi or rabbinic court determined policy in its own jurisdiction, gave way to a much more centralized model. For the first time in centuries, in the State of Israel, Judaism developed a centralized institutional religious authority. As voices calling for stricter halakhic demands on converts grew louder, the rabbinate tried to navigate between the Scylla of rejecting converts en masse (on the grounds that most had no real intention of observing all the commandments of Judaism) and the Charybdis of indiscriminate acceptance (on the basis of the idea that any policy leading to higher numbers of Jews in Israel was good for the state). Fisher provides a riveting account of a real-life, contemporary policy with insoluble dilemmas and horse trading. This policy attempts to satisfy conflicting aims and interests, and fundamental changes to Jewish life are effected by seemingly insignificant decisions of second-rank bureaucrats. For all the deep differences between periods, contexts, and source material studied in the following pages, two fundamental and mutually exclusive notions of human life tie them together: the conviction that one can choose one’s destiny and the conviction that one cannot escape one’s past. The history of converts speaks to nothing less than the possibility—or impossibility—of changing one’s life. It is perhaps for this reason that we find ancient, medieval, and modern converts so compelling, as well as the stories they tell about themselves and that their new and former coreligionists tell about them. As questions of identity, both given and chosen, have come to occupy a central place in our culture, medieval rabbinic debates can



take on a white-hot urgency. Conservatism upholds the unchangeability of human nature, positing that our relationships to the historical conditions of our native language and culture represent a Schicksalsverwantschaft, a fateful determination of our being, unchosen and inescapable. Modern liberalism, by contrast, endorses the view that our origin does not determine our destiny, and that while we cannot choose the former, our individuality and freedom are defined in large part by our agency concerning the latter. The ability (true, at least subjectively) to choose and therefore to change who we are turns the Schicksalsverwantschaft into a Wahlverwantschaft, an elective affinity, to our religion or community. We might suggest that the successes and failures of premodern and modern converts to choose their destinies speak to the breadth of our own anthropologies. In their testing of the possibilities and limitations of human freedom, the converts stand for us.

Chapter 1

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion in the Hebrew Bible Sar a jaPheT

Introduction The phenomenon or status of a “religious convert”—a person who changes his affiliation from one religion to another—is defined in postbiblical Judaism by different terms: ger defines a convert to Judaism, and mumar or meshumad defines a convert from Judaism to other religions. The act of conversion is consequently defined as giyyur for the one, and hamarah or shemad for the other. While the term ger is of biblical origin and well attested in the different biblical books,1 the two other terms are postbiblical and attested in various sources of rabbinic literature.2 As has been shown by earlier scholars, the meaning of the biblical term ger is different from its meaning in postbiblical literature, and it certainly does not signify “a religious convert.”3 This lexicographical/terminological data, which I will discuss further, raises two different series of questions: (1) If the biblical ger does not mean “a religious convert,” where did this usage come from? Or better, what is the semantic development that led to this usage in postbiblical literature (or perhaps in very late biblical literature) and caused this to become the universal, even technical sense of the term? (2) From another perspective, if the biblical term ger does not mean “religious convert,” is the phenomenon or the idea of “religious conversion”— either to Judaism or from Judaism—recognized by the Bible? If yes, how are these phenomena defined? Do they have legal or social implications? How

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


are they appreciated? The following discussion will examine these two sets of questions.

The Term Ger The term ger was defined already by Rashi in the eleventh century, and the same definition, in varying phrasing, is suggested by all modern dictionaries. Rashi (in Exod. 22:20) says, “The meaning of ger: a person who was not born in this country but came from another country to live here.” 4 The noun ger is thus seen as deriving from the basic meaning of the verb gur,5 well illustrated by the locus classicus in the words of Joseph’s brothers to Pha raoh: “We have come to sojourn [lagur] in the land” (Gen. 47:4). As explained in the Passover Haggadah, “And sojourned there. This teaches us that our forefather Jacob did not intend to settle in Egypt but just to live there temporarily, as it is said: ‘We have come,’ they told Pharaoh, ‘to sojourn in the land, for there is no pasture for your servants’ flocks.’ ” 6 In accord with this view, the Israelites in Egypt are often described as gerim: “You shall not wrong a ger [NJPS: stranger] or oppress him for you were gerim [NJPS: strangers] in the land of Egypt” (Exod. 22:20, and many more).7 Since the ger is a newcomer and an outsider in his dwelling place, his rights in the new place are limited, and he needs the protection of the place’s permanent inhabitants; “his right of landed property, marriage and taking part in jurisdiction, cult and war has been curtailed.”8 Since he has no landed property and no family or clan support, the ger often belongs with the helpless sections of the society, and the Israelites are called on not to oppress him and to treat him well. And although the ger may have resided among the Israelites for many generations, his status as a foreign element within the Israelite society is retained.9 Nevertheless, the gerim are often included in the Israelite community, and we hear that on two occasions they took part in the great assemblies of the people of Israel: at the making of the covenant between the people of Israel and God, mediated by Moses (Deut. 29:10); and at the reading of the Torah in the time of Joshua (Josh. 8:33, 35). The ger is included in the command to keep the Sabbath (Exod. 20:10; Deut. 5:14) and is allowed to bring sacrifices to the Lord (Num. 15:14).10 However, an important exception is incorporated in the instructions regarding the Passover sacrifice. It is stated explicitly there that the ger is excluded from partaking of the Passover


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sacrifice—like any other foreigner—unless he is circumcised (Exod. 12:43, 48, 49). This clearly means that circumcision is, as a general rule, not required of the ger, and that he may or may not—at his will—choose circumcision and participate in the Passover sacrifice. In this respect the ger is similar to the slave, who may participate in the Passover sacrifice only if circumcised (Exod. 12:44).11 We may summarize by saying that the ger is an alien, a temporary resident in Israel. It should be noted particularly that in all the references to the ger in the Pentateuch, and in the instructions regarding him, his religious background is not explicitly referred to. His status should thus be defined in social terms rather than in religious ones. In fact, the term ger is not restricted to non-Israelites; it may also apply to Israelites who had moved from their original home to reside among another tribe or family (see, for instance, Judg. 17:7–9).12 In contrast to the later, postbiblical Jewish definition, the ger is not seen as having joined the religion of Israel but rather as having come to live within the social (or political) entity of Israel. The idea that a ger is someone who came to any location in the land of Israel or joined any component of the people of Israel in order to join their religion or “the faith of Yahweh” is never expressed in these texts. Can we say anything about the religion followed and practiced by the gerim in general? Although there is no explicit indication to this effect, it seems unquestionable that the (non-Israelite) gerim adopted the religion of Israel and followed its forms of worship. It should be emphasized, however, that the adoption of the Israelite religious practices was not the motive for their coming to live in the land of Israel or for their joining the people of Israel, but rather its result. Their adoption of the religion of Israel should be seen as an outcome of their residency in the land—which, however, did not affect their peculiar social status as aliens.

* * * Let me explain this matter in somewhat more detail. I take as a point of departure the narrative parts of the Bible rather than the legal ones, and turn first to David’s address to Saul after he had the opportunity to kill him and refrained from doing so. David blames and curses anonymous people in Saul’s entourage for inciting Saul against him; among other things, he says, “If the Lord has incited you against me, let Him be appeased by an offering, but if it is men, may they be accursed of the Lord! For they have driven me

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


out today, so that I cannot have a share in the Lord’s possession, but am told: ‘Go and worship other gods’ ” (1 Sam. 26:19). The gist of David’s complaint is that by forcing him to leave his home country—or in his more poetic language, “the Lord’s possession”—they force him also to worship other gods. The land of Israel is “the Lord’s possession,” the place where the Lord is worshiped; any other land to which he may be forced to go would be a land of other gods, who will demand allegiance from the land’s inhabitants. The view expressed in David’s concise statement is illustrated at greater length in 2 Kings 17, in the story about the peoples whom the kings of Assyria settled in Samaria: The king of Assyria brought [people] from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharwaim, and he settled them in the towns of Samaria in place of the Israelites. . . . When they first settled there they did not worship the Lord, so the Lord sent lions against them which killed some of them. They said to the king of Assyria: “The nations which you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know the rules of the God of the land, therefore He has sent lions among them [RSV; NJPS: He let lions loose against them] which are killing them—for they do not know the rules of the God of the land.” The king of Assyria gave an order: “Send there one of the priests whom you have deported; let him go and dwell there and let him teach them the practices of the God of the land.” So one of the priests whom they had exiled from Samaria came and settled in Bethel; he taught them how to worship the Lord. (2 Kings 17:24–28) In this passage, the definition of the Lord is “the God of the land,” and the people living in his land are seen as obliged to follow “his rules” (mishpat elohei ha-arets). An extremely concrete expression of this view, almost fetishistic, is presented in the story about Naʻaman, the commander of the Aramean army (2 Kings 5). Naʻaman expresses the wish to worship the God of Israel in his own country, Aram, and therefore asks for permission to take with him to Aram some earth from Israel in order to build an altar, so that a certain fraction of the “Land of the Lord” will be transferred to Aram: “Then at least your servant be given two mule-loads of earth; for your servant will never again offer up burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord” (2 Kings 5:17).


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The presuppositions of this view are straightforward: Each land has its own “God of the land,” who demands allegiance from the land’s inhabitants. In the same way that the Lord is the “God of the land” in the land of Israel, other countries have their own “gods of the land,” worshiped there. Everyone residing in the land of Israel is obliged to worship the God of Israel, while a person leaving the land of Israel would be obliged to worship the gods of the land to which he had moved.13 The implications of this view for the ger—the sojourner who leaves his place of origin and moves to another land—are clear: he is expected to adopt the religious practices of the land to which he has moved. There is no hint anywhere in the Bible that the adoption of the “rule of the God of the land” implies a formal act or a formal declaration. The ger becomes a member of the new social framework— although not equal in status to the authentic members—and adopts its rules. As far as we can learn from the biblical texts, and as far as religious practice is concerned, the ger has only one limitation: he is prevented from partaking of the Passover sacrifice unless he is circumcised. Thus, in practice, the ger may be viewed as a convert, for he has adopted a religion that was not originally his. However, this conversion is not prompted by religious convictions and is not described in religious terms. It is the practical outcome of the ger’s residence in the land of Israel, the land where the Lord is “the God of the land.”

The Concept and Definition of “Religious Conversion” Contrary to the biblical understanding of gerut as the automatic and external acceptance of the religion of Israel, as a result of residence among the Israelites, religious conversion is a conscious act by which a person (or a community) adopts a new religious faith and practices because of religious conviction.14 The question is whether the Bible recognizes or acknowledges such a phenomenon as “religious conversion.” Some influential scholars have claimed that “the idea of religious conversion appeared only in later times. It was the creation of the oral law and developed only after the biblical period. The concept of religious conversion, that is, the turning from idolatry to Israel’s God, exists in Scripture but only as an idea. There was no practicable possibility whereby the alien could become an Israelite by reason of religious association alone. . . . There is no reference to any ritual whereby

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


the faith of Israel is accepted.”15 Similarly, “the Biblical period does not recognize religious conversion, except as a by-phenomenon of the practical joining and as its result.”16 This view was adopted enthusiastically by Shaye D. Cohen and emphasized in a series of articles.17 My own view is different. As I will soon show, both the idea and the phenomenon of religious conversion did exist in biblical times; they are attested mostly in the postexilic literature, but also earlier. The idea or the phenomenon is not, however, defined by the term ger or by its derivatives. The earliest evidence of this idea and practice is found in the story of Naʻaman, the Aramean commander (2 Kings 5). After having been cured of his leprosy, through following the instructions given to him by the prophet Elisha, Naʻaman declares, “Now I know that there is no God in the whole world except in Israel” (2 Kings 5:15). He therefore decides to worship the Lord alone: “Your servant will never again offer up burnt offering or sacrifice to any god except the Lord” (2 Kings 5:17). This is the gist of a religious conversion: the recognition of the Lord as the only God in the world—that is, a true monotheistic faith— and commitment to the exclusivity of the Lord’s worship, as expressed in sacrificial rituals. We may describe Naʻaman as the first convert to the Israelite monotheistic faith!18 The text does not indicate that any formal procedure was demanded or suggested, and the whole incident is very different from later, postbiblical rules, as established by rabbinic law; nevertheless, this is clearly a conversion out of religious motives. There is, however, one catch in Naʻaman’s conversion, which he himself declares apologetically: that he would have to pay lip ser vice to the religion of his master, the king of Aram, by accompanying him when he comes to worship Rimmon, the god of Aram (2 Kings 5:18). We should notice that Naʻaman is not called a ger; it is indeed an inappropriate definition according to the biblical terminology, as he does not come to live in Israel and returns to his country. In fact, no other term is employed to define him. The religious conversion of Naʻaman attests to a certain tension between the idea and the practice of this conversion. While the idea admits an absolute exclusivity of the God of Israel, which should entail a complete abstinence from any other kind of worship, in practice this is not fully carried out. A similar case—although with a lesser degree of initial commitment— is that of the foreign peoples settled in Samaria.19 Although they accepted “the rules of the God of the land,” their worship of the God of Israel is not exclusive, as they continue to worship their original deities (2 Kings 17:29–33).


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These peoples too are not referred to as gerim, for they do not meet the social connotation of this term. They are not “temporary residents” adjacent to the Israelite society but rather full-fledged settlers, having been moved in the land by the Assyrian authorities “in place of the Israelites” (2 Kings 17:24). Unlike in the case of Naʻaman, there is an element of coercion in the conversion of these peoples, and they would not meet the later Jewish definition of a true convert, who is supposed to adopt the Jewish religion out of absolute free choice and conviction. However, the coercion in this case is itself divine—the Lord himself had sent lions against them—and thus the religious motive of the conversion is unquestionable.20

* * * The idea and the practice of religious conversion are attested by several texts of the postexilic period. Rather than presenting these texts according to some presumed chronological sequence, I will begin with what I see as the most lucid expression of this phenomenon, the text of Nehemiah 10.21 The chapter records the making of a covenant by which the people of Judah commit themselves to a long series of obligations. The signatories of and participants in the covenant are recorded in detail: the leaders—that is, the governor and the heads of the priestly families (10:2–9), the heads of the Levites (10:10–14), and the heads of the people (10:15–20)— and then the people themselves: “And the rest of the people, the priests, the Levites, the gatekeepers, the singers, the temple servants, and all who are separated22 from the peoples of the lands to [follow] the Torah23 of God, their wives sons and daughters, all who know enough to understand, join with their noble brothers and take an oath with sanctions to follow the Torah of God, given through Moses the servant of God, and to observe carefully all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, His rules and laws” (Neh. 10:29–30). The definition is both precise and comprehensive. On the one hand, it presents meticulously all the components of the Judean community, including women and children; on the other hand, the content of the undertaking by oath is clearly defined— an absolute commitment to all the commandments as written in the Torah. Included in the community of those who take upon themselves this complete commitment are those “who are separated from the peoples of the lands to the Torah of God.” The terminology is straightforward and unequivocal; yet a few things should be pointed out: First, the people who “are separated from the peoples

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


of the land” are regarded as an essential component of the assembly of Judah, as much as all the other components, with no restriction of any kind on their participation in the observing community. They include not merely individuals but entire family groups—wives, sons, and daughters.24 Second, it seems that the author has made an effort to offer a precise definition of these people while purposefully avoiding the term gerim, a term absent from Ezra–Nehemiah altogether. And lastly, the presence of these people as part of the assembly is not presented as a vision for the future (see the discussion later in this chapter) or as a utopian prophetic utterance but rather as a picture of the actual community of Judah at the time. Who are the people thus defined? The text describes them as foreigners, from “the peoples of the lands,” who had separated themselves from their original peoples and joined the Judean community.25 In order to fully appreciate this definition, we should compare it with another passage, which seems rather similar on the face of the matter but in fact defines another group within the Judean community. I allude to the passage about the celebration of the Passover following the dedication of the Temple: “The children of the exile26 celebrated the Passover. . . . The priests and Levites purified themselves to a man. . . . They slaughtered the Passover offering for all the children of the exile and for their brother priests and for themselves. The children of Israel who had returned from the exile, together with all who had joined them in separating themselves from the impurity [NJPS: unseemliness] of the nations of the lands to worship the Lord God of Israel, ate of it” (Ezra 6:19–21). The apparent similarity seems to obscure the difference in terms between this context and Nehemiah 10:29–30, discussed earlier. The Judean community is referred to here by the purposefully limiting definition “the children of the exile” (Ezra 6:19) or “the children of Israel who had returned from the exile” (Ezra 6:20).27 Those who joined them are described as having separated themselves from “the impurity/pollution of the nations of the land,” rather than from “the peoples of the land,” and their purpose is described in the general phrase “to seek the Lord” rather than in terms of fulfilling the commandments of the Law of Moses, the Torah. They are nevertheless allowed to partake of the Passover sacrifice. It thus seems that Ezra 6:21 refers not to non-Israelites but rather to those of the people of Judah who belonged not with the “returned exiles” but rather with the group of Judeans who had remained in the land of Judah after the Babylonian conquest. They are presented in the text as contaminated by “impurities,” from which they have


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now separated themselves in order to join the community of “the exile.”28 In contrast to the Passover narrative, Nehemiah 10:29–30 defines the people joining as those who had belonged initially to the “people of the lands” and who had “separated themselves” not just “to seek the Lord” but to make a total commitment to the Law, with all its commandments. The terminology of Ezra–Nehemiah is unique to this book and is not repeated elsewhere in the Bible. The phrasing of Nehemiah 10:29 represents an effort to describe a phenomenon for which there had been no previous terminology, and for which the term ger was inadequate—the phenomenon of religious conversion.

* * * Religious conversion is referred to also in other biblical texts and in other terms, the most common of which is nilveh—a person who joins, who is attached. Since this term appears in several biblical books, it may be regarded as having acquired a certain measure of stability and standardization. The well-known and much discussed text of Isaiah 56:3–7 reads as follows: Let not the foreigner say, who has attached himself to the Lord, “The Lord will keep me apart from his people”; . . . for thus said the Lord: . . . “As for the foreigners who attach themselves to the Lord, to minister to him and to love the name of the Lord to be his servants—all who keep the Sabbath and do not profane it, and who hold fast to My covenant—I will bring them to my sacred mount and let them rejoice in My house of prayer; their burnt offering and sacrifices shall be welcome on My altar, for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The prophecy presents a detailed description of the nilveh—the foreigner (ben ha-nekhar) who attaches himself to the Lord. His foreign origin is explicitly and most generally stated, without further specification of this origin, and his attachment is explicitly described as “to the Lord.” The concrete expression of his attachment is specified: observance of the Sabbath and holding fast to the Lord’s covenant. The fear expressed by these attached foreigners is that the Lord will separate them from “his people,” in response to which

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


the Lord declares that they will be accepted; they will be able to participate in the worship of the Lord, in the form of sacrifices and prayers in the Temple. It should be noted that this prophetic utterance is not an eschatological prophecy for the end of days but rather an emphatic statement regarding a contemporary, debated issue.29 The phrasing of the prophecy sounds like an intentional echo of a passage in Nehemiah: “On the twenty-fourth day of this month, the children of Israel assembled, fasting, in sackcloth and with earth upon them. Those of the stock of Israel separated themselves from all foreigners” (Neh. 9:1–2). The similarity between the two passages is evident both in the explicit reference to “foreigners” (benei nekhar) and in the use of the root bdl to express their exclusion. Moreover, there is also a hint at the motive for the separation, in the definition of Israel as “the seed of Israel” (zera Yisra’el).30 It is precisely against such views that the prophecy of Isaiah 56 takes a position: these foreigners “hold fast to the covenant” and are therefore part of the Lord’s people. They should not be excluded.31 The prophecy of Zechariah to the foreigners is phrased using the same terms and vocabulary: “In that day many nations will attach themselves to the Lord and become His people, and He will dwell in your midst” (Zech. 2:15). “Attachment to the Lord” is sufficient to make the foreigner “His people.” This prophecy, in turn, is similar in tone to another eschatological prophecy of Zechariah (8:20–23), which, however, is less specific and does not use the term “attach.” Similar terminology, including both nilveh and covenant, is used elsewhere in the description of the Israelites rather than the foreigners, to mark their future full commitment to the Lord and his covenant: “In those days and at that time—declares the Lord—the people of Israel together with the people of Judah shall come, and they shall weep as they go to seek the Lord their God. They shall inquire for Zion. . . . They shall come and attach themselves to the Lord by a covenant for all time, which shall never be forgotten” (Jer. 50:4–5). Finally, we should take into consideration the passages in Esther in  which two different terms are used. First among them is the unique mityahadim—“Judaising” (8:17)—which, in view of the end of the verse, “for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them,” the English translations render in a pejorative manner: “professed to be Jews” (NJPS) or “declared themselves Jews” (NRSV). However, since the verb is unique, there is no way to decide whether the intended meaning is indeed pejorative or neutral. This is not the case for Esther 9:27, where the term nilveh is used in an unequivocal


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statement: “The Jews undertook and irrevocably obligated themselves and their descendants and all who joined them [Hebrew: ha-nilveh aleyhem] to observe these two days in the manner prescribed and at the proper time each year.” “All who joined them” are full members of the Jewish community, and they obligate themselves like every other member of the community to commemorate the delivery from their enemies. The passages I have discussed so far reflect different historical settings and different perspectives. Some of them relate to concrete, contemporary situations, while others are directed to the future. Some of the passages have the land of Israel as their background, while others refer to the communities and conditions of the Diaspora. In all these passages, no “mechanism” or “formal procedure” is mentioned in regard to the “attached” or “joined” foreigners, but there could be no doubt that they are seen as full members of the people of Israel, committed to its religion and practice, both in the land of Israel and in the Diaspora.

* * * A certain change in terminology, which for our topic is of great significance, may be noted in the prophecy of Isaiah 14:1–2. This late prophecy is addressed to the Israelites in the Diaspora and envisions the gathering of the exiles:32 “The Lord will have compassion on Jacob and will again choose Israel, and will set them in their own land. And aliens shall join them [ve-nilvah ha-ger aleyhem] and shall cleave to the House of Jacob. And the peoples will take them and bring them to their place.”33 The prophecy includes two terms: ger and nilveh—that is, the ger will “join them,” or, according to the terminology used in the other passages, “will attach himself to them.” Since the prophecy is addressed to the Israelites in the Diaspora, the term ger cannot in this context bear its original meaning of “a person who lives in the land of Israel after having moved there from another place.” Rather, it refers to people who have attached themselves to the Israelites in the lands of their exile, and who are promised that in the time of redemption they will join the returning exiles and come to the land of Israel, “to their land.” In this double phrase, the act of “joining” or “attaching” is still defined by the term nilveh, which—as we saw before—signifies religious conversion, but the conjunction of nilveh and ger attests to an evolving change in the meaning of ger. It still does not stand by itself to denote

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


religious conversion, but it defines the people who are regarded as converts. They are seen as part of “the house of Jacob” in every way.

Additional Texts Since I did not cite all the biblical occurrences of the term ger in the preceding discussion, some complementary remarks seem to be needed. In the prophetic books, Psalms, and Job, the general use of the term is no different from the standard, sociological meaning of the term presented earlier.34 In two contexts, however, the use of the term and its relevance to our discussion need to be further clarified: the references to the ger in Ezekiel and to the plural—gerim—in Chronicles. The term ger appears in Ezekiel’s prophecies five times. Two of these are in Ezekiel’s reproof of the past sins of the city of Jerusalem and the land of Israel that had led to their destruction.35 Among the sins is also the mistreatment of the ger: “The ger [NJPS: strangers] have been cheated in your midst; orphans and widows have been wronged within you” (22:7); “And the people of the land have practiced fraud and committed robbery; they have wronged the poor and the needy; they have defrauded the ger [NJPS: stranger] without redress” (22:29). Both texts reflect the traditional view of the ger as an unprotected alien who belongs to the weak and wronged layer in Israelite society, together with the orphan and the widow. This meaning of the term is correctly borne by the translations.36 The ger is mentioned again in Ezekiel 14:7, a more strictly religious context. Ezekiel utters harsh words against those among the Israelites who follow a syncretistic way of life: they worship idols, on the one hand, and approach the prophet to inquire of the Lord, on the other. These people— to whom Ezekiel prophesies utter destruction and annihilation—include also the gerim, as part of the people of Israel: “For if any man of the House of Israel or of the gerim [collective singular; NJPS: the strangers] who dwell in Israel, breaks away from me and turns his thoughts upon his fetishes . . .  and then goes to the prophet to inquire of Me through him, I the Lord . . .  will set my face against that man and make him a sign and a byword, and I will cut him off from the midst of My people” (14:7–8). The ger is presented in this context as an essential part of the people of Israel whom the Lord “will cut . . . from the midst of [His] people.” The obligation of the ger to


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worship the Lord exclusively is taken for granted, as for any other Israelite; nevertheless, the ger is viewed as a separate component of the people, different from those of “the House of Israel,” and defined in terms similar to those used by the Priestly literature: “the ger who dwells in Israel.”37 The portrait of the ger in this context is no different from that of the other texts: he is an alien within the Israelite society but is nevertheless regarded as part of the people. In practice, then, he has accepted the religion of Israel, but the definition of his status is still sociological rather than religious; he came to Israel to dwell there and not for the sake of its religion. The last references to the ger in Ezekiel are in the context of his utopian picture of the future restoration of the land of Israel. He first draws the borders of the land (47:14–20), then proceeds to the division of the land between the twelve tribes (48:1–29), preceded by an introduction (47:21–23). In this introduction he includes the gerim among the tribes of Israel who will inherit their portions in the land: “This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel. You shall allot it as heritage for yourselves and for the gerim [NJPS: strangers] who reside among you, who have begotten children among you. You shall treat them as Israelite citizens. You shall give the ger [NJPS: stranger] an allotment within the tribe where he resides, declares the Lord God.” This is the most revolutionary stance toward the gerim, going far beyond the statement of their position in the Priestly sections of the Pentateuch. The instruction to assign to them an allotment within the tribes of Israel abolishes their status as landless and turns them into equal citizens among the people of Israel. Some scholars would regard these statements as pointing to the view that the gerim were proselytes— true religious converts.38 This view, however, is problematic. There is no doubt that Ezekiel regards the gerim as worshipers of the Lord, similar to his view in 14:7–8, and therefore as adhering in practice to the religion of Israel. However, the definition of the ger in this context is no different from Ezekiel’s usage elsewhere in his prophecies, which clearly preserves the original, social meaning of the term.39 Notwithstanding their adoption of the religion of Israel, their initial motive was not religious but social—they came to dwell among the people of Israel. The principle that underlies Ezekiel’s utopian picture is the absolute equality of all the tribes and all the members of the people; the endowment of inheritance to the gerim is part of the implementation of this principle, but their perception as a distinct social group among the people of Israel remains as it was.

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


The book of Chronicles includes four references to the ger, always in the plural—more than any other postexilic text.40 In one of the references, the use of the term is figurative, comparing the feeble and transient position of the human being before the Lord to that of the ger within human society; the concrete basis of this metaphor is clearly the traditional social meaning of the term (1 Chron. 29:15).41 The other three occurrences are carefully calculated and purposeful. The gerim are mentioned in the framework of two historical periods, the reigns of Solomon and Hezekiah. These are precisely the historical periods in which the Deuteronomistic history in the book of Kings attests to the existence of foreign elements in the land of Israel. The foreigners are of different communities of origin: during Solomon’s reign they are those who remained from the original “seven nations” of the land, whom the Israelites did not annihilate (1 Kings 9:20–23), while in the time of Hezekiah they are the peoples that were settled in Samaria by the Assyrian emperors (2 Kings 17:24). In these two historical settings, the Chronicler refers to gerim (1 Chron. 22:2[1]; 2 Chron. 2:16, 30:25) and presents them as a part of the people of Israel. Moreover, in line with his tendency to equalize David and Solomon and to present the acts of Solomon as having been preceded by David, he extends the first period to David.42 The view of the gerim as an integral part of the people of Israel is especially highlighted in the time of Hezekiah, when they are mentioned among the people of Israel who came to Jerusalem from everywhere in the land to celebrate the Passover: “All the congregation of Jerusalem and the priests and the Levites and all the congregation that came from Israel, and the gerim [NJPS: resident aliens] who came from the land of Israel, and those who lived in Judah rejoiced” (2 Chron. 30:25). The Chronicler’s purpose in these references seems transparent: they are the expression of his view that “all Israel” encompasses all the inhabitants of the land of Israel; the inhabitants of the land of Israel were all Israelites. According to the Chronicler’s view, there were never any “foreign” elements in the land of Israel.43 How does the Chronicler regard these people whom he defines as gerim? Are they regarded as “resident aliens”—similar to the original biblical meaning of the term—or as religious converts who have attached themselves to the religion of Israel? Chronicles does not employ the terms nivdal and nilveh, which we encountered before as expressing the idea of religious conversion. The only explicit detail that the Chronicler adds regarding these people is their consistent presentation as coming from “the land of Israel” (erets Yisra’el: 1


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Chron. 22:2; 2 Chron. 2:16, 30:25)—a designation of the country almost entirely restricted to these references to the gerim, and probably denoting the country’s broadest boundaries.44 It may be inferred from the Passover context, although this is not explicitly mentioned, that these people were circumcised. The gerim are included among the entire congregation who have taken part in the Passover sacrifice, for which circumcision was mandatory (Exod. 12:48); if we may infer from one setting to the other, the same requirement would have applied to the gerim in the other settings as well. There is no doubt that, in practice, the gerim are regarded in Chronicles as full members of the Israelite people and faith. However, their definition is neutral, and there is no indication of either the circumstances of or the motivation for their joining the people of Israel. Is the use of the term ger in Chronicles already a further development of its use in Isaiah 14:1? The question of whether the gerim in Chronicles were religious converts in the late, strict sense of the term—that is, whether they were seen as having adopted the religion of Israel out of religious motives—must remain unanswered.

Conclusion The biblical term ger applies to a certain social status within Israelite society. It applies to both Israelites and non-Israelites and should be understood in sociological rather than religious terms. When referring to non-Israelites, it defines “a person who came from another country to reside in the land of Israel”; in practical terms, such a person most probably followed the “rules of the God of the land,” but he did not adopt the faith of Israel out of religious motives or convictions. Rather, his joining the Israelite religion was a corollary of his social situation. The phenomenon and concept of religious conversion—the adoption of the religion of Israel out of religious motives—are attested in the biblical literature but are not originally defined by the term ger. They are presented either without a definition (as in the case of Naʻaman) or by the use of the terms nivdal and nilveh (and perhaps also mityahed), none of which achieved the status of established technical terms. Only in one place in the Bible, where the term ger appears together with nilveh and refers to people from outside the land of Israel, does the term ger assume the meaning of “religious convert”— that is, one who has joined the people of Israel because of religious motives (Isa. 14:1). Thus, what were at the outset two different matters—the ger as

The Term Ger and the Concept of Conversion


a definition of a social status, and religious conversion, which existed as a historical phenomenon but did not reach an established, standard definition—were eventually combined. The term ger lost its original social meaning (even when biblical texts were later quoted); the biblical terms used for religious conversion disappeared from postbiblical language, and ger came to define a person who took upon himself voluntarily the religious faith and the religious practices of the people of Israel. As we have seen, the references to religious converts do not mention any condition, prescription, or formal ceremony by which their status as converts was conferred. In terms of conditions to which the convert is obligated, we find the general statement of Nehemiah 10:29–30: “to follow the Torah of God, given through Moses . . . and to observe carefully all the commandments of the Lord our Lord, His rules and laws”; and the description in the prophecy of Isaiah 56: they keep the Sabbath and “hold fast to the covenant,” with no specification as to what “holding fast” to the covenant actually includes. The absence of these details is a corollary of the literary genres in which the references are found—similar to all biblical literature outside the Pentateuch, none of them is a legal discussion. Detailed definitions and clear regulations concerning religious conversion would be formulated much later, in the framework of postbiblical and rabbinic legal discussions, and would reach a degree of stability and standardization after a long and complex process. Circumcision—adopted from the biblical law regarding the ger who wished to partake of the Passover sacrifice—would be established as a mandatory requirement, accompanied by immersion; a formal ceremony and verbal declaration would be made obligatory, and the principles of free choice and absolute commitment would be expressly declared. The ger would be “reborn” into the Jewish faith, and his precise status, obligations, and restrictions would be carefully set out, on the basis of the principle that—“a ger who converts is like a newborn baby.” 45 Historical circumstances and religious considerations would join to make the issue of conversion a bone of contention within Judaism to this very day.

Chapter 2

Ex-Jews and Early Christians Conversion and the Allure of the Other a n d r e w  S. j ac o b S

The “ex-Jews” and “early Christians” of my title refer to ancient Christians who have—sporadically and occasionally—been portrayed as former Jews. None of these ancient Christians ever refer to themselves as converts from Judaism, nor do their contemporaries. Other people have decided, sometime after these Christians died, that they had once been Jews. My interest in these putative ex-Jews does not lie in determining the facticity of these labels, whether so-and-so had ever really at some time been a Jew.1 Instead I want to explore the processes by which these people were imagined to have once been Jewish and disclose what cultural, social, or political functions such postmortem identifications may have played.2 What is the appeal of the converted Jew, in both ancient and modern contexts? “Conversion,” a recurring theme in religious studies for much of the modern period, is enjoying something of a heyday: witness the recent appearance of The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion.3 Yet it is a theoretically challenging term, often reproducing precisely what it should call into question: the boundaries and borders of religions and even the stability of the category of “religion” itself. Even as we define and redefine it, widening its ambit to incorporate new methods and traditions, conversion remains strangely undertheorized. Shane P. Gannon points out in an article on Buddhist conversion, “The study of the meaning of conversion as an object of critical inquiry has been overlooked by most scholars in the field of the study of religious conversion.” Gannon further asks, “What is the framework that

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has made conversion so meaningful that academics think its study is important?” 4 Gannon proposes we adopt a hermeneutics of conversion: asking not why or whether so-and-so has converted but rather what kind of meaning interpreters of the conversion make out of it.5 In this essay I focus on three ex-Jewish early Christians as test cases in a larger study of the hidden ideologies at work in the (re-)production of converted Jews. Two of these figures, Epiphanius of Cyprus and Romanos, known as Melodos, were posthumously transformed into converted Jews by admiring followers in the early middle ages. Epiphanius’ Jewish identity was a matter of ancient and medieval contention, ultimately set aside by modern scholars. Romanos’ ex-Jewishness has, by contrast, emerged out of a murky medieval past to find more solid traction in modern scholarship. The third figure, Ambrosiaster, has been bequeathed and stripped of an ex-Jewishness fabricated (like all of his biography, and his very name) entirely by modern scholars. By bringing the Jewish origins of these three figures together, I hope to begin crafting my own hermeneutics of conversion: What meaning emerges out of these narratives of ex-Jewishness, in antiquity and in our own scholarly contexts?

Epiphanius Let me begin with Epiphanius. I spend a bit more time with him than with my other examples for two reasons: First, in a recently completed book on Epiphanius and the culture of late ancient Christianity, I consider at length, in a final chapter, his various hagiographic “afterlives.” 6 Second, Epiphanius’ ex-Jewishness has the longest history of our three examples, beginning in the century after his death and continuing into our own era. Epiphanius of Cyprus is most famous in the annals of Christian history as the master fighter of heresy: his Panarion, or “medicine-chest” against heresies, purports to catalog and refute eighty Christian heresies from the first human to his own time, in the late fourth century.7 Like an increasing number of bishops in the fourth and fifth centuries, Epiphanius began his religious life as a monk:8 after being raised in Palestine, he sojourned among the monks of Egypt, founded a monastery back in Palestine, and was eventually made bishop of the city of Constantia (formerly Salamis) near the east coast of the island of Cyprus. His provincial posting did not prevent him from casting a long shadow across the fractious Christian world during his career: there are few


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ecclesiastical conflicts in the last quarter of the century in which Epiphanius does not make an appearance. Epiphanius was first described as a former Jew in the saint’s life written by his followers, perhaps as early as the late fifth century.9 Although orthodox churches today still retain the charming story of a backcountry Jew converted by contact with Christian holy men, scholars have eschewed this portrait of Epiphanius. Instead they rely on evidence from silence: no mention is made of this famous bishop’s ex-Jewishness during his lifetime, despite his seeming ubiquity across the late fourth-century Christian world. One might imagine that the equally acerbic Jerome, the Latin monk who worked closely with Epiphanius and praised him as “five-tongued” (πεντάγλωσσος),10 would mention this historical detail, yet he remains silent. The same goes for the church historian Sozomen, writing only a few decades after Epiphanius’ death and, like the bishop himself, of Palestinian origin.11 To this argument from silence we might also add a single, tantalizing sound bite extracted from the booming patristic echo chamber of the eighthcentury iconoclastic debates. During this period, partisans and enemies of the sacred image pored over the texts of the “learned fathers” of the ancient church in order to bolster their arguments for (and against) icon veneration. Epiphanius was concatenated with other patristic witnesses for the iconoclasts, who quoted from a lost letter from Epiphanius to the emperor Theodosius in which the bishop decries the presence of images of apostles and Christ in churches and begs the emperor to stamp out this new “idolatry.” In the beginning of this letter, Epiphanius attests to the Nicene orthodoxy of him and his parents, making impossible any claim that he was raised Jewish. This fragment attesting to his Nicene Christian upbringing, as well as other fragments and summaries of this letter, in fact survives in the iconophile refutation of the patriarch Nicephoros. In his discussion, Nicephoros cites this letter in order to prove it is a forgery:12 “Now he reports of himself, in this letter, that he has followed the faith of the Nicene fathers from an early age: and how his parents were born in it, and they kept this confession. But that holy Epiphanius, as we know, was born a ‘Hebrew of Hebrews’ [Phil 3:5]. And his parents died in that Hebrew religion: but not until he was sixteen years old was he initiated into the Christian faith and received the divine baptism.”13 Scholars consider about two dozen words of this passage a genuine “fragment” of Epiphanius’ letter to Theodosius (those words are represented in italics in the quote),14 although it is not clear that Nicephoros even pretends to cite the (purportedly forged) letter directly here.15 None-

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theless, the modern argument to consider Epiphanius’ Letter to Theodosius genuine has, for many readers of Epiphanius, secured his place as the Christian child of Christian parents. I will demur, once more, on the hard historical question: whether to believe the authors of Epiphanius’ vita and Nicephoros over the iconoclasts and late twentieth-century scholars of patristics, or vice versa. Instead I want to step back and ask, what is at stake here? What desires, and fears, are being articulated in the matrix of Epiphanius’ Jewish childhood, in ancient and modern contexts? Why has it sometimes made sense to see Epiphanius as a convert from Judaism, and other times not? It will help to start with the vita itself. In the vita, we meet a young Epiphanius just before his father dies, leaving behind a widow, Epiphanius, and a sister. After a pair of illuminating encounters with a Jew and a Christian, each interested in buying young Epiphanius’ donkey, Epiphanius is adopted by Trypho, a wealthy Jewish man “learned in the Law” (νομοδιδάσκολος), who hopes to marry him to his daughter. When the man and his daughter die, Epiphanius inherits their fortune. A chance encounter as he rides toward his inherited estate transforms Epiphanius into a Christian and a monk: he witnesses a Christian giving his garment to a poor beggar and has a vision of a shining garment descending from heaven to replace it. The rest of the vita combines standard hagiographic fare— exorcism, asceticism, encounters with kings, miracles, unwitting ordination16—with particular aspects of Epiphanius’ career: the founding of monasteries, conflicts with bishops (especially John of Jerusalem and John Chrysostom), and attacks on heretics. At no point in the rest of the vita—until a strange moment at the very end—do we hear explicit mention of Epiphanius’ Jewish origins. The absence of Epiphanius’ Jewishness might suggest the absolute absorption of one religion into another: a tale of supersession so total that no trace of the previous Jewish identity remains. Yet, I would argue, the vita is actually artfully coy on the matter. Later in the vita, as Epiphanius and his companion begin a journey in Egypt, they encounter an Alexandrian Jew named Aquila, “learned in the Law.”17 It is probably not a coincidence that the vita had applied the same epithet to Epiphanius’ adoptive Jewish father, Trypho.18 Should we not indeed be reminded of Epiphanius’ rigorous education “in all matters of the Law” when he engages in a two-day “debate about the Law” (ἀπὸ τοῦ νόμου διαλέγεσθαι) with Aquila?19 Were it not for the opening chapters of the vita, we might view this incident like any of the numerous conversion


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stories that populate Epiphanius’ life. 20 But echoes of Epiphanius’ former Judaism, conspicuous by their very faintness, linger behind this passage. Likewise, later in the vita, another Jew named Isaac “attached himself to Epiphanius and was instructed by him and was baptized.” In this case, too, there is a subtle verbal allusion to Epiphanius’ Jewish education: like the young Epiphanius, this Isaac “observed the Law of Moses with precision [μετὰ ἀκριβείας].”21 Isaac is a double of Epiphanius: a convert from Judaism who becomes a monk and the bishop’s lifelong companion. These hints at an other wise forgotten Jewish life are compounded by an incident just after Epiphanius’ death. At the end of his life, on his way back from Constantinople, where he had unwittingly participated in John Chrysostom’s downfall, Epiphanius dies on the boat during a storm. As his body is laid out, before the ship makes port at Cyprus, one of the curious sailors approaches the body: Now one of the sailors, to whom Epiphanius said while he was yet living, “Do not test, lest you be tested,” moving toward Epiphanius’ feet, wished to lift up Epiphanius’ cloak and see if he was circumcised [ἰδεῖν εἰ ἐμπερίτομός ἐστιν]. But Epiphanius, even though he lay dead, raised up his right foot and gave it to him in the face, and cast him to the stern of the ship. He lay dead. For two days [the sailor] lay as if dead. On the third day, the sailors lifted him and brought him to Epiphanius. When they set him down at his feet and he touched his feet, straightaway he stood up.22 We are not told how or why this sailor thought to make this postmortem inspection; nor do we see beyond Epiphanius’ high-kicking foot. Yet the opening chapters have made it clear, sight unseen, what lies underneath that cloak. How do we reconcile this sudden shyness with the fulsome description of Epiphanius’ youthful Jewishness? We might be reminded of the curious ending of the perhaps contemporaneous Life of Pelagia, in which narrative fulsomeness likewise combines with postmortem reticence. In this story, a wealthy prostitute and actress named Pelagia is converted by a bishop and, after her baptism, sneaks away and lives as a eunuch (named Pelagios) on the Mount of Olives near Jerusalem. When he dies, the clergy and monks of Jerusalem, upon finding out the “true” gender of their beloved local monk, try (in vain) to keep the truth from local mourners.23 In Patricia Cox Miller’s elegant reading of the Life of

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Pelagia, this “luminous detail” opens up to allow a view of the contradictions of the concept of “holy women” in late antiquity: “paradoxes whose allure is the truth of female holiness.”24 Both of these narratives try to cover up what we know is there, a truth that embodies impossibilities and contradictions. The coyness at this last moment of Epiphanius’ life amplifies the teasing nature of his former Jewishness at multiple moments in the vita. Perhaps the Life of Epiphanius, with its evanescent Jewish past, signals another alluring paradox embedded in the matrix of ancient Christianity: it is not just the impossibility of the “holy woman” that haunts (and tantalizes) late ancient Christians but also the Jewish roots of this increasingly anti-Jewish religion.25 On the one hand, Epiphanius’ richly narrated Jewish childhood can shade almost imperceptibly, and unproblematically, into his Christian monastic sainthood. The dead man’s kick, however, suggests the fear attached to this easy assimilation. If the saint’s Jewish past could rest so lightly on his saintly Christian present, where is the divide between Jew and Christian, after all? The vita is not unremittingly anti-Jewish: Epiphanius’ adopted Jewish father, Trypho, for instance, and the Christian who converts Epiphanius are identically labeled “marvelous” (θαυμαστός). 26 Nonetheless, the lines are supposed to be rather clear: that same “marvelous” Christian remarks to the young Epiphanius, upon learning he is a Jew, “The Jews are an abomination [βδέλυγμα] to the Christians, and the Christians to the Jews.”27 Epiphanius’ own semihidden Jewish past, cloaked in miraculous orthodoxy, does not quite fit into this segregationist scheme. Epiphanius’ Jewish origins are both harmless and harmful, like Pelagia’s flexible, but ultimately fixed, gender. We might imagine both saints’ lives as parables of hagiographic “drag,” a light cloak barely concealing a potentially dangerous, and not quite past-tense, identity underneath.28 Marjorie Garber famously described transvestism as a signal of categories in crisis;29 certainly scholars have argued convincingly that, even into the fifth century, the categories of “Jew” and “Christian” existed more as ideological frames than as clear social realities.30 Epiphanius’ ex-Jewishness works between these formative ideological lines, desiring separation yet reveling in the possibility of blurred lines and boundaries. The vita remains untranslated into English, and it has received little attention in recent scholarship. Yet this was not always the case. The Greek life continued to circulate throughout the middle ages, translated into Latin by early modern Catholic hagiographers, whence it was quickly taken up in


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the resuscitated post-Reformation genre of church history.31 The Catholic French historian François-Armand Gervaise revived the story of Epiphanius as a Jewish convert in his biography of the saint written (as the title tells us) as an “apologie contre les Protestants.”32 Gervaise’s younger, and more influential, contemporary Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont dismissed the vita as unreliable,33 but it resurfaces occasionally in the French historiography of Jews in the nineteenth century.34 The story was also picked up, with some tepid endorsement, by the seventeenth-century British church historian William Cave,35 whose Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia litteraria was repeatedly translated, revised, and rewritten throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.36 The story eventually secured a tenuous place in Anglophone histories (biblical, Jewish, and Christian) of the nineteenth century.37 Here a lightly romanticized, nascent (but always potentially anti-Jewish) philosemitism latches on to the story,38 articulating a tentative fascination with a past Jewish authenticity. Philip Schaff, the German émigré who pioneered “church history” in the United States, remarked that, if the story is true, Epiphanius would be “the first example, after St. Paul, of a learned Jewish convert and the only example among the ancient fathers.”39 The parallel between Epiphanius and Paul is telling: Paul, famously “all things to all people,” occupied a strange, intermediate space as a “Hebrew of Hebrews” and apostle to the gentiles.40 Epiphanius, ex-Jew and “Father of the Church,” is being similarly positioned in the Victorian era. The fascination with the conversion of Epiphanius appears in a late Victorian piece of fiction. Thomas Wimberley Mossman, an Anglo-Catholic clergyman with a penchant for “primitive” church history,41 wrote a slim novel in 1874 entitled Epiphanius: The History of His Childhood and Youth Told by Himself: A Tale of the Early Church.42 Mossman’s sole venture into literary fiction comes amid a century-long fascination, in the Victorian era, with “early church novels,” which transposed the strained religious and cultural struggles of Britain into the bygone days of emperors, mystery cults, and martyrs.43 Although Mossman claims in a preface to be working primarily from his own imagination, taking only a “bare outline of names and alleged facts” from the Greek vita, in fact his novel follows the outlines of the vita rather closely, especially its opening chapters.44 Throughout the novel, Mossman emphasizes the natural continuity between Judaism and Christianity, a continuity embodied not only in Epiphanius’ conversion from Jew to Chris-

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tian in the first half of the novel45 but also in the way Jewishness remains deeply embedded in Mossman’s ideal Catholic orthodoxy. Epiphanius’ religious origins in the novel are so ancient, in fact, that his Jewishness precedes the Jewish covenant itself: “I should mention,” Mossman writes in Epiphanius’ first person, “that neither my father nor my mother belonged by descent to the race of Israel. They were sprung from those ancient inhabitants of the land of Canaan, most of whom were destroyed by Joshua. . . . Our forefathers had given up their idols, and become worshippers of Jehovah many ages back.” 46 Epiphanius’ Jewishness is purely religious, stripped of racial identification, yet still embedded in the soil of the promised land of the Jews. We might relate Mossman’s disentanglement of “religion” and “race” to his late nineteenth-century context: a time during which national and racial identities were seen as coterminous, and the rise of Jews and former Jews in British political life brought religious, racial, and national categories into question.47 It is curious, then, that Mossman actually augments Epiphanius’ Jewish identity as the novel progresses. When Epiphanius encounters the monk who will ultimately inspire his conversion, and the monk asks Epiphanius, “Who and what art thou, my son?” Epiphanius responds, “I am a Jew, both as to race and religion.” 48 We know, of course, this is not the case. Later in the novel, Epiphanius also refers to his Israelite “forefathers” who “conquered” and displaced the Canaanites.49 How do we explain this sudden racialization of Epiphanius’ Jewishness? I think one answer lies in the allure of ancient Judaism, in all of its fullness, to Mossman’s Anglo-Catholic sensibility. Throughout Mossman’s novel, Epiphanius attests to the deep affinity and continuity between the Jewish past and the Catholic present. The authentic core of Judaism is absorbed into Christianity, and the intensification of Epiphanius’ Jewishness embodies this process of religious absorption. Indeed, it is his Jewishness that prepares him directly for his later Christian conversion: at the feet of Tryphon, his adoptive father and a scribe, Epiphanius claims to have learned “those Messianic traditions which have been so clearly fulfilled in the Life and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ.”50 So potent is this intuitive knowledge of the messianic figure of Jesus in Tryphon’s household that his daughter, Salome, as she approaches death, engages her father in a dialogue on Jesus’ divinity and, based solely on a reading of Ezekiel, has Epiphanius seal her forehead with a tau cross before she dies.51 Like Epiphanius’ Jewishness in his Greek vita, the Jewish youth of


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Epiphanius in Mossman’s novel slowly fades away after his conversion, appearing in his early monastic life only to highlight, once more, the great overlap of true Judaism and Christian faith: psalms are chanted similarly in the synagogue and the “Catholic Church,” and biblical texts’ original Hebrew voice speaks more clearly to Christian truth.52 The novel was published during Benjamin Disraeli’s tenure as British prime minister, another formidable Christian who wore his ex-Jewishness lightly, and a bit queerly, and whose career called into question the links between race and religion.53 Mossman’s Epiphanius contributes to the deployment of ancient Jews (and converted Jews) by late Victorian Britons seeking to reimagine the pristine roots of “primitive” Christianity. Not only were the English struggling with their own “Jewish question,”54 but Judaism (ancient and modern) became a powerful wedge in debates over faith between Catholics and Protestants.55 Literal and literary Jewish converts served multiple political, cultural, and religious purposes throughout the nineteenth century, and Epiphanius’ ex-Jewishness made him an amenable figure in this regard.56 Since the mid- to late twentieth century, however, this romantic desire for pristine Jewish roots has dissolved in a haze of more skeptical scholarship. Particularly since the publication of Jon Dechow’s 1974 dissertation on Epiphanius and Origenism,57 which contained a thorough review of Epiphanius’ biography, scholars have tended to discount the legends of Jewish origin, if they mention them at all (and they typically do not).58 I think one answer lies in the comparative imperial contexts—Roman and British—in which Epiphanius’ Jewishness had been nourished. Perhaps we might read both patristic and Victorian desire for Epiphanius’ ex-Jewishness in the context of (admittedly, quite different) colonial logics that grappled with the absorption and “conversion” of the other (as the work of Gauri Viswanathan has explored).59 Our more recent reluctance to acknowledge the ex-Jew Epiphanius might stem, therefore, not from distaste for ancient Jews but from the opposite, a kind of prim, even postcolonial respect: we have learned the sailor’s lesson and will not pruriently lift that cloak for our own delectation.

Romanos Melodos If modern scholarship has refused the temptation to imagine anything surprising under Epiphanius’ episcopal cloak, they have been more eager to flesh out the meager Jewish origins of the biographically challenged Romanos,

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the sixth-century hymnographer known as Melodos.60 Like Epiphanius’, Romanos’s pos sible ex-Jewishness derives from a posthumous admirer, although instead of a dozen chapters of hagiography, we possess a single half verse of hymnody: Although [μὲν] of the Hebrew people, he possessed [εἶχεν δὲ] a steadfast spirit.61 The hymnographer enjoys plays on words: Romanos was no longer Ἑβραῖος (Hebrew) but ἑδραῖος (steadfast); he continues that Romanos was no longer “Saul” (Σαῦλος), causing “trouble” (σάλος), but “Paul, calming guide.” 62 There is little biographical information here, certainly less than in the other Byzantine sources on this saint’s life.63 From these other sources, we learn that Romanos was from Emesa in Syria and had been a deacon in Beirut before coming to Constantinople; there, we are told in multiple, ecclesiastical sources, he received a “gift” (χάρισμα) from the Virgin Mary and chanted “around 1000” liturgical poems called kontakia.64 How, then, did our later— eighth- or possibly ninth-century?— hymnographer decide that Romanos was “of the Hebrew people”? One scholar has posited that this Byzantine poet, ignorant of the diversity of Syrian religious life, thought all Syrians were “Hebrews,” 65 but such conflation of Syrians with Jews (or Hebrews, or Palestinians, or “Semites”) is perhaps, as we shall see, a peculiarly modern one.66 Indeed, while the significance of Romanos’ vague Jewish roots to this anonymous hymnographer must remain opaque, its afterlife among modern scholarship is quite rich. It is rare to find a modern publication on Romanos that does not, at least in a footnote, cite this tradition of Romanos’ Jewish past.67 For some it is a matter of established fact;68 for others, it is a late, and unreliable, tradition that must be addressed before being dismissed.69 In other publications, it is a point of contention left unanswerable.70 So Seth Schwartz writes in his recent survey of ancient Judaism (while contemplating “the new Jewish culture” under Byzantine rule), “Does it matter that the hellenophone Christian who was the alleged originator of the new liturgical poetry, Romanos the Melode, was, according to one Byzantine source, a baptized Jew?” 71 Whether the answer is yes, no, or maybe, this biographical datum seems to have become fixed in the scholarly apparatus of Romanos studies.72 Some scholars have attempted to find “proof ” of Romanos’ conversion in his musical works. Yet efforts to link Romanos’ Jewish past to the contents


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of his kontakia prove fruitless: for every scholar who asserts “the absence of almost all anti-Jewish polemic in his hymns,” 73 another asserts “Romanos’ frequent and virulent anti-Jewish polemic.” 74 (And, of course, both an absence and an intensity of polemic can be marshaled for either conversion or nonconversion.) If content is no guide, others have turned to musical form. Frequently Romanos’ Jewishness is tied to the metrical form—the kontakion—that he purportedly introduced into Byzantine liturgical poetry.75 The kontakion is said to possess “Semitic” qualities that connect Romanos’ Greek poetry with poetic forms in ancient Hebrew, Christian Syriac, and even late ancient piyyutim (Jewish liturgical poetry). The musical connection, in turn, is explained by Romanos’ geographic and—occasionally—ethnic and religious origins. The three terms—Syrian, Semitic, and Jewish—flow into each other, as when Ephrem Lash remarks that Romanos “was originally from Emesa (modern Homs) in Syria and was of Semitic, quite possibly Jewish, ancestry.”76 Liturgiologist and musicologist Eric Werner placed Romanos in a carefully charted genealogy from biblical songs to Christian and Jewish liturgical music in the Middle Ages.77 It was Romanos, “the converted Jew,” who introduced the “alien elements” from “Semitic sources” into Byzantine literature.78 While not all subsequent studies use such forceful phrases to describe the foreign, Semitic, ex-Jewishness of Romanos, the echoes of its allure remain fairly constant. That allure, as Laura S. Lieber notes, is entirely about ongoing connections between Jewish and Christian cultures in late antiquity, and “it is tempting to imagine direct paths of cross-cultural influences” between Romanos, Jewish poetry, and Syriac poetry.79 But what exactly is that temptation, and how does Romanos embody it? Why indeed should his possible ex-Jewishness remain so prominent even as Epiphanius’ has faded? For both men we can speak of eastern Mediterranean origins, possible familiarity with non-Greek languages or literary forms, and relatively frequent and (arguably) ambivalent discussions of Jews and Judaism. Yet Epiphanius’ former Jewishness slips quietly into legend, while Romanos’ continues to draw attention (even in a 2014 work by Lieber, who claims scholars “rarely” take it at face value).80 The magic word in the life of Romanos appears to be Syria: a freighted geographic, linguistic, and ethnoreligious label since the formative studies of F. C. Burkitt and F. C. Baur at the turn of the twentieth century. To quote a survey essay by Christine Shepardson, “Much of the persistence of the Otherness of eastern Syria relates to the history of Syriac Christianity, a history that in western scholarship has always provided an

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odd, unorthodox Other, as well as a tantalizing linguistic link to the words of Jesus.”81 To be Syrian—or more precisely, to speak Syriac—was to share in the lyrical tones of the authentic Christianity of Jesus and his apostles, a primitive authenticity tinged with the alluring traces of the Other.82 In scholarship, Syria is the home of that most primitive yet enduring of almost Christian heretics: the Jewish Christian, the “missing link” between a biblical past and an orthodox present.83 Syria paradoxically signaled proximity without identity to pre-Christian Judaism: Syriac is not quite Hebrew in the same way Syria is adjacent to Judea. In this light, Epiphanius’ Palestinian origins become a liability: to grant him a former Jewishness in Judea would be simply too much otherness for his subsequent Christianity to contain (witness Mossman’s attempts to deracialize Epiphanius’ Jewishness). Yet Romanos is safely removed—in fact, doubly so—from the preChristian, Jewish past. For Romanos the Syrian is precisely not quite a speaker of Syriac, and so not directly tied in this linguistic (cultural, ethnic) sense to the original and alien world of Jesus. He is Syrian, transmuting more vague Semitic literary forms in Byzantine, poetic Greek. In this way he represents both the safety and poignancy of “mature” Christian orthodoxy: the hope for things not quite lost. He is a doubly inscribed border figure, crossing invisibly (since we possess no writings of his in Syriac) from the primitive Semitism of the apostles into the refined Hellenism of the church. If Epiphanius’ Jewish past invokes the allure and fear of the cross-dresser, artlessly concealing a hidden, yet not quite effaced, identity, then Romanos perhaps invokes the figure of the racial hybrid, the borderland “mimic man” whose whiteness (that is, his Greekness, Christianness) ultimately wins out. Anne McClintock describes Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, a “two-sided man,” as a figure who “embodies symbolic ambiguity and ethnic hybridity.”84 In the imperial logic McClintock analyzes, the tinge of “otherness” of the ethnic hybrid is a visible—yet not too visible—reminder of the power of empire. The pleasing poetic strangeness of Romanos in a similar fashion marks the power of Christianity, which has absorbed (but not quite digested) the “otherness” of its past.

Ambrosiaster With the fourth-century Latin Christian author Ambrosiaster, we encounter a former Jew entirely of modern concoction.85 While it has not played as central a role in studies of Ambrosiaster as in studies of Romanos, the Latin


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author’s putative ex-Jewishness remains a constant hum in the background noise of his reconstructed persona. “Ambrosiaster,” as he has been known since the early modern period, is the purported author of two seemingly wellknown but anonymous treatises circulating in Rome in the 380s: a commentary on Paul’s letters and a book of scriptural “questions and answers.” His writings circulated in the Middle Ages under the names of Augustine, Ambrose (his moniker signals his Ambrosian flavor), Hilary of Poitiers, and others. Recovered from the mists of pseudonymity and anonymity by Renaissance scholars, his biography has been inferred from hints in his texts and context. That Ambrosiaster might have been a convert from Judaism was first suggested by Germain Morin in 1899.86 On multiple textual and historical grounds— only in part based on Ambrosiaster’s knowledge of Judaism87—Morin identified Ambrosiaster with Isaac, a Jewish convert living in Rome who supported Damasus’ rival, Ursinus, in the violent episcopal elections of the 360s.88 Morin later abandoned this identification, moving on to attach the names of other known figures to Ambrosiaster; neither of these later figures was Jewish.89 While few scholars have tried to resuscitate Ambrosiaster’s identity as “Isaac the Jew,”90 his possible ex-Jewishness remains a very live question. Indeed, as early as 1900, it was this aspect of Morin’s original argument that drew scholarly attention and approbation.91 Detached from any identifiable figure, Ambrosiaster’s former Jewishness began to occupy the scholarly biographical imagination more as a general question of “religious origins” than as an attempt to link him with a named historical figure. Particularly compelling evidence, it seems, was Ambrosiaster’s supposed knowledge of Jews and Judaism. In his magisterial 2001 survey of early Christianity, Henry Chadwick writes, “The anonymous author knew much about synagogue usage, and once allows himself to say that the ideal expositor of scripture is a converted Jew. He may have been referring to himself.”92 More recently, David Hunter has suggested that “the matter [of Ambrosiaster’s Jewish origins] is worth reconsideration, if only because of his frequent references to synagogue practice. . . . Ambrosiaster’s unusual interest in and sensitivity to Jews and Judaism remains to be accounted for.”93 It is debatable how much “sensitivity” we should infer from an author who included, among his Liber quaestionum, a subtreatise later copyists saw fit to entitle “adversus Iudaeos.”94 In her study of Ambrosiaster, Sophie LunnRockliffe remarks, “Anti-Jewish sentiment is not absent from Ambrosia-

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ster’s work but it is more muted than found in, for example, John of Chrysostom’s [sic] writing.”95 We might call this damning with faint praise or, at least, setting the anti-Jewish bar rather low: John Chrysostom’s own notorious sermons “against Judaizing Christians” provided endless grist for the hungry mills of Christian anti-Judaism well into the modern period.96 Even if we grant that Ambrosiaster is notably less anti-Jewish than his contemporaries, I nonetheless suggest that it is Ambrosiaster’s “unusual interest,” rather than his sensitivity, that has provoked repeated biographical speculation.97 Even Lydia Speller, in her brief but compelling refutation of Morin’s argument, focuses specifically on Ambrosiaster’s “interest in Judaism.” She closely examines four passages from his Pauline commentary to argue that, on the one hand, Ambrosiaster’s knowledge of Jewish custom need not derive from personal experience and, on the other, his attention to Jewish detail was shared among other (more clearly non-Jewish) Christians. She notes, “His knowledge of Jewish customs does not appear more detailed than, for example, that of Jerome,”98 an observation echoed twenty-five years later by Lunn-Rockliffe.99 This contrast between Jerome and Ambrosiaster is telling: two Latin-speaking, well-educated Christians with scriptural expertise and a vested interest in the theological and ecclesiological issues of their day, both of whom frequently, and ambivalently, drew on Jewish knowledge to articulate Christian concepts.100 Why should Ambrosiaster’s Jewish knowledge evoke firsthand experience when Jerome’s does not? What distinguishes Ambrosiaster from other early Christian authors who express deep, and not always negative, interest in Judaism, from Origen through Augustine?101 It is, of course, Ambrosiaster’s anonymity, his blank persona, that allows for the ascription of a Jewish past. Jerome loudly, and defensively, trumpeted his own Christian credentials, especially in the face of accusations of “fraternization” with Jews. In the case of Ambrosiaster, however, who has been constructed out of whole cloth in modernity, there is no resistance or—in the imagery of the vita of Epiphanius—no bucking foot to reassert difference where similitude slips in. Ambrosiaster’s biographical “drag” is more successful because we can never know what his fabricated cloak is “really” covering up. He passes between Jew and Christian with little friction, allowing our biographical imaginations to pass with him. Here, I think, we can begin to attend to the complex of anxieties and desires that emerge out of our three case studies. The first set of concerns is


Andrew S. Jacobs

epistemological, evident most clearly in the ancient sources on Epiphanius but also to some degree in modernity.102 Both the late ancient vita and its Victorian descendant betray an imperial fascination with the boundary between knowing and being. If knowledge derives from contact and experience (as readers of Ambrosiaster seem to suggest), where is the line between knowing a thing and becoming it? Or, to turn the question around, need we assume that deep knowledge of a thing can only come from having been that thing? We can sense this anxiety acutely in ancient Christian attention to Jews and Judaism, particularly in the post-Constantinian period: Can Christianity come to know Judaism without the risk of sliding ontologically backward, somehow rebecoming Jews or unbecoming Christians? Can Christianity—like Epiphanius the monk-bishop—leave a Jewish past behind, or does it threaten to creep back in, only lightly covered by the dead man’s cloak? Behind this epistemological anxiety (evident, above all, in Mossman’s novel) lurks a desire to embrace and contain the historical and religious other: to flirt with becoming through acts of knowing.103 Modern scholarship continues to produce this complex of fear of and desire for the other: Does Romanos’ faint “Semitic” accent enrich later Christianity with a duskily authentic alterity, or does it introduce “alien” notes into Christian history? These epistemological concerns also become ethical ones, particularly in our modern (or postmodern) historiographic context. We have become self-reflexively aware, in the past decades, of the intertwined processes of knowledge and power: power as a means of extracting and validating knowledge, and knowledge as a tool for authenticating and enabling power. Much of the disciplinary apparatus of the modern university—not to mention the specific disciplinary history of “religious studies”—relies on the deeply colonialist interpenetrations of knowledge and power. In the wake of such coming to terms with our own disciplinary pasts, it makes sense that we should desire knowledge of the other that is untainted, either in its acquisition or in its usage, shorn of overtly supersessionist value. Again, the contrast between Jerome and Ambrosiaster is instructive: all that separates them is biographical fixity. Once Ambrosiaster as a subject floats free of personal context, we see the possibility of recuperating his Jewish knowledge, making it safer, cleaner, than Jerome’s: if he is, or was, or could have been Jewish, we receive his Jewish knowledge differently. If we imagine Epiphanius in Christian drag, and Romanos as the almost-white ethnic hybrid, then Ambrosiaster comes to us like Tiresias, the Greek prophet who can

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impossibly—yet reassuringly—speak the truth of feminine identity in a male voice.104 Unlike Pentheus, whose tragically incompetent gender passing ends in dismemberment and horror, Tiresias, the male ex-woman, could speak more authoritatively about the experience of womanhood than the goddess Juno herself.105 So, too, Ambrosiaster may not always tell us the things we want to hear about ancient Jews and Judaism, but his knowledge is authentic and reliable. Concerning histories written from or about the margins, Michel de Certeau writes that we can “either maintain that the personal status of the author is a matter of indifference (in relation to the objectivity of his or her work) or that he or she alone authorizes or invalidates the discourse (according to whether he or she is ‘of it’ or not).”106 In the reconstruction of ancient Christian and Jewish lives, there is, seemingly, a third space in between “ ‘of it’ or not”: no longer it, the converted Jew, the early Christian ex-Jew. Our attention to the convert may be explained—in part—by our desire for a “native” informant who is at once authentic yet also willing to speak. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak cautions us to be on guard for “the possibility that the intellectual is complicit in the persistent constitution of the Other as the Self ’s shadow.”107 In these doubled figures, we imagine the longed-for native informant speaking willingly to us; the early Christian ex-Jew embodies the fantasy of innocent knowledge.

Chapter 3

Conversion to Judaism as Reflected in the Rabbinic Writings and Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz Between Germany and Northern France ePhr aiM k anarfogel

Attitudes Toward Converts More than a half century ago, Jacob Katz briefly sketched the attitudes that the Tosafists of northern France and Germany—and other related rabbinic decisors—displayed toward converts to Judaism. In doing so, he identified several key Talmudic interpretations and halakhic constructs as the axes around which the rabbinic positions could be charted.1 At the same time, Ben Zion Wacholder published a study on conversion to Judaism in Tosafist literature.2 Rami Reiner has supplemented these earlier efforts by focusing on the status of converts in the rabbinic thought of medieval Ashkenaz.3 Crucial to any such undertaking is the ability to distinguish between the attitude of a particular rabbinic authority to an individual convert (ger), and his sense of how accepting the Jewish community should be of the halakhic institution of conversion (giyyur) as a whole. As an extreme example of this problematic, one cannot properly assess Maimonides’ overall approach to conversion solely on the basis of the fact that he was obviously quite impressed and encouraged by the commitment and knowledge of R. ‘Ovadyah ha-Ger.4 In medieval Ashkenaz as well, leading Tosafists and halakhic

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authorities had interactions with individual converts. These relationships, however, do not automatically signal that these authorities favored the steady acceptance of converts as a matter of communal halakhic policy. A case in point is Katz’s assertion that in order to demonstrate that “the desirability of gerey sedeq (righteous proselytes) was indeed taken for granted, it is sufficient to quote the description by R. Joel b. Isaac of Bonn” (d. ca. 1200, father of Rabiah of Cologne and a noted German Tosafist and halakhist in his own right) of an actual case of conversion: “And the Spirit went forth from the Lord and rested in the heart of that man, R. Abraham son of Abraham our father, and it came to pass that when the Spirit rested on him . . .”5 Katz concludes that “to conceive of the act as the descent of God’s Spirit into the heart of the proselyte presupposes a positive evaluation of the conversion.” 6 R. Joel most certainly judged this conversion to be a success, as the citation reproduced by Katz indicates. Indeed, R. Joel further characterizes this convert, whom he had the opportunity to observe for a lengthy period of time, as an ish tam ve-yashar yoshev ohalim. Despite the ger’s deep interest in studying Torah and his pure intentions, R. Joel did not permit him, as some rabbinic figures in Speyer had done, to study the text of the Bible from the Latin (referred to in this responsum as leshon galahim, the language of priests), which was more familiar to him at this point than Hebrew was. R. Joel did allow him to serve as a prayer leader, against the position taken by the rabbinic authorities in Würzburg, although this issue depends on halakhic considerations beyond the basic religious worthiness of the convert, such as whether a ger may fully recite those sections of the prayers that describe the lineage and inheritance of the Jewish people vouchsafed to them through the patriarchs.7 Nonetheless, R. Joel’s consistent recognition of the sincerity and religious integrity of this particular convert does not demonstrate that he was necessarily supportive of ongoing conversions as a desired phenomenon. Similarly, the great praise reserved for individual converts who gave their lives in the course of various Christian persecutions, following the distinctive tenets of this precept as expressed in Ashkenazic thought and practice, does not shed any conclusive light on the status of converts in Ashkenaz more broadly. The Crusade chronicle composed by Solomon b. Samson records the case of an unnamed ger zedeq in the northern Rhineland town of Xantes, who inquired of a certain R. Moses ha-Kohen (known locally as the Kohen ha-Gadol) as to what his fate would be if he slaughtered himself in the name of the Holy One. R. Moses responded that he would be joined together with


Ephraim Kanarfogel

all of the other Jewish martyrs (in the same circle, bi-mehitsatenu). At the same time, however, he would also be situated along with other righteous converts to Judaism and would “sit in their circle.”8 R. Moses clearly intended to encourage and to praise the convert in this instance, suggesting perhaps that the nature of his reward would be even loftier than the rewards of those martyrs who were not converts. And yet R. Moses’ response also suggests that truly righteous converts were considered to be “equal to but separate from” the rest of the righteous. The act of martyrdom rendered this convert very special. Yet even in this instance, there is a measure of separation presumed between righteous converts and those righteous Jews who were born as Jews, even as this R. Moses cannot be identified as a known rabbinic or halakhic authority, and Solomon b. Samson’s Crusade chronicle does not carry any inherent halakhic valence.9 In a similar vein, while the leading twelfth-century northern French Tosafist, R. Isaac b. Samuel (Ri) of Dampierre (d. 1189), wrote that “if potential proselytes are persistent in their sincere desire to convert [mit’amtsim le-hitgayyer],” and are not accepted too quickly or for purposes of marriage, “we should accept them.”10 He also maintains, on the basis of a Talmudic formulation, “that the Divine presence rests fully only with families of pure lineage.”11 In short, we are dealing here with some rather nuanced texts and conceptions, both halakhic and nonhalakhic, whose valences are not always unified or unequivocal. The studies noted earlier maintain that the rabbinic attitudes toward converts in northern France and Germany were fundamentally similar, and that when and where attitudes did change, they did so in parallel ways.12 However, on the basis of several manuscript passages and a concomitant rereading of published materials, it is possible to demonstrate that the Tosafists in northern France were more welcoming and tolerant of prospective converts over time than were their German counterparts. This can be seen not only with regard to the interpretation of descriptive Talmudic passages but also in the ways that they framed and discussed the halakhic requirements for conversion. This dichotomy is further supported by evidence from both Jewish and Christian sources that suggests that there was a steadier stream of converts to Judaism in northern France than in Germany during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries,13 and, even more significantly, as we shall see, by aspects of the self-image of these often like-minded yet ultimately distinct centers of Jewish life and scholarship in northern Europe. Moreover, this distinction can also be correlated with the nature of the

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relationship between the Jewish populace in each of these geographic centers and the various groups of church figures who lived and served there. Not surprisingly, dedicated converts to Judaism tended to reach out to— or to be brought to the attention of—leading Tosafists in both northern France and Germany. In turn, these rabbinic figures, who were often impressed with the achievements and devotion of the converts, sometimes welcomed them into their homes and other wise provided guidance and support.14 There appears, however, to be a sharp difference in the levels of rabbinic involvement with prospective converts before their conversions. Northern French Tosafists dealt with procedural questions of how a particular conversion should be performed and with problems that actually arose during that process and did not only put forward Talmudic interpretations or larger, theoretical halakhic prescriptions in these matters. German Tosafists commented on the relevant Talmudic sugyot and issued halakhic rulings based on those sugyot, but these efforts tended to be much less innovative or reflective than those of their northern French counterparts. The German rabbis presented or summarized the Talmudic material with little or no comment and did not make efforts to correlate (or to qualify) the Talmudic requirements in ways that the northern French authorities did. Moreover, there does not appear to have been a single instance in which a German Tosafist discussed or put forward the case of a potential convert (i.e., before his or her conversion) whose process of conversion generated a specific halakhic problem or query. Among northern French Tosafists, on the other hand, such instances are relatively easy to come by, not only in Tosafot texts themselves but also within responsa and briefer rulings (pesakim) by these Tosafists. While documentation exists for northern French Tosafists who dealt with specific cases and questions of individuals undergoing a giyyur process, there is no such documentation for German Tosafists. This finding is both surprising and suggestive because typically the writings of the German Tosafists focused much more heavily on recording the application of halakhic policies and principles in actual cases (ma’asim) than did the Tosafist literature of northern France. Indeed, German Tosafists often shared such actual ma’asim (and the approaches that they took) with their colleagues so that they could express their own halakhic or judicial opinions in a way that French Tosafists did not.15 With regard to matters of conversion, however, these patterns are not at all evident, which further suggests that the relative silence and less nuanced approach maintained by the German authorities with regard to pre-gerut cases and policies were


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carefully considered and quite deliberate. In short, it would appear that German Tosafists and rabbinic authorities during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries were far less encouraging of potential converts to Judaism than their counterparts in northern France. What follows is a detailed presentation and analysis of sources from both sides of the divide, which will also detail the operant practices and procedures for conversion in Ashkenazic lands at this time. At the end of the study, two larger reasons or causes for this dichotomy will be proposed.

Conversion Procedures in Northern France R. Isaac (Ri) of Dampierre dealt directly with a number of procedural problems and situations in connection with actual instances of gerut, and he offers several creative Talmudic interpretations that address such matters, although he did not rule in a consistently lenient fashion. In a case concerning a candidate for conversion who had been circumcised (incorrectly) at night in front of three individuals, two of whom were related and technically unacceptable as judges (since they were married to sisters), Ri ruled that in the absence of any confirmation that the circumcision had been performed by day, it was proper to now draw some blood (as an indicator of circumcision) since the process of conversion is to be treated as a case of mishpat, which required judicial conventions to be followed. This meant that its major constituent parts must be undertaken during the day, as per the scripturally mandated requirements for the proper meeting of a rabbinic court. Although Ri was apparently less concerned in this instance with the fact that two of these individuals were related (since there were ultimately two nonrelated judges from among the three who had witnessed the circumcision or the immersion), he reiterates that the standing requirement is to appoint three appropriate nonrelated judges who would oversee all aspects of the conversion process by day. Ri adds that leniencies with respect to witnessing the immersion and the circumcision are possible to countenance after the fact (be-di’eved), since the Talmud at one point in tractate Yevamot (45b) allows the immersion of the ger to follow the model of the immersion of a nidah, for which three (male) witnesses are not typically present, and yet the immersion was considered valid. However, where it is possible to do every thing a priori in accordance with the court procedures indicated by mishpat, even with respect to the immersion and circumcision, this is clearly the preferred approach (as

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indicated by the Talmud in nearby passage, Yevamot 47b). It should be noted that at no point does Ri allow for any deviation with regard to the basic acceptance of Judaism and its commandments, which must precede the circumcision and the immersion.16 Ri was asked whether two converts were permitted to marry each other, and he responded in the affirmative. Some rabbinic authorities were concerned about this, lest both partners return to their preconversion ways, and they cited proof from a Tosefta passage to this effect. Ri, however, saw no halakhic difficulty in such a case, since the Talmud itself clearly does not prohibit this marriage.17 Tosafot texts to tractate Avodah Zarah record in Ri’s name a ruling in the case of a convert who had accepted the commandments and undergone circumcision but did not properly immerse. Although this conversion was considered incomplete and did not confer full Jewish status on the candidate, Ri ruled (according to his student R. Judah Sirleon, d. 1224) that the touch of this person did not render wine unfit for Jewish consumption.18 The parallel passage in the standard Tosafot to tractate Avodah Zarah concludes that Ri did not wish to implement this lenient ruling in practice, although this final comment may well be a subsequent addendum.19 Ri’s halakhic sensibilities regarding the shortcomings in the case of an actual conversion court described earlier make their way into several collections of northern French Tosafot, although his insistence on requiring three judges a priori for all aspects of the conversion process does not. Indeed, there appears to be an assertion in these later Tosafist passages, against the approach of Ri, that the paradigm (and rules) of mishpat applies only to the initial kabalat ha-mitsvot. The specific issue of circumcision at night is not raised in these variant passages, even as the question of immersion at night is.20 This may perhaps constitute another example of the disconnect that sometimes existed between interpretational formulations and strategies recorded in Tosafot texts and the practical pesakim of even important Tosafists such as Ri.21 In light of the firm insistence by French Tosafists during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries that kabalat ha-mitsvot had to be undertaken in the presence of three judges, even as the immersion of a convert is deemed to be valid after the fact if fewer observers were present, Tosafot passages discuss why it was indeed so necessary to have three judges for kabalat ha-mitsvot (as derived from the verses that link gerim to mishpat), since there are several types of Jewish monetary law that can be tried in front of a single expert


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judge (yahid mumheh). These Tosafot texts quickly conclude that no such leniency is possible in the case of conversion, but they further assert (as does the standard Tosafot to Yevamot 46b–47a) that the three judges whose presence is required need not be formally ordained experts themselves (as is required for certain more complex forms of monetary law). This is because the Talmud derives that present-day judges may generally perform these necessary and fairly common judicial functions as duly constituted representatives of the fully invested judicial system of yore in the land of Israel, when the original form of authorization, or semikhah, was in vogue. The frequent emergence of common types of cases that required judicial ser vices to adjudicate them meant that judges had to be authorized to hear them, even if they were not ordained with the original form of semikhah. As the concluding passage in Tosafot ha-Rosh to Kidushin puts it (found also in other Tosafot variants): “Just as the rabbis were concerned that borrowers should not be stymied [lit., the door should not be locked in their faces] in their attempts to borrow money [since the lenders would tend not to lend if there was no way to appoint judges who could adjudicate any disputes that arose], they were also concerned about ‘the door not becoming locked’ in the face of [potential] converts.”22 The standard Tosafot to Kidushin ends with a formulation by R. Netan’el of Chinon (ca. 1180–1260), who studied with Ri’s student R. Isaac b. Abraham (Ritsba) of Dampierre and was later linked with R. Yehi’el of Paris and the Tosafist academy at Evreux, that provides a second justification for the ability of judicial tribunals consisting of non-mumhim judges to continue to handle cases of gerut: “Regarding a ger, the word le-doroteikhem is written [in the Torah], which suggests that these laws apply in all contexts even though we do not now have mumhin since there are no longer any who are ordained. The word ule-doroteikhem means for all generations, forever.”23 Here again, these formulations of Tosafist interpretation would appear to ratify the presence of actual halakhic conversion activities that were taking place “on the ground.”24 Ri’s leading student and immediate successor, R. Samson of Sens, does not refer to any actual cases involving potential adult converts. He does, however, describe the physical difficulties in performing the ritual circumcision or extraction of blood (for purposes of conversion) on a one-year-old Christian child “in our neighborhood” who was being converted according to the Talmudic principle that a minor convert could be immersed (and initiated into Judaism) under the authority of the Jewish court (Ketubot 11a, ger katan matbilin oto al da’at beit din).25

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Several of Ri’s views, including both his leniencies and some of his concerns, made their way into the (prescriptive) Sefer Mitsvot Gadol by R. Moses of Coucy (d. ca. 1250, and a student of Ri’s direct student R. Judah Sirleon). As Ri did in his pesak, R. Moses stresses that three judges are necessary a priori for the immersion, and that the immersion must be done by day (as a function of mishpat) and cannot be done at night or on the Sabbath, although he rules that an immersion at night is acceptable after the fact. Against the various northern France Tosafot passages that we have seen, and perhaps somewhat closer to Ri’s stated preferences in his written pesak, R. Moses of Coucy required that three judges be present for the immersion under all conditions.26 R. Moses of Coucy lays out the details of the conversion process as they appear in several sugyot in tractate Yevamot. He notes that the requirement to inform the potential ger of a selection of difficult (or costly) commandments, and of the punishments that were assigned for the violation of various commandments, was intended primarily as a means of dissuading the candidate or, alternatively, as a means of properly warning him about what his new responsibilities would be, as a matter of fairness and not necessarily as a means of dissuading him.27 Similarly, Semag presents a mixed series of views as to the desirability of converts for the Jewish people, reflecting the range of opinions that had been noted by Ri and other northern French Tosafists, including a formulation that compares gerim most favorably to the Jews who stood at Mount Sinai.28 Once again, R. Moses stresses as Ri did (and perhaps even more so) that three judges must be present not only for the initial acceptance of the mitsvot by the convert but also for the confirmation of his (or her) acceptance at the time of immersion.29

Conversion as Reflected in German Rabbinic Literature If we look at the way that German Tosafists and rabbinic authorities during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries dealt with the Talmudic sugyot that discuss gerut, we are struck by the differences not only in terms of their conclusions but also with respect to the methods employed and the halakhic values expressed in the course of these interpretations. R. Eli’ezer b. Nathan (Raban, d. ca. 1165) discusses matters of gerut in two sections of his Even ha-Ezer. In the first instance, which is included among his collected responsa in the first part of this work, one of Raban’s sons-in-law asked him to explain


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a sugya in Yevamot (97b) that raises the concern that people will be dissuaded from undergoing conversions. A prior sugya in Yevamot (47b) that deals with the procedures for telling a potential convert about certain difficult mizvot expects that this detail may well dissuade the individual from converting, which is seen as an appropriate result. Raban responds by distinguishing between the circumstances in each case. He does not appear to entertain the possibility, as Semag later did, that the more practical sugya in Yevamot (47b) does not seek to dissuade the convert per se, but rather to let him (or her) know what his responsibilities will be, so that he will not be able to put forward the claim subsequently that he was unaware of the consequences of his actions.30 When Raban discusses the procedural sugyot in Yevamot (46b–47a) in the body of his halakhic work, he offers little analysis of any of the procedures and does not address any deviations from the Talmudic requirements that might occur (be-di’eved), twice stressing that three rabbinic scholars must be present at both the point of initial acceptance and when the acceptance is reenunciated at the point of immersion (for women as well as for men), which must take place during the day because of the requirement of mishpat. He also repeats that the goal of imparting the information concerning the stringent mitsvot is to dissuade the potential convert. Raban follows the Talmudic material to the letter, but he does so in a way that suggests that there was nothing especially current here. Nor does he offer any guidance for exigencies that might occur, as Ri and others in northern France did.31 Just before his instruction in this section concerning the immersion of a female convert, Raban includes a brief paraphrase of the sugya (in Ketubot 11a) concerning the conversion of a ger katan. He concludes, however, with a similarly brief paraphrase of the final piece of the Talmudic discussion (Yevamot 48b, end), which is a Baraita on the theme of why gerim suffer and are downtrodden at this time.32 Raban’s grandson, Rabiah (d. ca. 1225), also appears to have been rather unyielding with regard to the composition of a beit din for the various facets of gerut. A passage in Sefer Mordekhai (an important late thirteenth-century halakhic compendium) begins by noting that the leading Sefardic authority R. Isaac Alfasi (Rif, d. 1103 in Lucena) ruled (based on a passage in Yevamot 45b) that be-di’eved, an immersion for purposes of conversion could be effective even if fewer than three people were present. The Gemara presents the case of a female convert who had given birth to a child and had gone to the mikveh (to remove her status as a nidah) once she was married. According to

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Rif ’s understanding, this sugya indicates that just as the immersion of a niddah is valid even if it was not witnessed, so too this convert’s immersion is valid after the fact, at least in order to consider her child as born of a Jewish mother (and there is an analogous situation of a man who immerses after his conversion to remove the taint of qeri). The Mordekhai passage then cites Rabiah, from his no longer extant Sefer Avi’asaf. Although Rabiah was prepared to understand the initial sugya a bit differently from how Rif did (in that the mother’s subsequent immersion would also confirm her own conversion be-di’eved), the larger Talmudic construct that accepts the immersion of a nidah to ratify the conversion does so only if it was also possible to verify that this woman conducted herself publicly in accordance with the tenets of the Jewish religion (mitnaheget ke-dat yehudit) even before her immersion as a nidah; other wise, her conversion was not valid to any extent. As such, it is difficult according to Talmudic law to establish the validity of a conversion if three judges were not present at the convert’s immersion.33 Similarly, Rabiah sought to limit the possibility of a minor (and especially a baby or a very young child) converting to Judaism via the principle of ger katan matbilin oto al da’at beit din. This procedure was still in vogue in northern France for babies and young children, as was noted earlier in the case of R. Samson of Sens. Rabiah, however, maintained that the sugya of ger katan (Ketubot 11a, and see also Sanhedrin 68b) applies only to a minor who had himself come before the community and its court and asked that he be converted to Judaism. This sugya allows the community to honor his request even though he is technically not a bar da’at. If, however, the minor does not want this change in status (and does not initiate this request himself for whatever reason), a conversion performed by the beit din alone would not be valid.34 Irrespective of whether Rabiah’s limitation of the sugya of ger katan was widely cited or accepted, there are no references to any actual cases in which a ger katan was converted to Judaism in Germany in this period. Although there are a small number of German rabbinic sources that discuss the need for a convert who was born circumcised to undergo hatafat dam berit, these discussions are presented incidentally with regard to the larger halakhic problem—and actual cases that had to be resolved—of whether a Jew who was born already circumcised was allowed to have hatafat dam berit on the Sabbath. The theoretical situation of the convert was introduced principally as a foil.35 A similar pattern is evident for R. Isaac b. Moses of Vienna, author of the halakhic compendium Sefer Or Zaru’a. R. Isaac studied in northern


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France with R. Judah Sirleon and R. Samson of Coucy (who were both students of Ri), but he also studied in Germany with Rabiah and R. Simhah of Speyer.36 One of his responsa in Sefer Or Zaru’a suggests that R. Isaac did not follow Ri’s halakhic approach to gerim, but identified instead with the less flexible German approach.37 The subject of this responsum is not a case of conversion but rather whether a bill of divorce (get) can be given at night. R. Isaac concludes that just as a get may not be written and produced at night, it cannot be given at night, deriving this in large measure from the determination that the immersion of a ger cannot take place at night. Immersion is an integral part of the conversion process and is linked with the word mishpat. Formal rabbinic pronouncements of mishpat, as noted earlier, can take place only by day. R. Isaac notes that there is nothing specific about the immersion of the convert that is associated with mishpat. Nonetheless, the Talmudic requirement that the immersion take place during the day results from the convention that “all issues concerning a ger” are subsumed under the rubric of mishpat. R. Isaac concludes that since the writing of a get also cannot take place at night (on the basis of a scriptural derivation), a get cannot be given at night either.38 The only other discussion of moment in the voluminous Sefer Or Zaru’a that even touches on gerut is found within a responsum that deals with the need for every repentant sinner (ba’al teshuvah) to undergo immersion as a form of expiation, in accordance with a teaching of R. Simhah of Speyer. In his discussion, R. Isaac suggests that the immersion of a returning apostate is undertaken to atone for the now prohibited acts that he or she had committed as a non-Jew.39 There is no evidence that R. Isaac dealt with any actual cases of giyyur, nor is there any other discussion of the laws of gerut in Sefer Or Zarua’, with the exception of its recording of the case of the ger katan in Sens, noted earlier, that was handled by R. Samson of Sens. Indeed, R. Simhah of Speyer (as cited by R. Meir of Rothenburg) was the only German Tosafist to offer support for a significant procedural adjustment regarding gerut—in accordance with a view that had been enunciated by a northern French rabbinic scholar, R. Judah b. Yom Tov—that a lone judge could preside over conversions as a kind of yahid mumheh, a singular judicial expert. At the same time, however, R. Simhah’s formulation is focused on technical aspects and requirements of mishpat (and the role of a yahid mumheh), and once again, there is no evidence that this position was ever enunciated—or implemented—by him in an actual situation or case.40

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The wide-ranging work of supererogatory ethics and religious behavior produced by the German Pietists, Sefer Hasidim, which is often seen as a barometer of the social and personal issues that confronted the Jews in Germany circa 1200,41 refers to gerim in only a handful of sections, even as it refers to apostates, whose presence in Ashkenaz by the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries can be amply documented, in nearly fifteen sections.42 Two of the sections in Sefer Hasidim about gerim are quite positive, although they refer to those who have already converted and focus on points of broader spirituality. In one instance (found only in the so-called French recension of Sefer Hasidim), an expansion of the imperative to love the ger is suggested.43 The second passage recommends that it is better for a truly good and compassionate ger to marry a giyyoret with a similar disposition (so that together they will practice modesty and kindness and do business ethically) than to marry a Jewess from birth (mutav le-hithaten be-zar’am mile-hithaten be-zera Yisra’el) who does not possess these fine character traits. The union with a compassionate giyyoret will result in the ger’s progeny moving forward to be righteous and good.44 Although this passage calls to mind Ri’s (lenient) ruling, noted earlier, that a ger and a giyyoret may marry, Sefer Hasidim’s formulation here highlights and upholds the fundamental separation between the lineage of gerim and that of the larger Jewish people as a whole.45 In another passage, one of the few that appears to address an actual situation involving a candidate for giyyur before his conversion, Sefer Hasidim maintains, in this instance against a lenient ruling proposed by Ri (see n. 18), that if a male convert was not able to be circumcised because of fears on the part of the local community about taking this step (such that no immersion was able to take place either), his touch still renders Jewish wine undrinkable, even as other Jews should not go so far as to feed him nonkosher food at this point.46 Moreover, Sefer Hasidim advises that an impotent man should marry a giyyoret, as per the Talmudic ruling that one who is impotent is permitted to marry a woman of lesser lineage.47 The anonymous author of the halakhic compendium Sefer Asufot was a student of Rabiah and of R. Eleazar b. Judah of Worms (d. ca. 1230), author of Sefer Rokeah. Sefer Asufot includes a fairly lengthy manual of circumcision composed by an unnamed mohel, based heavily on the teachings and instructions (kelalei ha-milah) of a mohel of note, R. Gershom b. Jacob ha-Gozer. Within this manual is a section that begins with the laws of conversion and concludes with a brief section entitled hilkhot nashim ha-mitgayyerot.48


Ephraim Kanarfogel

The section is characterized by a clear degree of strictness and rigidity. It opens with a discussion of the need to inform the potential convert, as per the Talmudic instruction (Yevamot 47a), about the downtrodden state of the Jewish nation, which the potential convert is told of in order to dissuade him; the text adds that “most certainly at this time when there is a grave danger to life, conversions are not performed.” Assuming that the candidate— and the religious authorities—nonetheless wishes to proceed, the text continues with a regimen about kabalat ha-mitsvot, again noting that if the candidate resigns after hearing the list of commandments, obligations, and punishments, this is an acceptable consequence—if the candidate wishes to terminate the process, let him do so. This section specifies that one who is circumcised but does immerse, or one who immerses himself but is not circumcised, is treated as a non-Jew in every respect and renders wine not kosher by his very touch. Moreover, one does not properly become a ger until he has undergone circumcision and immersion, in that order. Indeed, “there was a case in Mainz with a ger who was immersed and then circumcised, and the rabbinic scholar of Mainz required him to undergo another immersion since this must be preceded by circumcision,” yet another example of the strictness that typifies this text. A major concern of the unnamed rabbinic authorities involved in the Mainz case (which is perhaps the only documented case in which German rabbinic figures considered the halakhic status of a convert before his conversion) also seems to have been the blessing: How can the convert make his blessing on the immersion, since he is not yet obligated to perform mitsvot as a Jew before his circumcision occurs? Perhaps the pain of the circumcision will cause him withdraw from pursuing the conversion process to its conclusion. This constitutes an additional layer of deterrence that is not found within the Talmudic regulations. The treatise goes on to rule that an immersion undertaken for removing the status of keri or of a nidah is unacceptable under all conditions, and that the immersion cannot be done in the evening or on the Sabbath. Three Torah scholars or hashuvei ha-ir must always be present to witness the immersion (just as the original intake and questioning concerning acceptance of the commandments required a formally constituted beit din). At the point of immersion, these three figures review with the candidate the obligations incumbent on a convert to Judaism, as well as the potential punishments and rewards, and the candidate must once again accept all of this on himself. The Asufot text requires that the convert cut his hair and pare the nails on both his hands and his feet before his immersion, acts that appear to be

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necessary independent of the broader requirement to eliminate any visible traces of hatsitsah before immersion. The precise phrasing of this requirement originates in a passage from Hilkhot ha-Rif to tractate Shabbat, in which Alfasi outlines the procedures for giyyur, and it is possible that Hilkhot haRif is the source for the passage here.49 At the same time, however, these requirements are mentioned in German rabbinic sources from this period that deal with the return of a repentant apostate, and it is therefore possible that these acts of penance for the returning apostate were added by Sefer Asufot to the requirements for conversion as well.50 In any case, once the convert has properly undergone all of these various procedures, Sefer Asufot concludes that it is incumbent on all Jews to accept and love him. In the brief section about a woman who seeks to convert, the Asufot text calls for her to fast each day (with the exception of the Sabbath) for a month before her conversion. This was perhaps meant as an act of expiation, an aspect that was noted earlier in connection with Sefer Or Zaru’a (and with regard to the preparations for immersion just outlined), although there is no explanation given for this practice by Sefer Asufot itself. Other women must put the female convert into water up to her neck, at which point two talmidei hakhamim or tovei ha-ir stand outside. This leniency, that two witnesses rather than a full court are sufficient for this aspect of the process, is based on a passage in Yevamot (47b), although these two rabbinic scholars must also inform her again about the various mitsvot, and their punishments and rewards. Once again, according to Sefer Asufot, if these demands cause the potential convert to walk away from the process, so be it. If, however, the potential female convert accepts all of this, she is immersed immediately and is permitted to marry a Jewish man. The woman cannot be immersed at night, but only by day. In short, the rather detailed material in Sefer Asufot is in full accord with the more limiting approach to conversion that was advocated in Germany already by Raban.51

Accounting for the Differences There are two overarching issues or reasons that may account for the rather stark differences with regard to the acceptance of gerim that I have outlined between the writings of the rabbis of northern France and those of the rabbis of Germany during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries on both the theoretical and practical levels, differences that are supported and confirmed by


Ephraim Kanarfogel

the smaller number of converts overall who appear to have been accepted in Germany as compared with northern France.52 The first is the value or consideration of lineage, yihus, and its role in the development and ongoing existence of the Jewish communities in northern France and Germany. As Avraham Grossman has demonstrated, this concept or value was an exceptionally powerful one in Ashkenaz from the eleventh century onward. However, while the rabbinic circles of northern France placed significant value on this consideration, the rabbinic families of Germany were even more committed to it.53 As noted toward the beginning of this study, Ri of Dampierre was well aware, on the basis of a Talmudic formulation, of the differences between gerim and those born as Jews in terms of the possibility of their receiving the presence of the Shekhinah. Nonetheless, there was little, if any, discussion within northern France about the practical application of this kind of larger spiritual principle, and there is no indication that marrying accepted converts who had expended full effort and intention during their conversion (in Ri’s words as cited earlier, mit’amtsim le-hitgayyer) constituted a diminution in any way in the individual status of the Jews who married them. As such, northern French rabbinic authorities did not hesitate to rule leniently on behalf of potential converts, and to deal with them benevolently even before they had completed the conversion process. Although no German halakhist would necessarily disagree once the conversion process had been completed, it was left to Ri of Dampierre to exclaim (in a halakhic context), “Ve-khi bekhol ha-mitsvot ein ger zedek bikhlal Yisr’ael?” (Is there no righteous convert among the Jewish people who observes all of the commandments?).54 On the other hand, Sefer Hasidim and the contemporary German Tosafist Rabiah appear to have enunciated an identifiable hierarchy in this regard. Rabiah utilizes the phrase “the select among your brethren” (muvhar shebeahikha) to characterize the members of the larger Jewish community, who must be especially careful in terms of marriage partners and thus may not marry a giyyoret or a shifhah kena’anit.55 The hakham in Sefer Hasidim counsels individuals on instances in which it is appropriate to marry women with “defective” or “lesser” yihus. In one such discussion, Sefer Hasidim actively follows the Mishnaic and Talmudic prescription (in Yevamot) that an impotent man should marry a giyyoret.56 Given the extra measure of sensitivity to these considerations of yihus found among the Jewish communities in Germany, it may be possible to understand the relative stringency and inflexibility

Conversion to Judaism in Medieval Ashkenaz


that German Tosafists and other rabbinic decisors displayed with regard to the Talmudic regulations governing conversion (as well as their hesitancy to rule on cases of potential converts in practice) even as they fully welcomed those who made it through this arduous process in any case. Perhaps even more telling is that there appears to have been a significant difference in the ways that the Jewish communities of northern France and Germany interacted with the surrounding Christian society. Conversion to Judaism was a grave offense throughout Latin Christendom during the medieval period, and there are a host of doctrinal (and temporal) texts and materials that speak strongly against this possibility.57 There is evidence to suggest that during the late twelfth century, when efforts to prevent conversion to Judaism were largely in the hands of local bishops, and in the first half of the thirteenth century, when responsibility for enforcement of this restriction was transferred to the mendicant orders, both the local bishops and the mendicant friars were closer in terms of proximity to and possible impact on the Jewish communities in Germany than they were to the communities of northern France.58 It should also be noted that in two recent studies on rabbinic attitudes toward apostates, meshumadim, during the late twelfth and early thirteenth centuries, I have found that German Tosafists were significantly more sensitive than their northern French counter parts toward separating these apostates from the larger Jewish community. Jewish apostates who wished to return to the community were allowed to do so only after demonstrated acts of repentance, and a clear rejection of their prior state.59 Thus, while there is little (if any) mention in Jewish sources about Christian pressures against conversion to Judaism in northern France, there are several explicit and strongly worded reflections of this concern in Germany. In addition to the statement in Sefer Asufot (from the mid-thirteenth century) noted earlier, that it is presently a sakanat nefashot (a danger to one’s life) to convert anyone to Judaism, and a passage in Sefer Hasidim (composed in Germany during the first quarter of the thirteenth century) that indicates that the circumcision of a potential convert could not be performed because the Jews of his town feared doing so lest the Christians become aware of it,60 R. Meir of Rothenburg (Maharam, d. 1293) describes in a responsum the case of four Jews who were ordered by the ruling authorities to testify under oath about the identity of a fifth Jew, who was a ger; they faced confiscation of their property if they did not tell the truth. Although they would have been permitted to swear falsely (that the fifth Jew was not a convert) or to


Ephraim Kanarfogel

otherwise prevaricate in their response (even if they would thereby have been required to forfeit some of their own assets), since this was a case of sakanat nefashot, they testified instead that he was indeed a convert. Maharam notes that, most fortuitously, this ger was not burned at the stake, adding that the heavens had great mercy on him, since Maharam would have believed that “not one in a thousand is saved [from this fate], since even when apostates [from Judaism to Christianity] testify against a convert [to Judaism], he is burned, how much more so when Jews testify against him.” Instead, the ger was assigned a very stiff monetary penalty in this instance, for which, according to Maharam, the other Jews involved were required to repay him. It is to Maharam’s great astonishment, however, that the ger escaped the fate of being burned at the stake in this instance (which was otherwise apparently enforced), which is most striking.61 A responsum by R. Hayyim Eli’ezer, son of R. Isaac Or Zaru’a and a student of Maharam, mentions the case of a certain Rabbi Isaac who circumcised gerim and, as a result, caused his community to be placed under some kind of serious charge (or the threat of physical persecution), an alilah, by the Christian authorities.62 Taken together, all of these various rabbinic sources suggest that the pressure being brought to bear by the Christians in Germany when Christians converted to Judaism was often much more than just rhetoric.63 Although manuscripts of sidurim and mahzorim of German rites from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries retain the blessings to be recited at the circumcision of a ger, their presence may be akin to the material found in Sefer Asufot: the laws and procedures for conversion must always be kept “on the books,” as part of the halakhic and ritual process. Nonetheless, the extent to which these blessings had occasion to be recited in medieval Germany remains unclear. At the same time, their recitation in northern France during this period appears to have been more likely.64

Chapter 4

Of Purity, Piety, and Plunder Jewish Apostates and Poverty in Medieval Europe Pao l a Ta rTa ko f f

Medieval Jews often cast their brethren who converted to Christianity of their own initiative as morally weak opportunists. They accused these apostates of craving forbidden foods, desiring non-Jewish women, and pursuing wealth and prestige.1 The early twelfth-century Spanish convert Petrus Alfonsi claimed, for instance, that Jews speculated that he had converted for worldly honor.2 The twelfth-century Provençal scholar Avraham ben David (the Rabad) observed that Jews converted for financial reward.3 The twelfthcentury French scholar Isaac ben Samuel of Dampierre asserted that most converts converted for “self-enjoyment.” 4 According to the anthology of twelfth- and thirteenth-century Franco-German polemic known as the Sefer Nitsahon Yashan (The Old Book of Victory), converts sought “to eat all that [their] heart[s] desired, give pleasure to [their] flesh with wine and fornication, remove from [themselves] the yoke of the kingdom of heaven so that [they] should fear nothing, free [themselves] from all the commandments, cleave to sin, and concern [themselves] with worldly pleasures.”5 The early thirteenth-century German compilation of ethical teachings and pietistic practices, Sefer Ḥasidim (The Book of the Pious), described a convert as having converted on account of bodily appetites.6 In early fifteenth-century Spain, the convert Joshua Ha-Lorki suggested, among other possible explanations for the many conversions of his day, that some Jews “longed to climb the rungs of wealth and honor, . . . satisfy the craving soul with all manner of food, and gaze at the resplendent beauty of the countenance of gentile women.”7


Paola Tartakoff

These claims provide insight into Jewish hopes and fears. They reflect medieval Jewish contempt for apostates to Christianity, as well as discomfort with the possibility that apostasy could result from attraction to Christianity or from a desire to abandon the Jewish community.8 Indeed, they served in part as a defensive mechanism intended to soften the psychological blow of apostasy. When apostasy was attributed to moral weakness, it did not appear to reflect a failure of Judaism.9 These claims also raise questions about the motivations of medieval Jewish apostates. Were gluttony, lust, greed, and ambition truly prominent factors in conversion? Some evidence suggests that the aspersions Jews cast on apostates were not unfounded. In a letter composed in northern Italy during the second half of the thirteenth century, for instance, one repentant apostate lamented that gluttony and lust had indeed driven him to apostatize.10 Moreover, in some contexts, conversion conferred financial benefits. For example, in late thirteenth-century Salerno and during the second quarter of the fifteenth century in Castile, Jewish converts were exempt from taxes.11 In addition, in late thirteenthcentury Paris, Jewish converts successfully practiced trades that were forbidden to Jews.12 Finally, a number of converts—often individuals who were already learned or affluent before baptism—excelled professionally.13 Petrus Alfonsi penned major works and traveled to England, where he may have served as the physician of King Henry I.14 In mid-twelfth-century Cologne, four converts were listed among Cologne’s burgesses as witnesses to land transactions between prominent individuals.15 In thirteenth-century England, several converts were employed in royal ser vice; Henry of Winchester was even knighted by King Henry III.16 At the turn of the fourteenth century in France, Philippe le Convers became an administrator of the royal forests.17 In early fourteenth-century Castile, Alfonso de Valladolid became a prolific polemicist.18 In thirteenth-century Catalonia, Pablo Christiani became a noted Dominican disputant and preacher.19 During the first half of the fourteenth century in Catalonia, several converts were granted lucrative employment by the king or queen, and Juan Sánchez de Calatayud, who was baptized in 1389, enjoyed a career in the civil and political bureaucracy, as did his descendants.20 Cases such as these, however, do not tell the whole story. In light of claims that Jews converted for financial gain, it is especially striking that many converts—most of whom, unlike the individuals just listed, shall remain forever anonymous—were destitute. Focusing on the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries—and not delving into the unique conditions that existed

Of Purity, Piety, and Plunder


in Spain as of 1391—this study examines the causes of convert poverty, the ways Christian authorities attempted to attenuate convert poverty, the relationship between convert poverty and popular Christian suspicion of Jewish converts, and the roles of convert poverty in Christian rhetoric extolling individual converts. In so doing, this essay shows that poverty was often a central feature of medieval Jewish conversion. It was a key element of the backgrounds and fates of many converts, and it shaped popular and elite Christian perceptions and portrayals of converts.

Convert Dispossession During the Middle Ages, Jewish converts often were stripped of their possessions at baptism. This practice followed a norm established in the fifth century in the Theodosian Code (16.8.7), according to which the property of Jewish converts to Christianity was to devolve to the imperial fisc. It was rooted in the view that Jews and their property belonged to Jews’ Christian overlords, and it was justified also as a recuperation of costs, as Jews who converted to Christianity would no longer pay the same taxes.21 In 1090 Emperor Henry IV decreed that Jewish converts had to relinquish their belongings.22 As late as the Council of Basel (1434), the custom was apparently dear to King Louis of Sicily, whose envoy opposed the adoption of a canon that would threaten to excommunicate authorities who deprived converts of their possessions.23 The tradition of stripping converts of their possessions was not uniformly enforced. In early thirteenth-century Cologne, for instance, it seems that converts’ property did not devolve to the imperial fisc, 24 and there is no indication that, when more than one thousand Jews converted to Christianity in southern Italy in the late thirteenth century, these converts forfeited property.25 In addition, evidence has yet to come to light of converts giving up their goods in late thirteenth-century Paris, where converts seem to have become well integrated into the working class.26 In 1213, in England, at the request of Bishop Nicholas of Tusculanum, King John returned the houses of a convert named Alberic that had escheated to the king when Alberic converted to Christianity.27 In the fourteenth-century Crown of Aragon before 1391, at least two very wealthy prospective converts secured royal guarantees that they would remain in possession of all of their property postbaptism.28 This suggests that it was possible for some of the most affluent medieval Jews who converted to Christianity to avoid dispossession.


Paola Tartakoff

There is, however, ample evidence of the policy’s implementation.29 From particular instances of dispossession, we learn that the practice did not always conform to legal standards. At times, for instance, converts’ belongings were distributed among several parties. According to Pope Urban V, in 1347, in the diocese of Constance, a dozen clerics and laymen “violently seized” the movable and immovable property, money, and other belongings of a Jewish convert to Christianity named Petrus, who had “renounced the darkness of Jewish error and acknowledged the light of Catholic truth.”30 During the second half of the fourteenth century in France, King Charles VI took “part” of the possessions of a convert named Louis de Harcourt, and “certain private men” took the remainder.31 Moreover, when Jews fell under the jurisdiction of clergy or the lower nobility, these lords appropriated converts’ belongings at baptism. In Catalonia in 1388, for instance, Count Joan I of Castelló d’Empúries came into possession of “all the goods” of the neophyte Pere Alfons de Luna “on account of [Pere’s] baptism.”32 Combined with the Jewish customs of disinheriting apostates and sometimes seizing their real estate, the Christian practice of taking converts’ (remaining) possessions led many converts to become beggars.33 Diocesan records from fourteenth-century Gerona list Jewish converts as the recipients of charity alongside the sick, the mutilated, and the bankrupt.34 Petrus, whose belongings were “violently seized” in the diocese of Constance in the mid-fourteenth century, begged “door to door most piteously” with his wife and children for sixteen years.35 Even converts who found shelter in group homes needed to beg to survive. In the 1360s, just north of the Pyrenees, converts who had “abandoned all of their goods and riches” and went “for sustenance” to the house of a convert from Anduze named Joan Catalan depended on alms.36 In search of charity, some converts trekked from one realm to another into the late fourteenth century and beyond, passing through Lisbon, Toledo, Gerona, Barcelona, Avignon, Toulouse, Rome, Paris, Saint Denis, Rheims, and Cologne.37 Ill fed and exposed to the elements, these wandering beggars were at high risk for injuries and illnesses that could result in permanent disability.38

Christian Expressions of Concern Convert poverty did not go unnoticed. Reflecting the Christian concern that convert poverty could be an obstacle to conversion, the twelfth-century Benedictine chronicle the Annals of Egmond depicted a young Jewish boy

Of Purity, Piety, and Plunder


who longed to convert to Christianity but was reluctant to do so on account of converts’ poverty. According to the Annals of Egmond, this boy secretly gave money to Jewish converts and saved money with which he hoped to support himself some day, after his own baptism.39 The purported autobiography of the early twelfth-century convert Herman of Cologne described Herman, too, as having saved money—and hidden it with Christians—in anticipation of converting to Christianity.40 In his monumental polemical work, the Moreh tsedek/Mostrador de Justicia, Alfonso de Valladolid confirmed that convert poverty deterred prospective converts. He explained that some Jews did not convert because they were “afraid [to] end up poor, because [they would] have to give [their] estate to others.” 41 Generations of popes—whose duty it was, as the vicars of Christ, to champion Jewish conversion—warned that convert poverty would lead converts to return to Judaism. In 1169, for example, Alexander III wrote that converts “despaired easily and might be compelled to forsake the Christian faith on account of indigence and lack of assistance, thus returning to their former religion, like a dog to his vomit.” 42 In 1199 Innocent III wrote, in a letter to the bishop of Autun, that “the shame of poverty, which [converts] [we]re not accustomed to bear easily, might force [converts] to turn back toward [Judaism].” 43 In the same year, in a letter to the abbot of a monastery in Leicester, Innocent admonished, “Care must be taken that [converts] be solicitously provided for, lest, in the midst of other faithful Christians, they become oppressed by lack of food; for, lacking the necessities of life, many of them, after their baptism, are led into great distress, with the result that they are often forced to go backward.” 44 Likewise, in 1320 John XXII wrote, in a letter to the officials of the County of Venaissin, “It is both unbecoming and senseless that those who while living as infidels enjoyed abundance should, upon turning believers, be forced to beg . . . [Christians] ought rather to show themselves favorably disposed toward them . . . so that they realize that they ha[ve] left bondage for freedom, and w[ill] not be forced ignominiously to beg and to relapse.” 45 Ecclesiastical authorities spoke out also specifically against the confiscation of converts’ property. The Third Lateran Council (1179) declared that converts to Christianity should “under no circumstances be deprived of [their] property, as converts should be better off than they had been before accepting the faith,” 46 and the Council of Montpellier (1195) reiterated this provision.47 In the name of facilitating Jewish conversion to Christianity, thirteenth-century kings issued similar decrees. In the Crown of Aragon in


Paola Tartakoff

1243, for example, Jaume I declared that converts should be allowed to retain their possessions; Jaume II reissued this legislation.48 In Castile, Alfonso X specified in the Siete Partidas that converts should retain their belongings and their rights of inheritance.49 In England in 1280, Edward I decided that converts who entered the London Domus Conversorum (a home for converts founded by Henry III in 1234) should keep half of their belongings.50 In France in 1392, Charles VI outlawed the confiscation of converts’ property.51 Kings also provided direct assistance to some converts. In England, Henry III gave robes to converts, and he sent 150 converts to monasteries with letters of introduction requesting food and lodging for two years.52 In France sometime between 1177 and 1192, Stephen of Tournai, who was then the abbot of the Abbey of Sainte Geneviève in Paris, urged the royal almoner to continue giving alms to a poor convert from León who had been “thoroughly taught both the reading and singing of ecclesiastical offices” and who “gave himself over to scholastic labors.”53 Louis IX provided converts with a daily pension of three deniers—twenty-five converts in Bourges in 1253; eleven in Noyon, thirteen in Laon, and twenty-five in Orleans in 1255; and eighteen in Amiens and fifty-six in Tours in 1256.54 In 1360 the kings of France were still giving alms to converts.55 In the Crown of Aragon, Jaume II and Pere III gave alms to a handful of individual converts as well.56 In addition, across western Europe, some religious houses and ecclesiastics supported converts,57 as did some private citizens—often converts’ godparents.58 For example, in late thirteenth-century Manosque, Lord Raymbaud d’Esparron took his goddaughter, Raymbauda, under his wing. Raymbauda spent two years in his household, where she “received [the sacrament of] penance and the eucharist . . . once a year . . . and did what Christians did,” praying, fasting, going to church, and hearing Mass.59 The impact of these forms of assistance, however, was limited. Royal legislation did not stop the confiscation of converts’ property,60 and even following repeated papal reminders, some bishops, abbots, and convents denied converts aid.61 Moreover, the support of godparents could end abruptly, as it did for a convert in Leicester in the late twelfth century whose sponsor—a certain nobleman—passed away, leaving him destitute.62 Kings and bishops also issued begging licenses to individual converts and groups of converts that were to be visible at all times and may have been worn as scrolls on string around their necks. These documents authorized converts to beg within a particular kingdom or diocese and contributed to

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perpetuating their mendicant lifestyle.63 In the license issued to the convert Guillem de Llinyola in 1350, Bishop Berenguer de Cruïlles of Gerona declared that Guillem would not be able to sustain “his destitute and miserable life unless he were to be aided mercifully by [Christian] alms.” 64 Similarly, in the license he issued to the convert Daniel de Verger in 1353, Berenguer cited Daniel’s “lack of basic necessities.” 65 In the license that Bishop Jaume de Trilla of Gerona issued to the convert Jaume de Faro in 1372, Jaume de Trilla explained that Jaume de Faro’s baptized daughter, Margarita, needed money for a dowry. He reminded Christians that it was a pious act to help girls marry, and he urged them to collect alms for Margarita.66

Poverty and Popular Ambivalence As the Middle Ages progressed, beggars increasingly were viewed as a threat to social order. They constituted a financial drain on society, and able-bodied tramps were suspected of taking advantage of people’s generosity.67 Beggars who were Jewish converts embodied these ills in addition to their own unique stigma. Even though, in theological terms, Jewish converts to Christianity were prized evidence of the triumph of Christianity over Judaism, in everyday life, Christians regarded converts with suspicion. They viewed them as still, in some sense, Jewish—referring to them often as “baptized Jews,” “converted Jews,” or “Jewish Christians”—and as religiously insincere.68 In part, Christian anxieties about Jewish converts derived from doubts as to whether baptism could truly undo “Jewishness,” both because “Jewishness” was understood as an inherited membership in a people and because religious conversion was widely understood as a gradual evolution.69 Realia, however, played a central role in Christian skepticism as well. First, converts looked the same after emerging from the baptismal waters as they had before, making it difficult to accept that they were truly new people. As Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi put it with regard to a later historical context, “ Today’s Christian was still recognizable as yesterday’s Jew.”70 Second, it was not uncommon for Jewish converts—including those who had not converted on threat of death—to return to Judaism, a phenomenon that cast doubt on converts’ commitment to Christianity.71 Third, it was often apparent that worldly, and not spiritual, concerns drove converts to the font, rendering it unlikely that these individuals were devout.


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Jewish poverty ranked high among the ills that converts sought to escape (which also included punishment for a crime, spousal abuse, Jewish legal strictures that made it impossible to marry a particular partner, and Jewish excommunication).72 The number of Jewish poor people began to expand in the late thirteenth century, both in the context of a general rise in poverty related to urbanization and on account of growing professional restrictions and royal fiscal demands on Jews.73 In England, Jewish conversion rose sharply between 1240 and 1260, when Henry III imposed heavy taxes on Jews. The names of over two hundred Jewish converts appear in records of the English Crown for those years.74 A similar situation appears to have existed in southern Italy between 1290 and 1293, when a mass conversion of Jews coincided with a spike in royal taxation.75 The poverty of prospective converts sheds new light on the motivations of Jews who converted to Christianity. Impoverished Jews may have hoped that conversion to Christianity would provide several advantages, even if they were likely to remain indigent. To Jews who had been excommunicated— and thus cut off from the Jewish community socially, religiously, and financially—conversion may have seemed like the only chance of survival.76 To individuals who were heavily in debt to fellow Jews, such as a Jew from Xàtiva who converted in 1327, taking the name Bonanat Ferrari, conversion might have presented a way to evade Jewish creditors.77 To individuals from Jewish communities that did not have charitable funds, such that the needy depended on private donations or begged door to door,78 or in which financial crises had undermined internal charitable mechanisms,79 conversion may have promised to unfurl a new landscape of potential sources of support, including Christian hospices, hospitals, parish institutions, and royal, monastic, episcopal, and canonical almonries.80 Finally, to Jews who had fallen on hard times suddenly after having been well off, the prospect of being poor as a Christian may have been attractive because it would spare them constant reminders of their former status within the Jewish community. Conversion could serve as a way of fleeing what a Jew from Huesca named Salamó Coffe described in 1347 as “the disgrace of poverty.”81 The thirteenth-century German Cistercian prior Caesarius of Heisterbach reported that Christians who experienced a sudden downturn in their fortunes sometimes used “conversion” to the monastic life in a similar way. In his Dialogus miraculorum, he noted, “Often we have seen and still daily we see persons who have been living for some time in wealth and honor of the world . . . coming to the Order under the compulsion of poverty,

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preferring to supply their need in the ser vice of God, in whose hand are all riches, than to endure the shamefacedness of poverty among their relations and friends . . . covering their need with the cloak of devotion, or rather, making a virtue of their necessity.”82 Like bankrupt Christians who entered monasteries, bankrupt Jews who converted to Christianity may have sought to “cover their need with the cloak of devotion” and thereby ease their humiliation. The knowledge that some converts were poor before baptism allows us not only to understand converts’ motivations in a more nuanced manner but also to deepen our appreciation of the significance of the Christian practice of dispossessing converts. In contrast to the way popes sometimes described the dispossession of converts, evoking a dramatic descent into penury—as Pope Urban V did, for instance, when he wrote that Petrus had “abounded in temporal goods” before being despoiled by rapacious Christians— “dispossession” may, in some cases, have had little practical effect.83 This, in fact, may help to explain why poverty was a leading motivation for conversion: the very poor had the least to lose. The knowledge that some converts were poor before baptism also deepens our understanding of widespread Christian scorn for Jewish converts. The Jewish converts whom medieval Christians were most proud of “gaining” were former members of the Jewish learned elite. Thus, for example, when the hagiographers of Thomas Aquinas described an episode in which the great theologian converted Jews, they specified that these Jews were “rich men and learned in their law.”84 Rich and learned Jews were perceived as the least likely to convert for ulterior motives and as the most likely to be a boon to Christendom. Poor, less educated Jews, however, were just the opposite. Their motivations were suspect and they promised to become a financial burden. All of these factors—namely, negative attitudes toward beggars generally, the sense that Jewish converts remained fundamentally Jewish, the undesirability of converts who had belonged to the margins of Jewish society, and the conviction that Jewish converts were religiously insincere— contributed to Christian reticence to give converts alms. A late thirteenthcentury repentant Jewish apostate recalled how some Christians, upon seeing him, had whispered with scorn, “[Converts like him] are the lowly and despised, the rash and foolish. . . . And when they are naked [and] barefoot . . .  they will go to a place where they are not recognized, and there they will return to their Jewish origins.”85 He recalled also that Christian donations had been scant: “ Those [Christians] who [we]re generous [might] give two


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or three coins. . . . The merciful women whose gifts we[re] small [would] each give a penny. And the alms collector [would] come before you with this offering [saying]: ‘This I have gathered; it will provide you with sustenance. If it is too little, more will be added later.’ ”86

Dispossession as De-Judaization The rites involved in conversion to Christianity and the rhetoric that Christian authorities employed to describe particular converts pushed back against popular Christian prejudices. For instance, several Christian conversion rituals imparted a sense of personal transformation. Converts took a new name, for instance—often that of one of their godparents—and they donned new clothes. Records from the papal almonry at Avignon in 1325 note that Jewish converts were given a linen shirt, pants, stockings, shoes, a cape, and a belt.87 Baptism itself, of course, was the ultimate ritual of rebirth. In begging licenses and other documents, Christian authorities rarely mentioned a Jewish convert without emphasizing that, through baptism, he or she had been “renewed,” “regenerated,” or “reborn in the holy mother church” as a “newborn” infant.88 In describing the baptism of Jews, sources also explicitly addressed Christian anxieties about the indelibility of “Jewishness.” In 1371 the bishop of Elne, Pere de Planella, described the cleansing properties of baptism in especially vivid terms. In a letter to the bishop of Barcelona, Berenguer d’Erill, he recounted how a Jewish woman named Blanca gave birth to an infant who was “black as coal.” The instant this baby was baptized and anointed with the sign of the cross, however, his blackness was “turned, through the power of the Holy Spirit, into whiteness.”89 The purported autobiography of Herman of Cologne extolled both the regenerative and cleansing properties of baptism. It described how, at baptism, “the church, a virgin mother, gave birth to [Herman] with a new infancy; [and how,] through the washing of regeneration, [Herman] was stripped of the skin of the old existence.”90 Ironically, although Christian authorities decried the practice of convert dispossession as a cause of convert poverty, they capitalized on the practice in their rhetorical efforts to demonstrate that particular converts had been purged of “Jewishness.” Indeed, they cast convert dispossession as one more rite of de-Judaization. In begging and preaching licenses that they issued to converts, kings and bishops took pains to specify that the converts

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in question had given up their belongings.91 Insofar as medieval people understood possessions as intimately tied to identity—such that keeping items that one had acquired during a sinful period in one’s life could be an impediment to salvation—converts’ abandonment of property at baptism constituted a casting off of relics of a reprehensible past in order to embrace a fresh start. Convert dispossession symbolically de-Judaized converts also insofar as medieval Christians associated Jews with greed.92 In fact, some ecclesiastical authorities praised converts for having given up their belongings in the context of establishing a stark opposition between possessing riches as a Jew and being poor as a Christian. For instance, in a letter that Pope Innocent III wrote to the abbot of the monastery of Saint Mary de Pratt in Leicester in 1199 asking the abbot to provide for a Jewish convert whose personal benefactor had died, Innocent implied that for a convert to remain rich would be for him to remain Jewish. He explained that this convert had “despised and forsaken the riches that he had” in order to “follow Christ, rather than wallow in the mire of wealth.”93 The association of wealth with “Jewishness,” on the one hand, and of poverty with Christian piety, on the other, is even more explicit in a begging license that the bishop of Gerona, Berenguer de Cruïlles, issued to a convert named Guillem de Llinyola in 1350. Berenguer specified that Guillem had chosen to “be poor, active with the zeal of the orthodox faith, rather than a Jew, abounding in the riches of this world.”94 When Pope Urban V decried the dispossession of Petrus, moreover, he was careful to note that Petrus’ holdings had not been acquired “through usury or any other kind of impropriety.” Instead, Petrus had earned money through “his own hard work, industry, and commercial dealings.”95 The pope seems to have implied that Petrus differed from some other Jews, whose gains were ill gotten and thus deserving of confiscation.96 Christian authors linked convert dispossession and de-Judaization in other ways as well. For example, during the third quarter of the fourteenth century, Charles IV referred to relinquishing possessions as a step in the process of turning from Judaism to Christianity. In a begging license that he issued to two men and their wives and children, he noted that these converts “turned from Judaism to the light of the true faith, having [first] abandoned their material resources.”97 Suggesting that the act of giving up property and the act of giving up Judaism were of the same nature, episcopal missives from the fourteenth-century Crown of Aragon sometimes employed the same verb—dimittere, literally “to send away”—to describe what


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converts did to their material possessions and to Judaism.98 Finally, at least twenty episcopal begging licenses that were issued to converts in fourteenthcentury Gerona conflated the renunciation of material possessions and the renunciation of Judaism. These documents note that particular converts— who, they sometimes specify, were baptized naked—brought with them into Christianity “nothing but their bare body,” “nothing but their pure body,” and “nothing but their pure heart.”99 In other words, these converts emerged from the font free of “Jewishness” in both its tangible and intangible manifestations.

Poverty as a Sign of Piety In begging and preaching licenses, Christian authorities sought to establish also that particular Jewish converts to Christianity were devout Christians. One way they did so was to state baldly—even when converts’ worldly motivations were as obvious as in the case of a convert named Pere de Saumana, for whom baptism was the only way to regain custody of his children—that individuals had converted “thoroughly,” “with their whole heart and soul,” “devoutly and humbly,” or having been “enlightened by the spirit of God.”100 Another approach was to spin miracle stories in which divine signs confirmed the authenticity of particular conversions.101 Thus, for example, when the vicar Michael of Saint John wrote to the bishop of Gerona, Bertran de Montrodon, in 1377, alerting him of the impending arrival of four convert beggars from Rheims, he explained that these conversions had been spurred by the vision of a “beautiful boy”—the Christ child—on the Feast of All Saints during Mass, when the celebrant elevated the host following the words of consecration.102 Moved to convert, these Jews (whose reason for being in church is not specified) allegedly clamored “Baptism! Baptism!” Michael of Saint John asked that Bertran de Montrodon share this information with his flock so that Christians might donate to these converts generously.103 In their efforts to demonstrate the Christian piety of particular converts, Christian authorities drew also on convert dispossession. They claimed that converts had parted with their possessions willingly, thereby imitating the apostles and actualizing one of the highest degrees of Christian devotion.104 In 1339, for instance, King Pere III described the convert Pere de la Mercè of Berga in Catalonia as having “completely relinquished” “all of his earthly goods”—and his wife and children—“for the love of Christ.”105 In 1364 Pope

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Urban V described some thirty Jews from Provence as having entirely given up “the Jewish error and blindness and all their riches and goods,” “inspired by the grace of the Holy Spirit.”106 In 1370 the bishop of Gerona, Jaume de Trilla, described the convert Juan Fernández of Toledo (and his wife and five children) as having, “according to custom, renounced and rejected all the things that they previously owned in this world and thus having been made poor in the things of this world for the love of Christ.”107 In 1371 the bishop of Elne, Pere de Planella, described a group of converts as having “freely and spontaneously given up all of their belongings.”108 And in 1380, in a letter petitioning the municipal officials of Gerona for alms, the convert Juan de Fernández described himself as having given up his earthly goods in order to “gain celestial glory.”109 Likewise, in the missive from Michael of Saint John to Bertran de Montrodon mentioned earlier, Michael noted that, before approaching the font, the four converts from Rheims who received a vision of the Christ child renounced all of their possessions “for the sake of God.” Consequently, they were “in need of the assistance and succor of the alms of the faithful of Christ.”110 It is noteworthy that the purported autobiography of the convert Herman of Cologne similarly characterizes parting with possessions as an expression of Christian devotion. The text relates how, in order to “tread quickly and freely along the narrow way that leads to life,” Herman “heeded the Gospel precept” and “happily began to despise all the goods that [he] seemed to have temporally, in hope and desire of eternal ones.”111 To further illustrate converts’ Christian piety, Christian authorities sometimes noted that converts had donated their goods to a worthy cause. One of the four converts from Rheims, for instance, gave 4,000 francs for the celebration of two daily masses in honor of Christ and the Virgin Mary, for the remission of sins, and for his benefactors.112 Similarly, a begging license issued by Bertran de Montrodon in 1381 noted that, when the convert Joan Alquer of Tolosa; his wife, María; and several other Jews were baptized, they bequeathed their possessions to the poor, “laying up treasure in heaven where neither moth nor decay destroys.”113 Around the same time, in Trier, a family of converts “laid down its fortune at the door of a church,” and Archbishop Kuno II (1362–88) promised to help them gain the remission of sins.114 By casting convert poverty as evidence of converts’ Christian virtue, Christian authorities negotiated the tension between the ideals and realities of Jewish conversion to Christianity. They attempted to turn a feature of medieval Jewish conversion that was the bane of the existence of many converts to the advantage of converts and the church. In so doing, they crafted an


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image of Jewish converts to Christianity that contrasted starkly with that presented by Jewish authors. A far cry from the materialistic and opportunistic lowlifes of Jewish lore, the converts whom Christian authorities conjured were selfless and devout. As we have seen, however, most actual converts fit neither mold. Practical considerations, including poverty, drove many conversions. But few converts could have expected that baptism would bring wealth. The plight of convert beggars broadcast the consequences of convert dispossession, as well as widespread popular Christian indifference and the limits of ecclesiastical support.

Chapter 5

“Cleanse Me from My Sin” The Social and Cultural Vicissitudes of a Converso Family in Fifteenth-Century Castile j av i e r c a S Ta ñ o

Early in the morning on the first Sunday of Lent, February 12, 1486, a procession of almost 750 men and women, many second- and thirdgeneration descendants of Jewish converts, left the convent of St. Peter Martyr in Toledo for the cathedral to appear in a “reconciliation ceremony” before the inquisitors who had begun their activity in the city less than one year before. While walking half-naked, bare-headed, with just thin cloth slippers on their feet against the severe cold, and holding unlit candles, some were screaming, some crying, and men were tearing their beards. The impression left on observers was that penitents felt shame more because of the dishonorable display than because of the terrible offense they had committed against God by “Judaizing.” Entering the cathedral, each was publicly summoned by name to a scaffold, in what was to be the first auto-de-fé, to be informed of his or her punishment: mortification of the body for six consecutive weeks, culminating on the night preceding Good Friday; the exclusion for life from holding any public office; and the payment of a fine. Death by fire was pending in case of relapse.1 Thousands of other penitents from the city and the archdiocese would participate in similar processions in the months that followed. The extent of the process initiated by the Inquisition from the early 1480s is an indication of the perceived need to purge the sins of society, sins,


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some believed, that lay behind the troubles and the anarchy of the late 1460s and early 1470s. Purgation, through confession and penitence, was necessary for the restoration of social order and spiritual healing, as manifested in the Coplas de Mingo Revulgo, where the prophet Gil Arribato blames the sins of the republica for the disorder.2 At the center of concern was the charge of the Judaizing heresy, or “Ebionism,” against the descendants of Jews who had received baptism some eighty years before, an accusation that would spread after the 1449 revolt in Toledo and whose effects would be felt across decades.3 The establishment of the new Inquisition channeled this social violence and political struggle, and can be seen as the climax of a decades-long process. The social and religious reality of the families affected was complex, and I will analyze this by focusing on a single but representative familial group spanning three generations.4 The converts’ transition from Judaism to Christianity did not happen overnight, and a spectrum of religious experience and expression further complicates the process of redefinition affecting individuals and families. Despite the switch in religious affiliation, some aspects of Jewish ethnicity continued to pervade the lives of conversos.5 In order to answer the question of who is a converso, we may examine different approaches. In the early seventeenth century, and considering objective legal criteria, the Roman canonist Ricciulli distinguished between neophytes (within a short time span after baptism) and those converted long ago, including their descendants. The latter group qualified, then, as fullfledged Christians in all regards. A wider perspective inclined Ricciulli to admit that different social and cultural factors determined the way these new Christians, and their descendants, were perceived, with the result that the social category of conversos, “quod vulgus apud Hispanos vocat Maranos” (which the common people among the Spaniards call Marranos), applied to descendants of actual converts.6 And, indeed, these social and cultural factors led to a biological definition of conversos—descendants of converted Jews, stained by an original sin and subjected to social discrimination because of their gradual identification as a casta, or “breed”—but also to a social characterization, since regardless of one’s biological or psychological self-identity, one could be identified in the eyes of others as a converso.7 In addition, the respective roles played by inquisitorial courts and historians in the retrospective construction of identities according to their cultural and ideological categories should not be dismissed.

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The chronicler Fernando de Pulgar, a converso critical toward the stringent inquisitorial actions against the offspring of Jewish converts,8 provides an accurate description of Toledo’s religious landscape: As the Inquisition continued that was instituted in the Kingdom against the Christians who are descended from Jews and who have turned to Judaizing, there were found in the city of Toledo several men and women who were secretly performing Jewish rituals, which, with great ignorance and danger to their souls, observed neither religion, for they did not circumcise as Jews do, as is commanded in the Old Testament, and even if they observed the Sabbath and some of the Jews’ fast days, they did not keep all the Sabbaths, nor all fast days. And if they performed one ritual, they did not perform another, such that they transgressed in both religions. And it was found that in some households, the husband performed some Jewish rituals, while the wife was a good Christian; and that one son or daughter was a good Christian, while another held Jewish belief. Thus, within a single family there was a diversity of beliefs that [members of the household] concealed from one another. Of these, many were reconciled to the [true] faith, and welcomed [back] within the Church, and each was assigned penitence, according to the confession made. Others were sentenced to life imprisonment and others were burnt. . . . In this case of heresy there were Muslim and Jewish witnesses, and servants, and infamous and despicable men.9 In the first two years of operation in Toledo (1486–87), the inquisitors performed eleven autos-de-fé, of which three resulted in the burning of those sentenced to death, and two more in the burning of the mortal remains of those convicted posthumously. The display of these ceremonies changed forever the local religious and social landscape in the Christian, but also the Jewish, camp. The shift in the attitudes toward those dubbed “New Christians” involved a reclassification of their own identities, their respective boundaries, and the notion of purity.


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Stubborn Consciences and Intimate Confessions By 1530, Teresa de Lucena, a sixty-two-year-old widow and the youngest daughter of Juan de Lucena, was living in Toledo in the house of Doctor Hamusco, a physician related to some of the principal converso families of the city.10 From youth she had been monitored by inquisitors who had been casting suspicion on every single member of her family. Eventually, she was brought to trial by the Inquisition. The little we know about her life is characterized by the absence from childhood of a maternal figure, familial disintegration (some relatives had found shelter in Lisbon), and shame (her father and paternal grandparents had been tried and convicted by the Inquisition, and many relatives had been reconciled by recognizing their “error” and mending their ways). It was the confession she had made forty-five years earlier, among others, that served to convict her and sentence her to life imprisonment, for she had omitted some information about herself and others. Yet in 1534 she received a pardon through the payment of a sum of money for the release of a Christian captive. She had appeared in 1485 before the inquisitors accompanied by her sister Leonor, one year her senior. Both were living with relatives in the nearby town of La Puebla de Montalbán. It was not the first time her widowed father had temporarily left his six daughters and son. Now, Juan de Lucena, a printer and merchant of Hebrew books (to whom we shall return later), rushed to leave for Rome in order to seek absolution from accusations of “Judaizing,” in the same way other conversos had done.11 In late May 1485, soon after their arrival in Toledo, the inquisitors had enacted an Edict of Grace, summoning the population to confess their sins and to testify to the transgressions of others. Though initially reluctant to confess, Juan de Lucena’s daughters began to present their confessions before witnesses and an inquisitorial notary: Guiomar, twenty years old, resident in Toledo, and Catalina, twenty-five years old, married and resident in Madrid, confessed (on June 1 and July 11, respectively) within the Term of Grace. After the deadline (post graçiam) passed (October 1), there followed Beatriz, the firstborn, twenty-seven years old, married and resident in Orgaz (October 25), and Leonor and Teresa, eighteen and seventeen, respectively (October 28).12 These confessions, along with those by hundreds of conversos, were copied in record books for the use of inquisitors. Confession became one, if not the most, important element in the success of the inquisitorial performance,13 all the more in a penitent society involved in a crusade for the liberation of the last Iberian Muslim stronghold, financed

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with a massive sale of indulgence bulls. It is no coincidence that the time span between the pontifical approval of the Inquisition (1478) and the beginning of its activity in Seville (1480) saw the ban of Pedro de Osma’s De confessione by a commission of theologians that met at Alcalá de Henares.14 Indeed, the foremost theologian and scholar had subjected the use of the confession sacrament to criticism, earning him the scorn of the ecclesiastical establishment.15 The early instructions for the operation of the Inquisition issued in 1484 were plain in their strategy: “All those who will be found guilty in any cases of heresy or apostasy, and during this period [Term of Grace] will approach the court with sorrow and without any compulsion to confess their errors, and will avow the truth, not only concerning oneself, but others . . . ; let all of them be treated charitably.”16 In our examination of the case brought against Teresa de Lucena, confessions show us how prospective defendants introduce themselves before the inquisitor. A defense strategy was prepared with selective information; occasionally defendants detailed previous experiences. It is not rare to see some prospective defendants acknowledge having been conscious of the wrongfulness of previous behavior at this point. Performance of practices and beliefs qualified as “Jewish” by the preachers, socially tolerated until now to a greater or lesser extent depending on the circumstances, is repeatedly exposed by those who confess, feeding the suspicion of active heresy. Confessions do not automatically arise from nothing: questionnaires such as the ynterrogatorio appended to the earliest instructions helped the accused as guidelines to structure their confession.17 The thirty-one “Judaic practices” included can be classified as follows: observance of the Sabbath (1–3), fast days (4–26), and Passover and other holidays (5, 8); food (6–7, 15, 29); charity (9–10); Nida (11, 27); circumcision (12); death (13–14, 18); relations with Jews (19, 25); recitation of blessings (23–24, 30); and dress (21). A few more have to do with (rejection of) Christianity (16–17, 20, 22, 28, 31). No less important is the remorse associated with the confessions, and how they were perceived by the inquisitorial prosecutor, who placed a short annotation at the end of the copy of the confession, marking the way he “read” the defendant’s conscience. Some confessions— such as those of Teresa de Lucena and Beatriz González (a widow with whom Teresa lived in La Puebla de Montalbán)—show, in the eyes of the inquisitor, nulla contriçio, either grauior or grauissima. Others—such as those of Guiomar and Catalina de Lucena— display aliqua contriçio, either grauis or grauior. Nevertheless, some of these women rushed to appear again before the inquisitors beyond


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the Term of Grace, supplying new information, as in the case of Beatriz González (confessed on April 5, and again on April 24 and December 8, 1486), Catalina (November 6 and 7, 1486), Leonor (November 6, 1487), and Beatriz de Lucena (January 1, 1490). The recurrence of the “Judaic practices” mentioned earlier becomes clear when we analyze some of the eleven confessions made after 1485, mostly by relatives, preserved in the file of the trial against Teresa de Lucena, specifically those corresponding to Juan de Lucena’s daughters—third-generation descendants of actual converts. Following a chronological sequence, the first confession was delivered by Guiomar. She begins with what Israel S. Révah calls the “récit de la conversion”18—in other words, the origins of her sinful behavior: her experience as a child in Seville when she was taken to her greataunt Beatriz Núñez, with whom she lived for six years: “I was so young, and she forced me, showing me how to do some of the ceremonies she did” (5r). Guiomar came back to Toledo already knowledgeable, and she saw other people, relatives among them, observing these practices. She justifies her behavior by her belief that their observance would bring salvation. Throughout her confession, she emphasizes having performed them only occasionally, and she ends with a lengthy expression of remorse. One month later, her sister Catalina was the next to confess. Seville’s social environment is blamed, too, as the origin of sin; occasional observance continued later in Toledo and in La Puebla de Montalbán. Her marriage and relocation to Madrid circa 1483 were a watershed in her life: her willingness to observe these practices notwithstanding, she avoided it, because her husband, a converso himself,19 did not approve of it (6r). Beatriz de Lucena provided the most extensive confession, starting with a list of nine items, followed by a detailed narrative of her familial and social environment, including her childhood in Seville in bachiller Ganso’s home. She expressed remorse by acknowledging that she observed all she knew and could. In contrast to Catalina, Beatriz continued her former behavior after marriage, “in honor and observance of the Law of Moses, believing she would be saved” (8r, 14r–v). Finally, both Leonor and Teresa delivered an identical confession, beginning with an allusion to their childhood in Seville, following the questionnaire guidelines, and ending with a justification of their previous behavior in salvation of their souls. Once confessions were recorded, the court machinery established the appropriate procedure. When defendants were reconciled through a mild sentence, they received it in a public ceremony, but henceforth individuals and

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their families carried the mark of infamy: Teresa’s grandfather Martín de Lucena had been convicted posthumously and his bones taken from his tomb and cremated. Her father, Juan, sentenced by the court in absentia, had fled to Rome, while at least four of his six daughters were reconciled. Immediately after the Catholic Monarchs banned the practice of Judaism in their dominions in 1492, some possible courses of action were tested in order to socially integrate those convicted and their offspring, “cleansing” their infamy through the payment of a sum. This amnesty, or habilitación, was aimed at enabling them to perform (public) administrative and financial functions. The main concern behind this rehabilitation was therefore not merely economic, since the amounts collected—in general, a twentieth of every rehabilitated individual’s estate—were lower than those that could be obtained through penitence. Several members of the Lucena family “redeemed” themselves in 1495 and 1497 through a payment, 20 but the habilitación was not a warranty for integration, at least not for all, and did not automatically erase suspicions. Some decided to continue their lives elsewhere. At the turn of the century, Lisbon and Seville were “Oceani dominas, ac tamquam Reginas” (Ladies and Queens of the Ocean), 21 because of the economic boom both cities experienced with the development of transoceanic trade, and, in the case of the Portuguese metropolis, devoid of an inquisitorial court. A personal letter copied into Teresa de Lucena’s file (13r–v) tells us about this important destination for Castilian conversos.22 Dated August 12, 1510, the letter was sent to Teresa by her sister Leonor, then living in Lisbon. The date is relevant: two months earlier, King Manuel had condoned in June the sanctions incurred by Castilian conversos accused of heresy who, despite the ban imposed in 1503, entered Portugal, under the proviso that they leave before the end of October.23 The letter provides valuable information concerning the whereabouts of Teresa’s relatives. It also throws light on some of these conversos’ frames of mind.24 Leonor responds to her sister’s previous missive received on the same day that had reached her through a courtier, Juan Báez.25 The letter was intercepted by the inquisitors in Toledo on October 8, less than two months after it was written, proving that the sisters were under the Holy Office’s surveillance. Leonor had settled in Lisbon, accompanied by her husband and Alonso de Salazar, following the example set by other relatives who arrived much earlier: her cousins Martín and Doña Isabel de Lucena, children of the physician Francisco de Lucena, had been hosted by the late infanta Beatriz,


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King Manuel’s mother. Despite her cousins’ successful integration within the local society, I have not found any hint that allows us to link them to any homonymous contemporary Portuguese royal physicians.26 In her letter, Leonor expresses longing for her family in Toledo and requests information about relatives, with an abundance of expressions marking familial solidarity, as in the old days when she and Teresa lived together. Her longing to return notwithstanding, Leonor had been advised not to travel back,27 and this may well have to do with pending issues with the Inquisition. In a preceding letter, Teresa had mentioned an unsettled lawsuit she was involved in—severe enough to make Leonor comment that its resolution would bring peace to her. Both sisters, “learned women,”28 reflect on their personal fate with a distinctive stoic voice.29 Teresa had previously expressed her dismay at the experience of feeling a “return back to [the anxieties of] the prime of her life” (tornada a la edad primera): now a forty-two-year-old widow, she remained traumatized by inquisitorial persecution. Emotions stirred by death and love and expressions filled with scriptural resonances arise at every turn in the letter. Teresa’s mood was characterized by pessimism about the present, and her inner feelings resembled those of a captive unable to distinguish between day and night (“no sabeys quándo es de día, ni quándo es de noche”).30 Leonor grasped the meaning of the sentence, and in her letter to Teresa she answers, “If you come to me, you’ll know, and even you will sew [labrareys] all you want, since I always sew and if I wanted, I would sew more. God forgive me.” This puzzling sentence may be understood as a plain reference to the craft of sewing. Moreover, labrar (to seam) may also be used metaphorically in an erotic context (to fornicate), as it was in contemporary literary works eventually written by self-declared converso authors, such as La Celestina (the title character of which was herself a seamstress) and La Lozana Andaluza, both sharing a common feminine language.31 Within the biblical context shared by conversos, one of the few references to this craft is contained in Proverbs (31:19) in relation to the woman of valor. Leonor’s statement was intended also as a wink of spiritual encouragement to Teresa. Leonor keeps expressing her emotional dismay, saying, “My heart is so discouraged, that I am not myself anymore, and you must understand me, and therefore I say no more” (Tengo el coraçón tan caydo, que ya no soy quién solía, y bien me entendéys y por eso no digo más). The pervasive cryptic style and implicit meaning are more appropriate under circumstances of persecution and concealment.32 But it also points to personal bitterness: Leonor has

∞[1]MariLorenza ∞ [2] Concubine

Beatriz ∞ Juan de Toledo

Gonzalo Díaz ∞ Mari Franca

Pero Díaz de Orgaz ∞ ?



Fernando Díaz de Orgaz ∞ Beatriz de Lucena

LEONOR Alonso DE LUCENA ∞ Sancho de Córdoba de Córdoba


Son (d.1506)



TERESA LEONOR ALONSO JUANA CATALINA GUIOMAR (1467–1526) (ca.1468–1545) ∞ licenciado ∞Garcíade ∞ Alonso ∞ Diego ∞ Juan de Montalbán de Salazar Illescas’ de Salazar Jarada (d. bef. 1525) nephew (d. ca. 1505)

∞ TERESA LÓPEZ Mosén FERNANDO DE LUCENA DE SAN PEDRO ∞ Leonor de la Peña (d. ca. 1472)

Figure 1. The Lucena Family (Toledo, Seville, and Lisbon, ca. 1420–ca. 1545)

Mari Díaz ∞ Hernando Franco



BEATRIZ ∞ Fernando Díaz de Orgaz

(ca. 1430–ca. 1492?)




∞Alvar López de Ocaña


Doña ISABEL Child JUAN DE MARTÍN LUCENA ∞ Nobleman DELUCENA (Portuguese?) ∞ GarcíadeÁvila, squire

∞ FernandoHurtado (d.bef.1485) [2] Concubine

[1] ELVIRA DE LUCENA Liçençiado (d.bef.1485) FRANCISCO DE LUCENA

(?–d. ca.1463) ∞ LEONORMARTÍNEZ



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experienced her own son’s loss, and she voices her grief, only softened by familial solidarity (“Después que perdí a mi hijo, perdí muchos bienes de fortuna, mas para vos nunca me a de faltar”). She is now in a state of existential depression, expressed through the oxymoron “I always live dying” (Yo siempre bibo muriendo). The tragic irony is that while Leonor and her family arrived in Lisbon five years before, “running away from death” (in reference to inquisitorial conviction?), death met her son in Lisbon (“que me fue huyendo con él de la muerte y todavía muere en Lisboa”), as in the “Love and Death Ballad” (Romance del Enamorado y la Muerte), where fate is fulfilled. According to Leonor, her son had died four years before, in 1506, the year in which hundreds of people perished in Lisbon, regardless of ethnic differences, first as result of the plague and then through the massacre of (old and new) conversos by a frenzied mob.33 Inquisitors were clearly suspicious of the letter, for a furtive reader copied two paragraphs again on another piece of paper attached to the file. The first included Teresa’s references to the difficulty of distinguishing between day and night, the longing for sewing, and the fallen heart, evoking the suffering of the righteous. The second referred to her return to the woes of the prime of her life. Two decades later, throughout three consecutive sessions under torture, inquisitorial officials tried to force Teresa to reveal to them what she meant when she wrote it. She downplayed its importance, calling her words only “insignificant sayings of mockery” (refranicos de burla).

Jewish Lineage and the Monitoring of Domestic Life As if a veil had been drawn over his ancestors, we do not know the familial background of Teresa’s paternal grandfather, the physician Martín de Lucena, nicknamed “el Macabeo” (the Maccabean),34 besides the likelihood that he was born to Jewish parents converted at the end of the fourteenth century or in the early 1400s. His Jewish lineage is confirmed by an apocryphal story contained in the Shevet Yehudah, commonly ascribed to Solomon Aben Verga (ca. 1450–ca. 1520), a former representative of the Jewish aljamas in Castile, that praises him as limudi gadol mi-zera‘enu (a great scholar from our seed).35 In this story he is shown in the royal entourage, wisely counseling Jews, warning them not to pay the ransom required by a queen who had been advised by a friar (a transfiguration of Haman) with the final goal of destroying them. In the end, the friar is executed and the edict canceled.

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The extant biographical data documents Martín’s activity as translator. He was a royal scribe of Arabic (escribano de arábigo del rey) in Seville and succeeded Master Alonso de Guadalajara as royal physician after the latter’s demise in 1429.36 But Martín’s linguistic dexterity was not limited to Arabic. The chronology of his intellectual output can be established from surviving manuscripts of his works. First, his translation of the Gospels and Pauline Letters from Latin into Castilian was completed before 1445, commissioned by Íñigo López de Mendoza—a pivotal figure in fifteenth-century Castilian Humanist culture.37 This allows us to place the physician Martín de Lucena within a specific milieu: as a servant in the aristocratic entourage of the Mendoza family.38 His nickname el Macabeo may be a reference to Judah Maccabee, one of the Nine Worthies, historical, scriptural, and legendary figures who in the late Middle Ages personified the ideals of chivalry. It is a clue to the way the son of a converted Jew could merge his identity into the aristocratic cultural environment. The surviving sections of this translation39 show a faultless Christian orthodoxy. By translating the Gospels, Martín, a “Jew in the flesh,” was not only actively embracing the “Law of Grace” but also teaching it to the “true Israel” that included his Old Christian peers in the Mendoza intellectual circle. This translating enterprise acts on the teachings of Alonso de Cartagena, according to which a Jew could attach himself more easily than gentiles to the teaching of the Gospels, since these had already been prefigured in the “Law of Scripture”:40 an implicit acknowledgment of supersessionism. Íñigo López de Mendoza also commissioned Martín de Lucena to translate the Old Testament from the Hebrew and the Vulgate into Castilian, and the resulting text has been partially preserved.41 The section containing Later Prophets and part of Hagiographa includes Saint Jerome’s prologues to the different books, as well as short glosses to the Psalms. Besides these sacred texts, the physician Martín González de Lucena produced a Castilian version of Benvenuto da Imola’s commentary on Dante’s Purgatory, whose colophon concludes with a Trinitarian formula.42 The date is uncertain, but plausibly around 1438,43 since a text taken from another (yet) unidentified translation of Imola’s commentary on Dante’s Inferno found its way into the panegyric poem La Coronaçión by Juan de Mena, which was dedicated to Íñigo López de Mendoza and dated that year,44 as well as into a contemporary letter written by the aristocrat.45 In short, Martín de Lucena provides us with a remarkably detailed case of a fifteenth-century physician born to Jewish converted parents who had served his patron, a man whose


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command of Hebrew and Latin and whose continued ability to move between linguistic and religious worlds enabled his translations and their role in the formation of vernacular Humanism in Castile. In 1445 Martín allocated part of his wages as royal scribe of Arabic letters to his son Juan.46 We do not know whether Martín and his household were already in Toledo in 1449 when the violence erupted that attempted to redefine the foundations of social and political authority and the limits of Christian society. It was inspired by a prophetical figure, Marcos García de Mazarambroz, and disrupted the life of the city for much of a year, beginning an era of uncertainty for the Christian offspring of converted Jews. The revolution not only placed some conversos under suspicion of “Judaizing” but also prompted speculation that the entire converso “nation” was Jewish. It was in this context47 that some Toledan conversos decided to leave, as happened with the refugees who, in the early 1460s and after a lengthy journey, arrived in Cairo.48 In the early 1460s the aged Martín de Lucena (d. ca. 1463)49 was resident in Toledo’s San Miguel quarter, far from the Jewish quarter, which could confirm that the family had settled in the city only recently. Married to the conversa Leonor Martínez, they had raised four children: Elvira (d. before 1485); Francisco, a physician like his father; Juan, a merchant; and Beatriz López de Lucena, whom Alvar López de Ocaña—her brother Juan’s fatherin-law—wedded as his second marriage.50 Converso endogamy was still the rule in the second and third generation after conversion, hinting at the preservation of previous familial strategies and relations: Teresa López de San Pedro, Juan de Lucena’s wife, bore the name of a prominent converso family in the city, San Pedro, but her brothers also bore the family name Lucena, so that both families may have been related.51 Some later inquisitorial testimonies hint at Martín de Lucena’s alleged heterodox behavior, though they cannot be taken at face value without further evidence. They reflect the cohabitation between Old Christian servants and a family of conversos at a domestic level, shaped by a new context that delineates clear boundaries and attempts to identify certain ostensibly Jewish practices. According to Ynés de Çayas, testifying in 1485, by 1477 Juan de Lucena and his daughters, as well as his two widowed sisters, Elvira and Beatriz López, had been living in Martín’s home after they returned to Toledo (6v). Beatriz de Lucena said in her 1485 confession that “in the said grandfather’s house, there was no other lord, but her uncle the liçençiado” (Juan de Lucena’s older brother) (16r). Beatriz López had testified that her

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parents, Master Martín and his wife, “used to rest on Saturday, and occasionally fasted on the main fast day of the Jews, and ate unleavened bread and observed that holiday. If they could find an excuse, they did not eat bacon nor any forbidden food, and they used to give alms to Jews for oil in the synagogue, and it was her mother who gave that oil” (8v). Also explicit is a similar testimony delivered by a servant, Marina Álvarez (9v–10r), who lived for over ten years (ca. 1468–78) with Master Martín’s wife and her son, the physician Francisco de Lucena. In 1490 Beatriz de Lucena confessed that her grandparents observed some “ceremonies.” She not only described it but also made assumptions, as when she said that “the aforementioned Doctor Maestre Martín used to see his wife observing [the ceremonies] and he consented, and he was reading a book in Hebrew” (8r). In reference to her uncle Francisco de Lucena, Beatriz said that she saw him “making Jewish life in some way,” and when mentioning the family’s observance of fast days, she said that “she saw them eating meat at dinner those days, though she did not understand what they prayed” (9v). In the midst of the Castilian Civil War, a revolt broke out in 1467 in Toledo, culminating in “Magdalene’s day fire” (July 21–22), followed by the ransacking of converso households. Shorter than the 1449 rebellion, this revolt—one of the many urban fights in Castilian cities—targeted conversos and their properties, too.52 One of the sites of the fight was heavily affected: the area close to the San Miguel quarter, where the Lucenas lived. It was in the Plaza del Seco that at the height of the fight a leading converso was hanged by the feet.53 In the aftermath of the revolt, those conversos who decided to stay in the city received permission to continue their normal activities, though the ban on conversos holding public offices, following the guidelines of the 1449 Sentencia-Estatuto, was ratified soon after. It was then (“cuando lo de la Madalena”) that Juan de Lucena and his family, like other conversos, decided to leave for Seville (14v). We now leap ahead in our narrative by nearly a decade. Around 1474 Juan de Lucena, now widowed, took his daughters to Torrejón de Velasco, a town located twenty-six miles north of Toledo under the seigniorial jurisdiction of the Count of Puñonrostro, “in the house of the liçençiado Françisco de Luçena . . . in that town’s fortress” (15v). Francisco was living there with his concubine and their child (14r). As he was household head, we may assume that some other members of the family followed him and settled in Torrejón. Juan de Lucena, however, did not remain there more than half a year. The count, a third-generation converso himself, was the grandson of


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the once powerful royal exchequer secretary Diego Arias Dávila. The Lucenas were not the only conversos in the small town: Rodrigo Cota, author of the Epitalamio Burlesco, a burlesque wedding poem that satirizes converso mores, had left Toledo after 1467 and found a shelter there until at least 1483.54 A question remains open concerning whether there was any relationship between Juan de Lucena and Rodrigo Cota, who belonged to the same generation and whose wives shared a family name, San Pedro. It is precisely within this social environment that the Jewish cultural subtext underlying the Epitalamio Burlesco has to be understood. After the short stay in Torrejón, Juan de Lucena, about forty-four years old, moved to La Puebla de Montalbán and Toledo, located twenty-one miles from each other. La Puebla was a seigniorial town where Juan had relatives and acquaintances. His unmarried daughters Leonor and Teresa were still living there in 1485 with their relative, Beatriz González, widow of the notary Francisco González (8r). In her own confession, this widow blames her late husband for the “Judaizing” domestic environment, claiming, “[He] imposed on me and made [me] understand that I observe the things required by the Mosaic Law, saying that it was the truth and I would be saved” (3r–v), and then continues with a list of fourteen items, among them holding a prayer book received from her husband and reading Bibles. While acknowledging that she has imitated the ways of the Jews, she inherently draws a dividing line between them and her. Thus, concerning the Day of Atonement, she states, “On the previous eve, I went to the synagogue and I saw the Jews, and I liked it.” In a late addition, Beatriz conveys some touching details: when her son Rodrigo de Toledo got married, she “discouraged him from having any sexual intercourse with his wife until she bathed,” and she recollects, “When the Jews bring out their Torah in order to pray for rain, I remember I humbled myself before it sometimes, praising God with some words” (3v). Contemporary socialization of New Christians and Jews was bolstered by the existence of familial networks that included both. Conversion did not necessarily break the bonds of familial affection, enmity, or mutual interest, regardless of the social layer to which the relative belonged.55 The sisters Leonor, Teresa, and Beatriz de Lucena confessed to have only sporadically met Jews, none of them relatives, in Seville and La Puebla. They mention few instances—either before or after the segregatory measures imposed in the early 1480s—but these left a mark in their memories and provide us with a sense of what it meant to have limited contact with Jews.

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Occasional encounters offered one possible way for socialization: Beatriz, the eldest sister, confessed that she entered an old Jew’s house in Seville, as well as sukkah booths (cabañuelas). Leonor also entered sukkoth in La Puebla, as did Teresa. According to the latter, a Jew took her into one, though “she did not remember the identities of the Jews” sitting inside. Occasional synagogue attendance was a not unusual phenomenon for either New or Old Christians: Teresa confesses that she entered a synagogue in La Puebla “once an evening and maybe many other times.” Our sources hardly contain any cases of New Christians visiting Jewish butcher shops. Instead, they used to send either their servants or Jews as intermediaries to bring home the meat, such as “the blacksmith’s wife,” a Jewess of La Puebla mentioned by Teresa.56 Health care provided another method of socialization between Jews and Christians: Beatriz de Lucena had contacts with several Jewish physicians, and Teresa received once at her La Puebla home the physician Monçonego. According to Pedro Mombel, Juan de Lucena’s assistant, both sisters also worried when a Jew was ill or a Jewess was about to give birth. Instances of almsgiving to Jews and gifts of oil for the synagogue in every place abound too.57 On a more intimate level, there are sporadic cases of sexual relations. Álvaro de Montalbán, the converso cousin of Catalina de Lucena’s husband and a former local council mayordomo (accountant)—an office he left after the arrival of the Inquisition—confessed in 1486 to having had relations with a Jewess and entering the synagogue when he was young and again later on, up to three times escorting Christian preachers. In spite of his promiscuity and sporadic contacts with Jews, a careful reading of the file does not show any hint of religious heterodoxy.58 Inquisitorial testimonies privilege the observation of the domestic private sphere, to which many of the observed practices belonged. Intimacy within the familial realm was perceived as secrecy by witnesses, as well as by the defendants. Owning alleged “Judaic” prayer books59 and the vernacular reading of the Bible are recurrently characterized as instances of a religious “Judaizing” devotion. The widow Beatriz González, at La Puebla, confesses that she read in “Mosaic” prayer books “anytime I could and secretly, especially in a book I owned of the said prayers, received from my husband, that I burnt, and also read and listened to the reading of Bibles” (3r). In the same domestic context, Leonor and Teresa de Lucena confess in 1485 to having “read prayers in the Law of Moses and the Bible in the vernacular” (4r–v). Their sister Catalina confesses in the same year to having read “prayers of Jews, and in a book that Yñigo, blacksmith, my father’s assistant, stole from


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me” (6r). This was the “Jews’ çituri [siddur] of vernacular prayer, which the daughters prayed face to the wall,” held by Iñigo de Burgos, mentioned by him in his testimony, a book that found its way for analysis into the inquisitors’ hands (11v). This was not the only book that fell into the wrong hands: Juan de Lucena’s daughters “had a small book, and they forgot it in the house of this witness [Ynés de Çayas] and a man came in and read in the book and said they were Judaic prayers” (6v). Their sister Beatriz de Lucena said in 1490 that their grandfather, “the said doctor master Martín . . . used to pray in a book in Hebrew” (8r). Reciting “prayers of Jews” (no explanation provided) was also confessed by Guiomar (5r). And Juan de Lucena Jr. confesses to have seen his mother, Beatriz López, reciting prayers and psalms in the vernacular (7r). Hebrew books may not have been rare in this environment. One of the charges made against Juan de Lucena, Martín de Lucena’s second son, concerned his involvement in the printing of Hebrew books.60 About this elusive figure we are only informed that he “was a well read person, being ironic in questions of the holy faith” (20r). Juan defined himself once as a Judío azino (a miserable Jew) (ibid.), mocking the label of “Jew in the flesh” imposed on many conversos, which was ridiculed as a self-defense mechanism by the neophyte poet Antón de Montoro.61 According to his daughter Guiomar, Juan was primarily a mercader (merchant), and he spent time traveling. Further testimonies collected in Seville, Segovia, and Toledo identify him as a printer of Hebrew books. It is in La Puebla de Montalbán that several witnesses locate Juan de Lucena’s Hebrew press. We are not yet in a better position than earlier scholars to answer the questions raised about it. In 1485 his daughter Catalina confessed that she had sinned in helping her father to make “Hebrew writing through matrices” (escriptura abrayca por moldes) around 1483 (6r). Teresa, who later was accused of having assisted in this Hebrew printing, was then fifteen years old.62 More important are the testimonies of two Christians employed by Juan de Lucena. They were living in Segovia in 1485 when they were summoned by the Dominican friar Antonio de la Peña.63 The two assistants, Pedro Mombel and Íñigo de Burgos cerrajero (locksmith), “copyists and printers of printed books,” said that they had been living in Toledo and La Puebla, since Juan de Lucena was a legal resident in both places. They characterize their employer as “the son of Doctor Master Martin,” with whom they worked for two years, and the person “involved in the task of writing with types in Hebrew” (10v–12r).

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Bibliographic and book-historical research has not been able to identify yet any work printed by this press, beyond the tentative attribution of the so-called Orhot Hayyim editions, a group of eight books with similar technical characteristics.64 The question, however, remains open since only single pages of these books have been found to date.65 As contemporary Iberian Hebrew presses were the result of a Jewish-Christian partnership, it could be argued that from both a financial and a technical point of view, Juan de Lucena, eventually the master printer, would have been assisted by Jews too. We can only infer the approximate date of operation of the Hebrew press (1476?–83?), its location (La Puebla de Montalbán and Toledo), and the names of several Christian assistants. No less important is the information contained in Diego Fernández’s testimony, incorporated in 1530 into Teresa’s file. According to him, the son of an important convicted Sevillian converso, Juan “made many books in Hebrew script, and he once went to Granada to sell them” (in reference to the years 1476–81, during the truces between the Nasrid Kingdom and Castile), “and he came with letters from those who were in the land of the Moors, though I do not know the content” (20v). Dated in 1481, this testimony reveals that (a) Juan was engaged in printing, though we do not know at what stage; (b) he traded Hebrew books with Muslim Granada, so we can assume that his customers were Jews living there; and (c) during his travels, he met people we can identify as former Christian refugees of Jewish ancestry with relatives in Castile. Granada was another shelter for converso refugees, including those who chose to become full-fledged Jews.66 A letter the queen sent in November  1480 to Seville refers to this phenomenon, ordering everyone to denounce those who wanted to escape to the still sovereign Nasrid Kingdom.67 Rumors concerning this issue abounded, and in his 1485 confession, Juan de Lucena Jr. declared that “it was common knowledge” that Fernando, the son of Alonso Lopes, resident of Toledo, “went [to Granada] to become a Jew.” He also heard Francisco Núñez, the son of Pero Nuñes, el Bermejo, saying that he wanted to observe the Mosaic Law and that “he went to become a Jew, though he was turned back” (7v). We still lack basic information concerning the operation of the Hebrew press, including the identities of Lucena’s partners and employees, Jews or not; his financiers; those in charge of editorial production; and the prospective customers beyond Granada. One source mentions a printed copy of the


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Former Prophets sold in 1491 by one “Abrahaan Arax, judeus ville de Talauera” (a city in nearby La Puebla) to one of the Jewish aldermen of the Catalonian town of Santa Coloma de Queralt, but it remains uncertain whether this copy was printed by Juan de Lucena’s press.68 The remainder of the information delivered in the testimonies of Juan de Lucena’s two assistants concerns domestic aspects of the family private life in the late 1470s and early 1480s. Besides witnessing the socialization of the family members with Jews and relatives in La Puebla— especially on the Sabbath— and describing recurrent customs, Pedro Mombel noticed some external gestures whose intentions he interprets. His fellow worker Íñigo de Burgos was initially more circumspect, but he ratified some of the information provided by his colleague and provides an interesting detail: he saw the daughters fasting three days in the Holy Week, “in the following [arreo] Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday . . . in remembrance of Queen Esther’s deliverance of the Jews from Haman.” This is because some conversos celebrated a three-day fast, not in Purim but, following the biblical account of the book of Esther, on the eve and the first two days of Passover. Moreover, this assistant describes the breaking of the fast “with lettuce and salt, and vinegar, in new dishes” (11v–12r).69

Settling Spiritual Accounts In the mid-fifteenth century Seville had a sizable number of conversos70 with a pronounced awareness of their distinctive and corporate identity, wholly explicable in sociological terms, based on ties of kinship and on a common social predicament.71 In the city alone, the 1495 census of habilitados recorded two thousand individuals (of a total population of forty thousand). Seville was, at least until 1474, a relatively calm metropolis. No synchrony is recorded in the chronology of the Toledan revolts, and local sociopolitical specificities have to be taken into consideration. When the Lucena family arrived from Toledo in 1467, they established their residence in the San Bartolomé quarter, within the former Jewish neighborhood. Any available information concerning them during these years comes through Juan’s daughters. When their mother, Teresa, died in 1472, her husband, Juan, was away in Cuenca, and “some persons, their father and grandmother’s friends wanted to take charge of the children,” respectively fourteen, twelve, seven, six, five, four, and two years old (15v). They were housed by diverse converso families. It is at this point that the daughters record the initiation of their “heretical” conduct.

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As in the case of Toledo, more than a coherent and articulated cryptoJudaic religious choice, we have here remnants of gestures belonging to a distant past, preserved within a dense familial network and a memory shaped by a strong genealogical bond. These remnants would be manifested through punctual practices and beliefs within a Christian framework of thinking that is reminiscent of the situation described by Pulgar in his letter addressed to an anonymous “challenger” (impugnador), excusing conversos because they were ignorant and confused: “I think, my lord, that there are a few who sin because they are evil. Others, the majority, [sin] because they follow others who are evil, but they would follow the good, if there were any. But since the old [Christians] are such evil Christians, then, the new [Christians] are such good Jews. There are in Andalusia ten thousand girls, between ten and twenty years old, who, from birth, have never left their homes nor heard or learned any doctrine other than the one they have seen their parents performing inside their homes.”72 In Pulgar’s opinion, there were obviously those who clung to Jewish practices as a link with the past. But even in these cases, theirs was not an attempt to return to Judaism but rather a form of syncretism in which Jewish beliefs and observances were inserted within a Christian frame. An elaborated articulation of these beliefs is presented in the anonymous Libello that circulated in Seville in 1480 in response to the sermons preached by Friar Hernando de Talavera.73 The Hieronymite Talavera had been charged by the Crown with settling spiritual accounts in the city (alongside the task of carrying out an economic rationalization with the reduction of revenues received by the nobility). He called this loosely defined group Ebionites, identifying them with an ancient heresy in an attempt to draw a dividing line between them and the Jews.74 In this setting, the ideal of a mystical body with a unified church harboring the offspring of Jews and gentiles united by baptism and following Pauline ways (Eph. 2:14–18), as contended by Alonso de Cartagena, was a utopia. Talavera’s persuasive strategy to convince the alleged Ebionites failed and gave way to inquisitorial repression after 1480 that put an end, in a brutal way, to a delusion held by many of a gradual, peaceful integration. According to her own confession, Beatriz de Lucena had stayed after 1472 with bachiller Ganso; his wife, Leonor Leví; and their four male children. Other daughters were taken in by Pero Díaz Leví, Juan de Sevilla mayor, and Andrés de Sevilla, all of them conversos belonging to a midrange social class. According to the confessions of Beatriz de Lucena’s sisters, we are told that


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Leonor, Teresa, Guiomar, and Catalina had been “initiated in the Jewish ways” by Beatriz Núñez, the children’s great-aunt and wife of Bartolomé Núñez de Jaén. As far as the adoptive parents are concerned, we have gathered some data about the first two of them: the bachiller Fernando Díaz, “el Ganso” (“the Goose,” a nickname extended to the whole family), was a parish representative at the local council, or jurado.75 Sentenced to death in 1482 by the Inquisition, he was among those executed in the first operation of the Holy Office in Seville. In August 1481 he had been brought before the court, and his own son, Diego Fernández, testified against him, extending the accusation to others, such as Juan de Lucena, whom he met at La Puebla de Montalbán.76 Fernando Díaz’s wife, Leonor Fernández Leví, was sentenced too, though reconciliada in 1495.77 Another adoptive father who was sentenced, and who had his house forcibly auctioned on April 18, 1482, was Pedro Díaz Leví, a resident in the Santa Cruz quarter.78 By that time, Juan de Lucena and his family were apparently safe in Toledo. However, there were changes here, too, and as soon as news arrived of an inquisitorial operation in Toledo, Juan fled to Rome, where a former servant locates him in early 1485 (7v). At the time, Rome already held a sizable Iberian population, and conversos were increasingly present in all social strata.79 He may have attempted to get an exculpatory letter in order to get rid of the Inquisition, as some Sevillian conversos previously (although unsuccessfully) had done.80 At this point the available information concerning Juan de Lucena is rather contradictory. Whereas Beatriz, his daughter, claims in her 1529 confession that “she was already married, and that he died in Rome, and fled there because he printed Hebrew books” (15r), other documentary sources still place him alive in Toledo after 1486. This is the case of “Juan de Luçena,” resident in La Puebla de Montalbán, who was asked without success in August 1486 by the ecclesiastical authorities to pay a substantial debt due to the late precentor of the collegiate church of Talavera.81 Did he receive a papal pardon in exchange for a generous contribution to the church, as happened with other individuals?82 Another source mentions Juan de Lucena living in 1491 in Toledo in a house rented to the cathedral chapter in the Chapinería (an area deeply affected by the revolt of 1467), not far from where the Lucenas used to live.83 The latter can be identified with the Juan de Lucena, “printer of books” (escriuano de libros), who was still alive on May 9, 1492, when he purchased several houses in the Santo Tomé quarter from Çima, Rabi Symuel

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Napolitano’s daughter, and her husband, who were about to leave.84 Be that as it may, Juan de Lucena’s life during this later period remains open for future research.

Epilogue I have presented in this chapter the vicissitudes of three generations of a converso family to illustrate the process of their integration within a set of local Iberian societies. The baptisms en masse of the period 1391–1414—not necessarily the result of a leap of faith— gave way to a gradual relocation of social, cultural, and even religious boundaries. Some of these converts, especially those belonging to the specific social class of courtiers, were convinced that the remaining components of their previous Jewish cultural ethnicity and familial origins were constructive elements for the development of their identity. Ideas of supersessionism, and not ideas of rupture or concealment, as well as a claim for the unity of the mystical body, characterize several contemporary discourses.85 Our narrative started in the second third of the fifteenth century with a figure whose Jewish origins remain in the shadows and who was portrayed as the protector of his former brethren: Martín de Lucena, a physician and translator at the heart of Castilian vernacular Humanism. Discrimination at different levels, experienced in diverse manners by the various social groups of conversos, can be observed from the outset. It becomes more apparent when their offspring and other conversos are banned from holding public office. The 1449 revolution only formalized and accelerated a process of estrangement based on an immutable racial characterization of conversos. The two other protagonists of our narrative were Juan de Lucena (not to be confused with the homonymous contemporary converso author of the dialogue De vita felici) and his daughter Teresa. They were introduced against the backdrop of some elements of Jewish ethnicity, biblical culture, and inquisitorial persecution. Cultural and social singularities emerge from the sources that should be read alongside the relevant observations made by Fernando de Pulgar regarding the conversos’ loosely religious leanings. The development of a religious culture unique to conversos cannot be disconnected from the various religious currents in the late medieval Iberian Christian world, especially the spreading practice of reading scripture


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in the vernacular that emerged in connection with new forms of religious devotion, or from the role played by conversos in the dissemination of Jewish texts. Martín and Juan de Lucena exemplify the cultural and social predicament of first-generation conversos unable to unify their conflicting Jewish and Christian selves in a transitional period that came to an end after 1480 with the inquisitional rearrangement of clear-cut religious identities and boundaries expressed through a racialist language. One of the main components of the converso attachment to past (and present) Jewish ethnicity is allegiance to family and casta, which makes central the genealogical mentality.86 It is what the poet Antón de Montoro calls “la jura de mis abuelos” (my ancestors’ honor), the pride allegedly alluded to by Alonso de Cartagena: “Do not think you are persecuting me by calling my ancestors Jewish. They were, indeed, and I like it. And if antiquity amounts to nobility, who goes farther? If virtue, who comes closer? And if, in the manner of Spain, wealth is gentility, who is richer in his time?”87 We begin to understand the mind-set of the third generation by reading the confessions written by Juan de Lucena’s daughters, who were a bit older than the converso women portrayed in Francisco Delicado’s La Lozana Andaluza.88 Analysis of the texts reveals a willingness to grant confessors what they are asking for: an expression of awareness by the sinner, acknowledgment of the sin, a profession of remorse for it, and an emphasis on salvation.89 Jewish ethnicity (rather than “Judaizing”) has, thus, different meanings and does not necessarily equate with crypto-Judaism but rather hides behind a potpourri of beliefs, rituals, and intentionality. Subjectivity in the observation of external behavior provokes contradictory results. The case of Leonor de la Peña is significant: an Old Christian (linda) woman whose marriage to Juan de Lucena’s brother-in-law was seen as an attack on the religious and social integrity of the converso group; in Juan de Lucena’s alleged words (transmitted by Pedro Mombel), his brother-in-law Fernando “left his God and his Law for a whore” (11v). In contrast, according to Juan de Lucena Jr., Leonor’s nephew, she participated in the “Judaizing behavior” consisting of lighting candles on the evening of the Sabbath, cooking on Friday for the Sabbath, and cleaning meat (7r). Ordinary people, common knowledge, and privacy are some of the explosive components in the monitoring of the private sphere, and inquisitorial sources merit renewed careful historical analysis. One can never go home again, and attachment to some elements of Jewish ethnicity does not necessarily equate to a full return to Judaism, at

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least not in a religious sense. Hernando de Talavera understood the loose and evolving nature of Ebionism as “a neo-Christianity attached to Jewish legalism and rituals and critical of a number of practices sanctioned by the ecclesiastical tradition.”90 The dawn of a new era, which brought with it the redefinition of religious categories, is marked by Teresa de Lucena’s condemnation in 1531, despite the efforts made by her lawyer, Bernardino Zapata, the cathedral headmaster who in 1547 unsuccessfully opposed the institutionalization of the “purity of blood.” Teresa spent her last days living with her nephew in the town of Orgaz. She died in 1545 at the age of seventy-seven. Four years later, an interrogation of her maidservants shed light on her private life in her final years: the purity of her body and soul was her main concern, and during the sabbatical rest she refrained from any work, even her favorite pastime, sewing. She loved reciting the Penitential Psalms: one witness heard her saying, “de mi herror me linpia” ([Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and] cleanse me from my sin), David’s cry for purity (Ps. 51), certainly a way to overcome the tribulations of her desmazalada life.91

Chapter 6

Converso Paulinism and Residual Jewishness Conversion from Judaism to Christianity as a Theologico-political Problem c l au d e  b. S T uc z y n S k i

Every age must strive anew to wrest tradition away from the conformism that is working to overpower it. The Messiah comes not only as the redeemer; he comes as the victor over the Antichrist. —Walter Benjamin, On the Concept of History

From Paul’s Conversion to Converso Paulinism According to the Acts of the Apostles (9:3–6), Saul of Tarsus, the Pharisee Jew and persecutor of Christ believers, was traveling to Damascus when Jesus Christ suddenly spoke to him. Struck by the revelation, he took on the name Paul and became Christ’s faithful servant and his most fervent propagator as the “Apostle to the Gentiles.” More than the fragmentary references to this episode in Paul’s own epistles (1 Cor. 15:3–8; Gal. 1:11–16), it was this account in Acts that structured Paul’s religious transformation, influencing the Christian Western conception of conversion as a sudden, deep, and radical phenomenon. This Pauline conception of conversion has persisted

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alongside a different, more gradual and inward conception of conversion best known from Augustine’s Confessions.1 It is no wonder, then, that Paul’s conversion became a major paradigm for medieval and early modern baptized Jews.2 Like Saul before he became Paul, they neither believed in Christ nor met him personally. They grew up as “stubborn,” “blind,” and even “hostile” to Christianity until conversion changed their lives forever. This dramatic transition propelled Christian theological supersessionism to the point where baptized Jews were expected to repeat their conversion experience by recounting their most edifying stories.3 We find a striking example of this in the autobiographical account written by Rabbi Salomon Halevi—who, upon his conversion, became Pablo de Santa María and eventually bishop of Burgos (1351–1435) to his son, Alonso de Cartagena, himself also bishop of Burgos (1384–1456)—in the introduction to his Additiones to Nicholas of Lyra’s biblical commentaries, the Postillae.4 In this and other writings, however, Pablo relentlessly attempts to understand the deep mysteries of the Old Testament rather than to record his personal revelation. In other words, as was the case with many converted Jews, Pablo’s identification with Paul, whose name he took upon conversion, was textual. In his polemical-catechetical book The Scrutiny of the Scriptures (Scrutinium Scripturarum), written to encourage Jewish conversion to Christianity, Pablo held that Paul was not merely the Apostle to the Gentiles. In Damascus, Pablo recalled in the Scrutinium, he had acted as a committed polemist with Jews.5 The fictional Jewish and Christian characters introduced in the first antirabbinic part of that book, “Saul” and “Paul,” were representative of Pablo’s textual self-identification with the apostle. And in the introduction to the Additiones, he claimed that as a “blinded” and “stubborn” Jew, his path to the “truth” required divine grace, as was granted to Paul on the road to Damascus. But this occurred only after numerous biblical readings and relentless exegetical efforts to understand the scriptures. The book’s title was chosen first and foremost to denote Pablo’s own polemical and pedagogical methods. Positive uses of rabbinic sources to explain the Bible, Christian theology, and religion, as well as relatively moderate rhetoric against rabbis, Jews, and Judaism, were central to his argumentation. Consequently, scholars now consider him to be a pioneering Hebraist.6 But Pablo de Santa María was much more: among others, he was a forerunner of what I call converso Paulinism.


Claude B. Stuczynski

By Paulinism I mean neither Paul’s authentic views nor the attempts to faithfully reconstruct his life and teachings. Paul’s epistles do not easily form a coherent corpus or system, because they were written for different reasons and audiences and because they were created with a deep sense of messianic urgency. Similar to other biblical texts, Paul’s epistles were and continue to be understood from varying, even contradictory, perspectives. And yet they are Pauline in the sense that they view the Apostle to the Gentiles as the most meaningful and authoritative exposition of Christian theology, ecclesiology, history, society, and politics. Converso Paulinism, as I define it, is a particular way in which many late medieval and early modern Iberian conversos and Old Christian proconverso thinkers understood the figure of Paul and the writings attributed to him. Identifying with Saul/Paul’s conversion process and often imbued with an intense sense of Pauline spiritual “calling” (klèsis), many conversos and Old Christian pro-conversos underscored the positive role played by Judaism and Jews in Paul’s epistles and minimized the Jews’ collective culpability for the Crucifixion. They also emphasized the fact that the Apostle to the Gentiles never denied his Jewish Pharisaic origins (e.g., Rom. 11:1; Phil. 3:5), claiming that like gentiles, Jewish Christ believers have a place within Christ (e.g., Rom. 10:12; Gal. 3:28; Col. 3:11). As we shall see, converso Pauline articulations often emerged in response to anticonverso arguments, including invocations of Paul’s denunciation of “Jewishness” (Gal. 2:14).7 Converso Paulinists also endorsed specifically Judeo-Christian tenets, even if they rarely developed into distinct and lasting autonomous theologies or religions.8 In this essay I will argue that converso Paulinism revealed a major theologico-political issue: the question of positive Jewish “residues” in Paul’s epistles. In other words, converso Paulinism affords us the opportunity to examine through conversos’ lenses how they articulated the limits and complexities of one of the most appealing and accepted assumptions regarding the Apostle to the Gentiles, that he was the founder of inclusive universalism. Pablo de Santa María pioneered converso Paulinism by emphasizing positive Judeo-Christian tenets. Let me first show how. In a letter written in Hebrew to Joshua Halorki (the future convert and antirabbinic polemist Jerónimo de Santa Fé) a few years after his conversion, Pablo claimed that baptism had enabled him to fully penetrate “the tradition of the covenant.” He signed that letter as a former member of the priestly tribe of Levi seeking “a second Levite priesthood.”9 Nearing his death, he expounded on this idea in the introduction to his Additiones, reminding his son, the bishop

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Alonso de Cartagena, that as bishops, descendants of “the blood of Levi,” they were fulfilling an Old Testament prophecy concerning the role of the Levites: to serve God forever. He explained this by elaborating on the verse, “But unto the tribe of Levi Moses gave not any inheritance: the Lord God of Israel was their inheritance, as He said unto them” (Josh. 13:33), in the following way: “For God is our possession and Christ is our inheritance.”10 Pablo’s interpretation of Paul’s typological hermeneutics emerges here as a combination of literal continuities and figurative ruptures. Probably, Pablo based the notion of his familial priestly Judeo-Christian lineage on the double literal exegetical sense he adopted and adapted from Nicholas of Lyra, permeated with strong Christian Aristotelian-Thomistic views.11 According to Nicholas’ double literal sense, Old Testament literal messages should not be dismissed as mere allegorical signifiers, since they contain inherent spiritual meanings. Quoting Paul, “for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6), Pablo followed Augustine, among other authorities, acknowledging the superiority, albeit not the exclusivity, of the spiritual over the literal exegetical sense.12 However, he added, interpretation must contain a close scrutiny of Old Testament language, content, historical context, and rhetoric, “for,” as Paul said, “whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning” (Rom. 15:4).13 Nicholas of Lyra’s exegetical principle of parallel, double literal senses turned out, in Pablo’s writings, to be more one-dimensional and organic. This certainly stemmed from Pablo’s reliance on Thomistic traditions. But it was also a consequence of his efforts to reconstruct what he understood to be Paul’s original Judeo-Christian approach. It is no wonder that in his “Replicae” to Nicholas’ Postillae and Pablo’s Additiones, the Franciscan Mathias Döring (1390/1400–69) criticized Pablo for being too literal and thus too “Jewish.”14 Pablo’s hermeneutics was deeply Christological, but it also reinforced the inherent relevance of the Hebrew language and rabbinic sources in the interpretation of scriptures—that is, the enduring value of post-Christian Jewish texts (such as Rashi’s commentaries) to Christian learning.15 It also advanced more historical and positively “corporeal” perceptions of Jews and Judaism, facilitating the adoption of more organic and evolutionary views of conversion to Christianity. In other words, Pablo’s hermeneutics implicitly revealed that in every actual practicing Jew lay a sort of proto-Christian. In the second part of The Scrutiny of the Scriptures, Pablo replaced the polemical antirabbinic disputes with a question-and-answer catechetical dialogue between a recently converted Jewish “disciple” and his Christian “master.” By doing


Claude B. Stuczynski

so, Pablo was not only transforming the Adversus Judaeos genre. He was also implying that the process of conversion continues after baptism. At least for a short period of time, the convert joins an in-between category of newly baptized catechumens or “disciples” needing further initiation into the Christian faith. In chapter 2, the “master” discourages the “disciple” from inquiring about difficult mysteries of the faith, such as the incarnation of the Word. Being like newborns, he said, recently baptized Christians need first to be fed with soft alimentation, avoiding solid food (cf. 1 Cor. 3:1), until God gives them more grace (ampliorem gratiam). At the same time, in the final chapters of the book, Pablo made a major quantitative and qualitative shift, moving from his initial emphasis on Paul’s individual and paradigmatic conversion to an interpretation of Paul’s views of “converted” Jews. To be a Christian “disciple” of Jewish origin implied joining a specific Christian subgroup: Jewish Christ believers. Historically speaking, Pablo was probably influenced by the contemporary Iberian mass conversion process—the converso phenomenon—which became apparent with the Spanish anti-Jewish riots of 1391, just after Pablo and most of his family chose baptism. When he wrote The Scrutiny of the Scriptures close to his death, converso integration into Old Christian society was encountering stiffening resistance in the midst of that “genealogical turn.”16 In the second part of The Scrutiny of the Scriptures, Pablo may well have been seeking to promote empathy and sensitivity toward these masses of recently converted Spanish Jews. Thus, he claimed that “Pharisaic blindness” (caecitas Pharisaica and not caecitas Judaica!) impeded Jews from properly understanding the biblical prophecies concerning the Messiah. But this was, he said, a “mental” and not a “corporeal” handicap (“ubi non caecitate corporali agitur, sed mentalis”), and therefore it did not affect Jewish converts to Christianity and their offspring (“nullum praeiudicium generator fidelibus de genere descendentibus Israelitico”).17 Acknowledging the weight of lineage and birth on human beings, Pablo was claiming that conversos should not be segregated or excluded on the grounds of such considerations. Moreover, he explained that provisional Jewish “mental blindness” was actually positive in two respects. First, it enabled the reconciliation of the gentiles with God, overcoming an immersion in paganism (Rom. 11:15). Second, it transformed past shame into a source of pride in ulterior Jewish conversion to Christianity (“quod ad opprobrium excaecationis in honorem convertetur”), as with the blind man who recovers his sight.18 According to Pablo’s interpretation of Romans 11, Paul even conferred on Jewish converts a leading and privileged role in the history of humankind’s

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salvation. “In the most important times of the history of the church, at its beginning and at its end, when Jesus was and will be,” Pablo argued, “those who descended from the Israelites were and will be the most distinguished among them [de stirpe Israelitica descendentes principaliores fuerunt et erunt], and at the end of times all Israelites will adhere to Christ firmly.”19 Here, Pablo was following the interpretations of Thomas of Aquinas20 while emphasizing the benefits of being a converted “Israelite” and adding a sense of enthusiasm regarding the final Jewish conversion. These beliefs represent the crystallization of converso Paulinism in Pablo’s thought. At the heart of his converso Pauline credo lies the paradoxical tension between efforts to erase ostensibly negative Jewish traits beyond conversion and efforts to celebrate converts of Jewish origin as the best and most honored Christians.

Converso Pauline Ambivalences, Circa 1449 After the death of Pablo de Santa María, Spanish conversos and their supporters widened the scope of converso Pauline argumentation by responding to an outburst of exclusionist policies against conversos that were instituted by the leaders of a rebellion in Toledo in 1449 against the king’s favorite, Álvaro de Luna, and his purported allies: the conversos. Leaders and advocates of Toledo’s rebels excluded conversos from the city’s public secular and ecclesiastical high offices, invoking past legislation against the “perverse lineage of the Jews,”21 such as by adopting an ethnic collective interpretation of restrictive measures taken in Visigothic Spain during the Fourth Council of Toledo of 633 against “those who come from Jews” (ex Iudaeis sunt).22 Toledo’s fifteenth-century rebels also invoked another of Paul’s concepts, accusing conversos of “Judaizing.” Commonly used by them to denounce conversos’ crypto-Jewish practices and beliefs, Toledo’s rebels broadened the accusation to include sins such as blasphemy against Christianity and socioeconomic political usurpation.23 Paul had originally employed the Greek ioudaizein (iudaizare in Latin, “to Judaize”) to criticize Peter for encouraging ritual Jewish behavior among gentile Christ believers in Antioch (Gal. 2:14).24 Medieval and early modern inquisitors employed that verb in a similar way, to denote Jewish belief and behavior adopted by Christians, including baptized Jews and their offspring.25 In Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco’s authoritative Castilian dictionary, Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española (1610), the verb judaizar similarly meant “hacer ceremonias


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de judíos.”26 As David Nirenberg has reminded us, however, from the times of the church fathers onward, “to Judaize” was also used to describe the manifestation of any sign of purported “Jewishness,” such as a tendency for materiality, carnality, literality, or legalism. That is why Christian moneylenders could be called “Judaizers.”27 Adopting this broader sense, Nirenberg relates Toledo’s 1449 anticonverso measures to the rebels’ claim to have direct guidance from the “Holy Spirit.” They believed they were fighting manifestations of “carnal” Jewishness for the sake of the spirit, following Paul’s expression, “For the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Cor. 3:6).28 Contemporary converso and proconverso churchmen and courtiers responded to these attacks by elaborating on two distinct Pauline claims: evoking Christian universalism while endorsing positive Jewishness. The converso courtier Fernán Díaz de Toledo, “el Relator” (ca. 1410–66), argued that conversos were “of the same lineage of Jesus Christ, according to the flesh,” just as the Apostle to the Gentiles had noted in his Epistle to the Romans, (7:5, 9:5).29 Paraphrasing Romans (1:16, 2:10), el Relator inferred that Paul’s universalism privileged advantaged Jews over gentiles. “Not only is it forbidden to despise them,” he wrote to the proconverso Old Christian bishop of Cuenca, Lope de Barrientos, “but they must be honored according to the words of the Apostle our relative [nuestro pariente]: first the Jew and afterwards the Greek [Rom. 1:16].”30 Converted Jews thus enjoyed a theologically, historically, and ethnically privileged position because of Christ’s and Paul’s common ancestry, religion, and culture. Rather than explicate the actual implications of these advantages, el Relator proceeded to offer genealogical accounts detailing the total or partial Jewish ancestry of much of the Iberian contemporary nobility, High Church, and urban elite. In contrast, he showed that Toledo’s leading Old Christian anticonverso advocate, Marcos García de Mazaramboz, “Marquillos,” was of mere rural “peasant lineage” (villano linaje).31 In fact, many advocates of converso Christian integration, such as Ignatius of Loyola (1491–1556), evoked the Jewish origins of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary, the apostles, or members of the primitive church to denounce the lineage-based segregation of Iberian conversos.32 This proconverso leitmotif had already attained its paroxysm at the time of el Relator, when converso theologian Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388–1468) claimed that every Christian partaking in the Eucharist consumes Christ’s Jewish body: The second consideration [in rejecting converso segregation] is derived from the worshiping of the most holy Sacrament of the

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Eucharist, for without giving it outrage it cannot be said that Jewish offspring [genus Iudaeorum] was damned in the Faith. This is incredible, because out of theirs [de genere illo] came forth the flesh of Christ and his most precious blood, which in this Sacrament is offered to us for the vital sustenance of our souls, as in John 6 [54–56]: “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. ”33 In his Treatise Against Midianites and Ishmaelites, Torquemada argued that according to Paul, Jews were most holy, virtuous, and noble. As God’s chosen people, they were closer to the Christian faith than gentiles were, requiring the latter “to be grafted” on the former (Rom. 11).34 Torquemada’s characterization of the Jewish people as capable of being good and attaining salvation after conversion (“habiles . . . ad bonum, et, per consequens, reparabilem ad salvationem”)35 is paraphrased by Benzion Netanyahu to imply that Torquemada identified in the Jews a “natural” propensity toward goodness that was lacking among gentiles. By refusing to call it racism, Netanyahu anachronistically omits the fact that in late medieval and early modern times, protoracial or racial discourses were elaborated on “natural,” “spiritual,” and “moral” considerations, often based on biblical interpretations.36 It would be more accurate to suppose that Toledo’s rebels excluded all Christians of Jewish descent from the high ranks of Christian polities, as well as excluding their testimonies from the courts, while Torquemada, like other converso Paulinians, believed that after baptism, Jews and gentiles are equally accepted by Christ. “ There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” Torquemada said, citing Paul (Gal. 3:28).37 Moreover, he quoted similar verses from the Apostle to the Gentiles to reproach those who “against this apostolic doctrine act . . . [and] who introduce among believers differences according to the flesh [ex parte carnis distinctionem],” instead of honoring them out of personal virtue or divine grace.38 Theologians and scholars past and present have read Galatians 3:28 as an encapsulation of Paul’s uncompromising universalism and the most effective antidote against Christian racism. It is no wonder that from the fifteenth through the eighteenth century, proconverso writers quoted this verse ad nauseam.39 This reading, however, remains one dimensional, even for proconverso figures like Torquemada. For what to make of


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the belief in Jewish honor, familiarity with scripture, “natural tendency to goodness,” and other prerogatives of lineage, if after baptism there is neither Jew nor gentile? Where is the positive Jewish residue deposited? While I share Netanyahu’s view of Torquemada as an authoritative Christian theologian, I also recognize inner tensions in Torquemada’s discourse stemming from his converso Pauline tenets. Moreover, I argue that the belief in the positive residues of Judaism that was so central to the writings of conversos and proconversos echoed Paul’s own complex beliefs regarding Jewish ethnicity.40 As I will show in what follows, this is further demonstrated by Alonso de Cartagena’s inclusion of the conversos within the “mystical body.” 41 A major Western theologico-political metaphor, the “mystical body” was based on Paul’s depiction (1 Cor. 12:12–27) of the community of Christ believers as parts or organs of the body of Christ (corpus Christi): “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free.” According to Henri de Lubac, this metaphor came to be related to the Eucharist, which the fathers of the church called the “mystical body” (corpus mysticum). Following the twelfth-century theological debates and elaborations on Christ’s real presence during Mass, corpus Christi became a synonym for the Eucharist, while corpus mysticum came to denote the community of believers and the church led by the pope.42 In their struggle against the papacy, kings also drew theological legitimacy from the designation of their polities as mystical bodies. And from the thirteenth century onward, lawyers expanded the Pauline metaphor to include juridical bodies such as kingdoms, cities, and professional corporations. By the early modern period, the concept had become sufficiently secularized so as to be associated with the emerging state.43 No wonder, then, that proconverso writers and thinkers employed the concept of the mystical body extensively until the evanescence of late eighteenth-century official anticonverso measures.44 It depicted Christians of Jewish descent coexisting harmoniously with Christian gentiles in the same polities: a community of Christ believers, the institutionalized church, the kingdom, the city, the corporation, or the state. The mystical body was a useful polysemy constructed on superimposed semantic theological and political strata. So it was relatively easy to empower late medieval and early modern Iberian conversos as Christ’s own body, similar to Paul’s Jewish Christ believers. However, the secularization of the metaphor often necessitated a reconstruction of its older sacred and ecclesiological meanings. As head of

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the postconciliar church, it was natural that Pope Nicholas V (1397–1455) would quote the Pauline metaphor to outlaw Toledo’s 1449 anticonverso measures on the basis of schism.45 The same was true for Cardinal Juan de Torquemada, who wrote his proconverso treatise in papal Rome.46 But in the Spanish political arena, the mystical body had strong juridical and profane connotations,47 requiring an implicit use of the metaphor to avoid confusion, as demonstrated by the jurist Alonso Díaz de Montalvo.48 This was particularly true in Alonso de Cartagena’s most power ful proconverso treatise, Defense of Christian Unity (Defensorium Unitatis Christianae; 1449). Cartagena, the bishop, theologian, courtier, diplomat, and Humanist whom we have already met as the son of Pablo de Santa María, employed the metaphor explicitly only once: to negate the claim that the rebel city of Toledo was empowered to legislate against conversos as a legitimate mystical body.49 His Defense of Christian Unity was replete with implicit invocations of the concept, understood as sacred and ecclesiological. In the beginning of the treatise, he evoked the biblical images of the dove (Song of Songs 6:9) and Jesus Christ’s tunic, woven seamlessly from top to bottom (John 19:23), to argue that the plenitude of the church is achieved through the unity of its members.50 Following Augustine, he argued that God’s love for humankind’s unity was quintessential, as manifested from the creation of Adam through humankind’s final redemption.51 History was the epopee of the gradual recovery of that unity, which was temporarily lost after the Fall. The idea of common humanity was expanded progressively when God chose a people, the Israelites; gave them a law; and was revealed as a Jewish messiah.52 This argument implied the existence of a hierarchical and spiritual division between Jews and gentiles, a temporary ethnic hierarchy that would have repercussions even after Christ’s coming. Each group joined Christianity from a different point of departure: the former from a privileged proximity and knowledge, and the latter out of strangeness and ignorance. To counterbalance Jewish prerogatives, Cartagena argued that between the Passion and the end of times, the gentiles and not the Jews were the most numerous and enthusiastic propagators of the faith. And still, like his father, Pablo de Santa María, and other converso and proconverso writers of his age, Cartagena conferred on the Jewish people a qualitative leading role in advancing salvation—even, perhaps especially, beyond their conversion.53 That said, the Defense of Christian Unity was more ecclesiological and sociopolitical than historical and soteriological, and it thus focused on the immediate consequences of conversion, as encapsulated by the idea of the mystical body.


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Thus, Cartagena concentrated on the virtues of baptism (Eph. 4:4–6) rather than on the sacrament of the Eucharist (1 Cor. 10:17), as Torquemada did, since it unites Jews and gentiles immediately in the “great sea of the Christian republic,” creating a “new people” (populus novus) (Gal. 6:15; 2 Cor. 5:17).54 Toledo’s rebels, who contested both the sacred and the profane aspects of the mystical body promoted by the Christian church and the Castilian monarchy, were ecclesiastically schismatic, theologically heretical, and politically seditious. Rejecting Paul’s corporeal motto, “One Church, one people, one body with Christ at its head” (cf. Col. 1:18; Eph. 1:21–22, 5:23), they opposed God, the church, and the king.55 It is no wonder that Cartagena connected the 1449 Toledo rebels and the recent Bohemian movement of Jan Huss,56 who questioned the established theological, ecclesiastical, political, and social orders. In reaction to the politics of converso exclusion in Toledo, Cartagena coined the verb paganizare (to paganize) as a counterpoint to Paul’s iudaizare, to show that converso exclusion was a reversion to gentile paganism. It implicitly connected anticonverso attitudes to the loathing of Jewish Christ believers in first-century Rome denounced by Paul in his Epistle to the Romans.57 Cartagena was also sending an implicit warning against heretical tendencies in both groups: a penchant for “Judaizing” among “a few bad” conversos, and an inclination to “paganize” among “some envious” Old Christians. Apparently, his intention was strictly cultural regarding the former (i.e., Jews newly baptized as Christians were at times uncertain in their new faith) and analogical concerning the latter (i.e., Toledo’s rebels behaved like gentile Christians of Paul’s Rome). For he was aware of the trap imbedded in unreflective use of 1 Corinthians 12:12–27, which does not exactly state that baptism dilutes Jews and gentiles into Christ’s body. To avoid such a counterproductive outcome, Cartagena distinguished between two categories or levels: social-political and theologico-ethnic. On the one hand, he argued that conversos and Old Christians were heterogeneous groups, each comprising nobles born to govern and plebeians fit to obey. Cartagena promoted intermarriage between conversos and Old Christians of the same social strata.58 Thus, Judeo-gentile Christian aristocrats and Judeo-gentile Christian plebeians were among those members mentioned by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:12–27. Cartagena viewed the mystical body as a “new people” ethnically undifferentiated but socially hierarchized. He was following Thomas Aquinas’ and Nicholas of Lyra’s exegetical interpretations of Paul’s invocations of Jews and gentiles together with slaves and freemen in 1 Corinthians 12:12–27 as a deliberate means to distinguish between two ways of

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joining the Christian community. The first, illustrated by the pair Jewsgentiles, included those who joined the mystical body from different religious or ethnic backgrounds. This category is immediately dissolved into Christ’s body. But those in the second pair, slaves-freemen, were identified by their civic roles in a social context, and there Cartagena believed that previous differences and hierarchies should be maintained for the benefit of Christian society (e.g., the ablest must govern the weakest).59 These interpretations were in harmony with Paul’s asseverations regarding God’s indifference in the face of circumcision and the prepuce (Gal. 5:6), coupled with the duty to maintain gender hierarchies between wives and husbands and the obeisance of slaves toward their masters (Col. 3:18, 22). But “purity of blood” defenders, particularly Archbishop Juan Martínez Silíceo (1486–1557) and his late sixteenth-century supporters, contested such exegetical counterdistinctions. They held that the indistinct spiritual salvation promised by Galatians 3:28 did not extend to social and political equality among Christians, as written in 1 Corinthians 12:12–27. Like slaves and freemen or females and males, Jewish and gentile Christ believers integrate with Christ’s body as different members because of their distinct and hierarchized inherent traits. “ Those of the circumcision” purportedly denounced by Paul in Titus 1:10 as being predisposed toward pride, treachery, and misbelief were unfit to lead members of either the religious or secular spheres of the Iberian mystical body.60 Of course, Cartagena could not accept essentialist interpretations, including an opposite one. Consistently fighting for converso integration, he even minimalized the temporary prerogatives conceded to the Jews before Christ’s coming, by highlighting what moderns have come to call miscegenation and hybridism.61 In his proconverso book, Cartagena noted that some Old Testament gentiles (such as Job, in mainstream Christian interpretation) were chosen by God together with Israelites. Moreover, departing from Jerome’s moral commentary on Matthew 1:3, which reminds us that Jesus’ feminine genealogy included repented sinners (i.e., Ruth and Bathsheba),62 Cartagena opted to elaborate on Christ’s gentile women ancestors, Rahab and Ruth, as a typological embodiment of God’s commitment to Judeo-gentile blood fraternity (“que ex gentilitate erant mixturam sanguinis prebuerunt”).63 Cartagena’s “mestizo mind” was also apparent in the reformulation of his own family ethos (by which he successfully integrated it with that of the Spanish Old Christian elite). He replaced his father’s typological elaborations on Levite bishop ancestry with a discussion of the ancestry of Christ’s mother, the Virgin Mary, descendant of Levite and


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Judean men and gentile women. The fleur-de-lis bearing the inscription, “White rose fleur-de-lis / one and singular / not of the King of Paris / but of the Virgin, the only one” (Rosa blanca, flor de lis, / una sola singular / no son de el Rey de París / mas de la Virgen singular), in Cartagena’s family crest was more than a mere elaboration by Cartagena on his father’s adopted baptismal name, Santa María. Rather, it was an expression of Cartagena’s perception of the mystical body.64 However, when he advanced these forms of Judeo-gentile hybridism, Cartagena was acknowledging the existence of inherited group characteristics: Israelite or Davidic benign mildness among the people of the Law (“mansuetudini populi legalis,” “davitica mansuetudo,” “benignitati israelitice mansuetudinis”) and Cesarean ferocity or gentile bellicosity (“bellicositatem gentilium,” “ferocitatem caesareae,” “strenuitas armate gentilitatis”).65 According to Cartagena, the two gentile women among Christ’s forebears not only served a pedagogical-typological aim but infused a necessary dose of “gentile ferocity” to balance the traits of the Messiah without altering the beneficial male dominance of “Jewish mildness.” 66 Note that “Jewish mildness” was biblical and pre-Christian, and it should not be confused with the proverbial “Jewish cowardice,” which many contemporaries—including Cartagena—believed stemmed from a stubborn refusal to accept Jesus as the God-Messiah.67 Cartagena argued that such negative attributes disappear after baptism and converted Jews recover biblical noble qualities and traits (including military courage) “obscured” after the Crucifixion.68 Concomitantly, “gentile ferocity” did not disappear after Jesus’ coming; it became Christianized. Tellingly, Cartagena was a prominent late medieval promoter of the Spanish revival of idealized Visigothic views, which included a relentless defense of Castilian prerogatives over other European monarchies (e.g., Portugal and England) through the celebration of Castilian Visigoth military courage and renowned strength, as if Castilians were the best Christian gentiles.69 Cartagena intended his defense of Judeo-gentile miscegenation to ensure that the Spanish mystical body would include a stratum of mixed converso–Old Christian “new people.” However, it is difficult to reconcile the collective tendencies noted earlier with his acknowledgment of inner Jewish and gentile heterogeneities and mutual affinities. It is even harder to ascertain whether “Jewish mildness” and “gentile ferocity” were attributes of religious and ethnic ancestry that disappear after baptism, or whether they survive within the mystical body as social or civic traits or, at least, as a de facto provisory phenomenon until complete miscegenation is achieved. The problem of positive Jewishness then emerged once again, transposed from

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the biblical-hermeneutical diachronic axis of Pablo de Santa María and other fifteenth-century converso Paulinists to the synchronic complexities stemming from the Pauline mystical body, as elaborated by his son, Alonso de Cartagena, and many other later proconversos authors and thinkers.

The Early Modern Afterlife of Converso Paulinism The impact of the Defense of Christian Unity transcended the author’s life. According to Albert Sicroff, Cartagena’s book structured much of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century proconverso polemical arsenal, when the criteria of “purity of blood” became firmly established in the Iberian Peninsula.70 That said, early modern supporters of conversos rarely invoked Cartagena’s integrative project. When they referred to it, it was from very different standpoints and historical circumstances and served very different needs. Thus, in his dialogical treatise De Vita Beata, the converso Humanist and diplomat Juan de Lucena (ca. 1430–ca. 1506) named one of its characters after the deceased bishop of Cartagena. But instead of making Cartagena’s proud reaction against the opprobrium expressed toward Jewish lineage a means to plead for converso integration, Lucena turned Cartagena into an ironic, melancholic, and rather pessimistic figure: Don’t think you are upsetting me, by calling my parents Hebrews. Certainly they are and I want them to be. For if antiquity is nobility, who goes so far? If virtue, who is so close? Or, if according to the Spanish custom, richness is nobility [fidalguía], who was so rich at those times? God was their friend, their Lord, their legislator, their consul, their captain, their father, their son and finally, their savior. O immortal God! All ignominies became now transmuted into glory, and glory turned to be an insult. . . . So also the idolatrous Gentile infidels, lacking God, law and religion, whose only sins were those that nature, that common mother, forbade them to do, almost like beasts, in great offense of all nobility and deprived of dignity they were called Gentiles. But now if anybody descend from them, coming from the Eneidans, the Trojans, the Greeks, the Agamemnites, the Goths, the Germans, or from the twelve peers of France, no matter how vicious he will be, he will be a gentleman, almost an equal to Apollo;71 but if he comes from


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the Davidians, the Levites, the Maccabees or from the twelve tribes of Israel, no matter how virtuous and far he is from vice [people will say]: Look, look, he’s a marrano, lower than dust. Those who say that are unfaithful Christians. Instead, they silence the truth of the Gospel, claiming that the True light does not enlighten those who come to it.72 Facing deteriorating anticonverso attitudes in late fifteen-century Spain, Lucena’s Cartagena could only hope to reach plenitude and tranquility in the afterlife.73 This particular example suggests that in the face of proconverso argumentative transformations, the issue of positive Jewish residues also underwent significant changes, albeit without altering their basic Pauline configuration. I will conclude with a discussion of some of these transformations by examining three main developments in later proconverso apologetics for spiritualization, secularization, and messianic-eschatological expectation. The increasing spiritualization of converso Paulinism was intimately connected with the influence of Erasmus in sixteenth-century Iberia. In his classic study, Marcel Bataillon emphasizes the large number of conversos attracted to Erasmian notions of inward Pauline religiosity (some of them heterodox) that disregarded ethnic particularism.74 It was through Erasmus’ “pietistic” essay “Enchiridion militis christiani” (1504; Spanish translation, 1527), that the “striking Pauline metaphor” (la saisissante métaphore paulinienne) of the mystical body was employed by Spanish Erasmians to plead for the integration of conversos.75 But instead of insisting on the body, as in Cartagena’s Defense of Christian Unity, they sought inspiration for peace, love, and fraternity from its head, Jesus Christ. They preferred Paul’s Colossians 2:18–23 and 3:1–15 over 1 Corinthians 12:12–27.76 The fight on behalf of converso integration became more vague and less politicized than in Cartagena’s days. Possibly, this was due to Erasmus’ “Enchiridion,” according to which man’s internalization of Christ’s spiritual messages, including fraternal inclusivity, was part of Paul’s ideal of the “inner man” (hombre interior), as opposed to the “exterior man” (hombre exterior) driven by the flesh, the body, and the “law of the members” (ley de los miembros).77 According to Erasmus, all of these were traits of inveterate Jewishness, disseminated throughout the Iberian Peninsula by the large numbers of “Jews”—that is, conversos— living there, as was the case with the development of ceremonial and formalistic Christianity.78 The exegetical principle of double literality, which enabled Pablo de Santa María and other fifteenth-century proconverso

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theologians and other thinkers to underscore Judeo-Christian positive continuities beyond supersession, gave place to more radical, sudden, and antinomian hermeneutics. The question is, Why did converso and proconverso elements embrace such “anti-Judaic” argumentation? Adding to Bataillon’s argument, I will suggest that converso and proconverso Spanish Erasmians did not literally accept all of Erasmus’ anti-Jewish and Hispanophobic bias. Emphasizing evangelical charity and faith,79 they nevertheless distinguished more clearly than their Dutch master between the “Jewish” carnality prevalent among Christians (including Old Christians) and the inward faith and fraternal love of those who follow Paul’s path (including conversos).80 Therefore, the specific converso condition and experience explain much of the popularity of Erasmus in the Iberian Peninsula but also the reason for the local adaptations and Pauline elaborations. A complementary explanation should be advanced: sixteenth-century Spanish Erasmianism was “grafted” onto previous spiritual tendencies.81 These were heralded by conversos after the 1449 Toledo debates, such as the Hieronymite general Fray Alonso de Oropesa (?–1468) and his likely relative, Queen Isabel’s confessor, the bishop of Seville, and the first archbishop of Granada, the Hieronymite Fray Hernando de Talavera (1428–1507). Indeed, the first initiatives to translate Erasmus’ “Enchiridion” into Castilian emerged from Fray Talavera’s circle of disciples and followers.82 In many ways, these fifteenth-century Spanish proto-Erasmians were, like Erasmus, products of the devotio moderna. They readily accepted the sermons of the Greek church father John Chrysostom, celebrating “spirit” and rejecting “Jewish” “flesh” and “letter.” Oropesa’s and Talavera’s affiliation with the Hieronymite Order likely contributed to their preference for spiritual and “simple” biblical readings over “double literal” exegesis. But beyond hermeneutics and theology, these converso friars of the second half of the fifteenth century faced an increasingly anticonverso climate, culminating in the emergence of the Spanish Inquisition (1478) and the gradual implementation of laws of purity of blood in various ecclesiastic institutions, colleges, and monastic orders, including their own. They also met with seemingly excessive by-products of positive Jewishness within and outside the Hieronymite Order.83 This confluence explains their paradoxical adoption of anti-Jewish Pauline rhetoric and emphasis in order to promote converso Christian integration. Thus Fray Oropesa actually accused Old Christian anticonversos of “Judaizing”84 because they preferred carnal considerations of lineage over the greatest Christian virtue: charity (1 Cor. 13:13). It is no wonder, then, that in Oropesa’s “Light for the Revelation of


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Gentiles,” Paul’s universality, inclusivity, and equality within the mystical body (chaps. 21–22, 28–37, 38–61) were followed by a systematic diminution of the positive soteriological role of Jews (chaps. 10–12) and a minimization of the importance of the Old Law, which was characterized as obscure, imperfect, and suited to a carnal people (chaps. 13–20, 23–26). Talavera’s “Catholic Impugnation” (Católica impugnación; 1478) responded in similar ways to an anonymous Sevillian Judeo-Christian “Ebionite” (chaps. 1, 20) who believed in Christ yet observed “the law of the Father” (la ley del Padre) (chaps. 12–15, 46–48) and attacked the Christian institutional adoption of pagan customs (chaps. 27, 53, 54, 57). Talavera responded by stating that not only had Jesus transgressed the Mosaic Law during his lifetime, but he abrogated it after his coming (chaps. 18, 26). He also rejected the anonymous converso “Ebionite” claim that Catholic sacraments and rituals originated from ancient Jewish norms and customs (chaps. 21–23, 25). He added that the Christian cult of images was a concession toward pagans, because Christianity also emerged from among gentiles (chap. 27). Rather than embracing Cartagena’s hybridism, Talavera was following Oropesa in questioning the Jewish origins of Jesus Christ, for lineage, he said, was a patrilineal prerogative (chap. 11). He also argued that “the Jewish people [el pueblo judiego] weren’t wiser or cleverer than other nations by nature, nor their descendants . . . the people converted from Judaism.”85 Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, and Roman civilizations (naciones) were far superior and more sophisticated (chap. 33). Proto-Erasmians like Oropesa and Talavera believed that converted Jews join a spiritually “upgraded” holy community or undifferentiated mystical body in which they were “neither Jews nor Greeks.” To attain that goal, they claimed, Old Christians and conversos alike must know how “Jewish” it is to resist the ethnic inclusivity of the gospel. At the same time, Talavera also claimed that conversos must be properly evangelized, avoiding collective social exclusion and the Inquisition’s biased “pedagogy of fear.” Like a pendulum, the spiritualization of proconverso discourse successfully avoided the problem of positive Pauline residual “Jewishness,” albeit by adopting an opposite Pauline anti-Jewish polarity. In the case of the “secret Erasmian” converso Fray Luis de León (ca. 1527–91), these oscillations occurred implicitly.86 In his On the Names of Christ (De los nombres de Cristo; 1587), this Hebraist Augustinian friar, who had recently endured a long Inquisition trial for his “excessive love” for the hebraica veritas, related the fraternal effects that the head had on the mystical body, using the allegory of the loving husband of the Song of Songs. Both

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images, he believed, would inspire the Christian reader to love the church, or “spouse,” in all its human diversity.87 Discussing one of Christ’s names, Way (Camino) (from John 14:6), allowed Luis to reemphasize his proconverso Pauline commitment: “Christ is the way for all mankind”; “All those who go with Him are of three kinds: the beginners in virtue . . . those progressing, and those whom we call perfect.”88 Jews were a particular category of “walkers”, known as “the redeemed” (Isaiah 35:9). They first followed and served God “with faith and hope of His coming.” But when he appeared, they abandoned him, choosing the path of infidelity and murder (como a infiel y homicida). Christ’s unique love for and mercifulness toward the Jewish people were constant. Though his love goes unrequited, he will nevertheless liberate them, reuniting them with “those who had been freed and who are now within the Church. . . . He will put them on the way which leads to the Church and He will lead them along it.”89 Do converted Jews form a distinct category of Christians? Luis would answer no. Employing the term limpieza, meaning “purity,” “cleanliness,” and “purity of blood” (limpieza de sangre),90 he commented ironically, “Doubtlessly in Christ’s Church and in His mystical body there are many impure people [ay muchas no limpias], but those who pass through Him are all pure [mas los que passan por él todos son limpios]; I mean that when we go in Him, we are always pure [que el andar en él siempre es limpieza].”91 Luis transcended both lineage prerogatives and the mystical body metaphor by perceiving Christianity as a continuous path of conversion.92 Paradoxically, by surpassing the limits of both Paul’s images and his concepts, he could endorse consistent Paulinism. Luis did not take this understanding to a concrete political level, which would require a restructuring of Christian society in accordance with a spiritual hierarchy of “beginners,” “progressing,” and “perfect,” because he considered them all “purified walkers.” A critic of the dominant Spanish Catholic religiosity, Luis was not a political reformer. Yet his challenging spiritual message was explicitly against converso ethnic segregation.93 Let us recall that On the Names of Christ was dedicated to a notorious enemy of the laws of purity of blood in Spain, the future general inquisitor, Pedro de Portocarrero, when converso exclusion began to be questioned by members of the Holy Office.94 Moreover, Luis’ book was employed by the Dominican fray Agustín Salucio (1523– 1601), who beseeched King Philip III and the Castilian Parliament (Cortes) to limit and eventually abrogate the laws of purity of blood. According to Vicente Parello, Salucio’s proconverso essay, “Discourse on the Justice and Good Government of Spain, Concerning the Laws of Purity of Blood and of


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Whether It Is Convenient or Not to Put Any Limitation on Them” (1599), paved the way for the secularization and repoliticization of the issue of converso integration in the seventeenth century.95 In fact, Salucio’s treatise was part of a broader phenomenon, which began with an isolated but monumental book written by the French Franciscan Henry Mauroy against Silíceo’s Toledan statutes (1553).96 It was followed by efforts to oppose converso exclusion within the Franciscan Order by Fray Gaspar de Uceda in 158697 and within the Society of Jesus by the end of the century.98 Subsequent works, primarily by Jesuits and addressed to kings and courtiers, promoted collective converso integration, particularly during the receptive ministry of King Philip IV’s favorite, the Count-Duke of Olivares (1622–45). They argued that converso exclusion injured not only the church but also Iberian society. Other circumstantial projects, called arbítrios, emphasized financial concerns. Imbued with mercantile overtones, they claimed that restoring Iberian grandeur required integrating the ablest and the richest of the New Christians into the Old Christian nonproductive elite. These arbítrios were particularly influenced by the fact that while Portuguese conversos controlled much of the vital Iberian colonial trade and the financial markets, they lived as a separate and despised “nation” (nação).99 These “men of commerce” (homens de negócios) were strongly oppressed by the Inquisition and subjected to additional juridical limitations, even more so than in Spain. Functioning as a de facto separate group or “estate,” they pleaded before kings and popes through their own leadership, supporters, and delegates.100 The arbítrios written by the notary (licenciado) Martín González de Cellorigo (1565?–1630?) were by-products of pro-Portuguese converso political lobbying. In many respects these tracts secularized and simplified Cartagena’s Defense of Christian Unity. They endorsed Paul’s universalism and Judeo-gentile hierarchized miscegenation but also connected the biblical election of the Israelites, Jesus, Mary, and the apostles’ Jewish ancestry with the “nation’s” success in earthly enterprises and affairs. Cellorigo stated, It is easy to see that all those who turned to God in their hearts, and grafted themselves back in through perseverance in the Faith, . . . increased and thrived in every thing, for God is benign and merciful towards the descendants of His chosen people, always cherishing them, so that even if they are lost to him as wayward sons, when they return to our Faith He raises them up from infamous baseness and gives them great advantages, honoring them and allowing them to be among good Christians, giving

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them great good fortune and reward in temporal things. They are so widely known for their good fortune that even Old Christians commonly acknowledge this, saying that they enjoy the manna of the desert, because every thing they do comes out well.101 These apologetic tracts and arbítrios reflected the converso desire for complete integration into the Iberian mystical body as faithful Christians and useful subjects. They served to counter an increasingly racialized anticonverso debate. But the inconsistencies imbedded in these explicit expressions of positive Jewishness became more evident.102 Contrary to Cartagena’s Defense of Christian Unity, the integration of the members of the nação into the early modern Iberian mystical body now required a profound structural transformation. It could only be attained in the late eighteenth century, with the rise of Iberian enlightened absolutist regimes.103 It was the Jesuit Portuguese father António Vieira (1608–97) who, more than others, connected converso integration to prophetic, messianic, and millenarian expectations.104 Vieira blended the aforementioned arbítrios and proconverso projects of reform with late medieval and early modern Iberian imperial ideologies, Portuguese messianic restorative monarchical hopes, Jesuit antagonism against the “Dominican Inquisition,” and the influence of evangelical overseas missions and encounters with contemporary European millenarian ideas (including Jewish and Puritan).105 Relying on different, complex, and variegated sources, Vieira strongly echoed Joachimite views in identifying the confluence of the conversion of the Jews, the successful mission among the gentiles, and material prosperity as signs of a messianic “Fifth Empire” preceding the Eschaton.106 To be more precise, he believed that Portugal was chosen to lead the world before the Antichrist, just as the Jews had once been elected to pave the way for Christ. Vieira quoted a prediction made by the Portuguese prophet, the shoemaker Gonçalo Anes Bandarra (1500–1556), whose poetic prophecies (trovas) were believed because they had been partly fulfilled already and because of Bandarra’s likeness to the GodMessiah, being “from the nation of the Jews and of the Gentiles.”107 Much has been said about Vieira’s reliance on the Old Testament and particularly on the book of Daniel. However, the name of Paul was ubiquitous in his writings as well: as a restless missionary, as an author revealing the mysteries of human redemption, and as the typological interpreter of the scriptures. A staunch opponent of the Inquisition and of converso exclusion for political, economic, religious, and prophetic reasons, Vieira explained to King John IV


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(1604–56), whom he identified as the salvific “hidden” Portuguese monarch (O Encoberto) prophesied by Bandarra, “Because beyond the belief that all this nation will convert and know Christ, our prophecies foretold this good news [felicidade] among the prodigious effects of the miraculous kingdom of Your Majesty; because they say that the sons of Jacob will help the hidden King [o rei encoberto] and by means of that aid, they will acknowledge the truth of Christ, recognizing and worshiping Him as God.”108 He was not only confessing religious innocence on behalf of sincere Catholic conversos before the Inquisition, emphasizing the Pauline axiom of equality between Jews and gentiles; he also envisioned the toleration of heretical converso crypto-Jews and practicing Sephardic Jews returning to Portugal from the Diaspora as part of God’s providential plan of conversion. For them, he intended to write a missionary treatise titled “The Secret Counselor” (O Conselheiro Secreto), adapted for their particular catechetical needs and idiosyncrasies.109 Vieira was tried by the Holy Office for purportedly endorsing Jewish heretical views on all these subjects. In fact, he held strong Pauline proconverso views, some of them similar to those promoted more than two hundred years earlier by converso Paulinists such as Pablo de Santa María, Juan de Torquemada, and Alonso de Cartagena. However, Vieira’s Joachimite beliefs and millenarian interpretations reinforced the diachronic tensions already existing among converso Paulinists concerning positive Jewishness and converso integration. Vieira saw the eventual conversion of all Jews (including the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel) and gentiles (including Brazilian “heathens” and Muslim Turks) as interdependent phenomena. But instead of focusing on Judeo-gentile unity, he highlighted the alternating rhythms of conversion of “both nations.”110 He noted that after the Crucifixion, gentiles adopted the faith more enthusiastically than the Jews, although it was “almost natural” (como natural) for the latter and “against nature” (contra natureza) for the former, as stated in Romans 11.111 However, it was also “a natural penchant” of the Hebrews, he said, “to be bound more than any other people, to the temporal things of this world and life.”112 So, after their final conversion during the Fifth Empire, these natural penchants will be channeled into spiritual excellency and the Hebrew people “will become the brightest light and splendor of the Church,” illuminating the path for all Christians.113 As in the time of the primitive church (primitiva Igreja), Christian saints of Jewish origin will preach the gospel once again, surpassing in holiness “those of the Old Law.”114 Moreover, Jewish exile will be brought to an end, for Christ will lead them to their historical homeland

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(patria) in Palestine, “as true Christians and Catholics.”115 Concerning the “Fifth Emperor,” Vieira added, he should be a gentile Christian prince, piously observant of the “Law of Christ” and not a member of the “Hebrew nation.”116 Vieira’s uncompromised messianic Pauline universalism endorsed clearly differentiated roles and tasks for Jewish and gentile Christ believers.

* * * In sum, from a strictly theologico-political perspective, rather than a more flexible social one, baptism signified the beginning and not the end of a stagnating “conversion process” for late medieval and early modern Iberian Jews and their converso offspring. For inner spiritual reasons, as well as for the purposes of polemics, apologetics, and identity formation, Iberian conversos and their supporters turned to Paul the Jew and the Apostle to the Gentiles for inspiration and legitimacy. Sometimes, they adopted Pauline negative views on “Jewishness” as counterexamples to express what they did not want to be and how they did not want to be perceived by others. Usually, they opted to appear as sincere Christians proud of their Jewish origins. For them, Paul’s selfperception as a Jewish believer in Christ became paradigmatic. In Paul’s epistles, they saw a myriad of social and theological obstacles to achieving a harmonious community of Jews and gentile Christ believers in their own Iberian context. Conversos and proconversos adopted Paul’s ways of resolving these Judeo-gentile problems of integration by endorsing his reconciling soteriology, his ethnic inclusivism, and his mystically corporeal sense of Christian solidarity. But doing so required them to face the problem of Paul’s indeterminacy concerning positive Jewish residues of Judaism beyond conversion. Contrary to the explicitly negative judaizare, positive Jewish residues were implicit by-products or remains of Paul’s messianic stance. His variegated epistles, concepts, and metaphors did not neatly determine whether “residues” of Jewish (or gentile) ancestry disappear completely after conversion or whether these could be reclaimed. This indeterminacy was revealed (in the Benjaminian sense of “appropriating a memory as it flashes up in a moment of danger” instead of “recognizing it ‘the way it really was’ ”)117 by late medieval and early modern proconverso rhetoric and support from those who contested the very notion of Paul’s indistinct universalism.118 In this essay I have attempted to demonstrate how Paulinism structured late medieval and early modern Iberian converso and proconverso discourses, as it probably influenced other earlier or later historical manifestations of Pauline Judeo-Christianity.

Chapter 7

Return by Any Other Name Religious Change Among Amsterdam’s New Jews a n n e o r av e T z a l be rT

“I am so changed from my past life that I am at pains to recognize myself, and when I do it pains me. . . . In my longing for him I am already converted into another.”1 So wrote Daniel Levi (a.k.a. Don Miguel) de Barrios (1635– 1701), without clarifying what sort of change had caused—or resolved—his pain. His biography does not present a definitive answer, since de Barrios experienced many significant changes, including geographical, literary, communal, and spiritual ones.2 Born in Andalusia to converso parents, he married a Jewish woman in Livorno in 1660 and crossed the Atlantic to Tobago as a Jew. Widowed while abroad, he returned to Europe and married again in 1662, this time within the Amsterdam Jewish community that was made up of emigrants from Spain and Portugal. Despite this embrace of Jewish identity, de Barrios was something of a chameleon: he continued to serve in the Spanish cavalry for some time and made his living by writing poems, plays, and encomia as much for the Spanish Catholics of the Low Countries as for his Jewish compatriots in the Dutch United Provinces. Later on, he displayed enthusiasm for the Sabbatian messianic movement well after the supposed messiah’s famous imprisonment and conversion, and in the 1670s he turned his attention to his own community with renewed vigor, renouncing his Spanish army post and composing a series of tributes, histories, and eulogies that memorialized his Jewish peers and their institutions. Throughout these and his more philosophical or religious writings, he maintained and polished an elaborately allusive and flowery literary

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style, portraying Jewish ideas and figures in a way that was of a piece with high Spanish culture, and he was sometimes censured or mistrusted by communal leaders who thought he had strayed into inappropriate use of pagan or Christian imagery—in addition to straying into the so-called lands of idolatry through physical residence in Brussels, under Spanish domination.3 De Barrios may have been an extreme case, but changeability was common among his Jewish peers, and this essay is about the nature of those changes—in their eyes, and from a historical perspective. The converso emigrants from Spain and Portugal who founded and populated Amsterdam’s Sephardic community, the Kahal Kadosh Talmud Torá, were descended from the victims of the forced and mass conversions of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Generally speaking, conversos are often noted for their cultural and religious hybridity, retaining some aspects of Jewish identity while also adopting some Catholic and Iberian traits. Among those who settled in Amsterdam, establishing Judaism in Protestant northern Europe, this hybridity became ever more complex, even to the point that some see it as exemplary of—or as giving rise to—a modern kind of spiritual or internalized cultural alienation, skepticism, or secularism avant la lettre.4 When de Barrios wrote about his “past life” with such typical playfulness, he could have been thinking of any of his many personal transformations, but the passage conveys above all a sense of spiritual transformation. Likewise, the “new Jews” of seventeenth-century Amsterdam seem like prototypical boundary-crossers for many reasons, but most of all because of the transformation from converso to Jew. Some historiography has focused explicitly on the apparent paradox of ex-converso existence, suggesting that members of this group possessed “divided souls” or that they were irrevocably and painfully bound to the very worldview that had informed their maltreatment at the hands of Iberian Catholics and the Inquisition.5 More recently, that sense of conflict has given way to a new interest in how exconversos actively mediated and combined their two (or more) religious contexts, and how they formed and solidified a new, unique socioreligious arena, a Judaism that was deeply colored by non-Jewish origins and yet shared many traits with other early modern Jewish cultures.6 Even so, the sense that the converso story is exceptional—whether a miraculous recovery of lost belonging, a harbinger of the confusion of modernity, or a remarkable tale of resilience and adaptation—remains. Despite the importance accorded to the transition from converso to Jew, direct attention to firsthand accounts of it and precise characterizations of


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the process have been elusive. Recent scholarship tends to refer somewhat uneasily to this transition as some form of “return,” in contrast to de Barrios’ wordplay highlighting conversion. These seemingly opposed typologies can be reconciled through an examination of the worlds of meaning behind both terms, and doing so sheds new light on the subject. This essay offers an analysis of converso entrance into open Judaism, focusing on the context of seventeenth-century Amsterdam, and suggests that conversion is an entirely appropriate label for this historical phenomenon. Converso “returnees” themselves treated the experience as a kind of conversion, in alignment with tropes and ideals that they shared with the surrounding Christian world; this did not preclude, but rather incorporated, the Jewish senses of teshuvah and restoration of membership in a people. Moreover, insights from modern studies of conversion can fruitfully be applied, helping to explain and explore ex-conversos’ simultaneous hybridity and certainty instead of setting it up as a mystery or a miracle of Jewish history.

To Re- or Not to ReA few generations ago, historians seemed content to include both conversion and return among the various terms they used to describe a converso’s expression of commitment to Judaism, but today conversion is virtually absent from discussions of former conversos’ religious transformations. In 1932, when Cecil Roth discussed the apologetic literature that circulated in manuscript, he called it “proselytization” and noted that these texts “may best be described as a conversionist literature.”7 In 1961 I. S. Révah wrote that a particular converso “had Marranized [i.e., begun secretly to practice Judaism] in Rouen . . . and then converted publicly to Judaism in Amsterdam.”8 Since the 1970s or 1980s, in contrast, return has been standard. Although the reasoning is not explicit, the use of return may reflect a sense that conversion implies a wholesale change that is inappropriate because conversos were somehow already Jewish, or perhaps merely a sense that conversion as a concept is too specific or too Christian. Many times, writers studiously avoid any label, choosing circuitous phrases that are either intentionally vague or highly specific, so as to avoid any suggestion of typology. For examples, the reader needs to look no further than the present essay, where “expression of commitment to Judaism,” “embrace of Jewish identity,” and “change of religion” have already served precisely this purpose. Similar constructions

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include “becoming Jewish” and “accepting Judaism,” as well as seemingly infinite variations on the latter, such as “openly practicing,” “professing,” or “turning to” Judaism. Seeking safety in specificity, perhaps, some simply note that conversos were circumcised, took Jewish names, or became members of the Jewish community, without indicating what kind of change these acts constituted. The term Judaizing is sometimes used and may be the most neutral, even though in current usage it is more associated with the harsh stance of the Inquisition toward crypto-Jews—those new Christians who, it is said, “Judaized” in secret and sometimes invited others to do the same. Beyond these locutionary gymnastics, the sense of return is almost always present. For example, in her study of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews of Amsterdam, Miriam Bodian writes of “rejudaization,” emphasizing both the preexistent Jewishness of the converso Judaizers and their process of becoming Jewish.9 The notion that conversos were already at least some kind of Jews before Judaization resonates broadly with Bodian’s observations about the self-defined ethnic boundaries of the “Hebrews of the Portuguese nation.” Her choice of words evidently reflects the perspective of her historical subjects, and the attention to process matches her treatment of conversos and new Jews as agents in the formation of their own complex identities: Bodian writes of the rejudaization of the conversos as a form of reeducation, discussing the policies and programs by which Jewish leaders taught and enforced Jewish norms in Amsterdam. In so doing, she follows in the footsteps of Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, who, in his book The Re-education of the Marranos, asks, “How was this metamorphosis achieved? How did a person who had reached maturity in Catholic Spain or Portugal acquire those Jewish traditions, skills, and attitudes that would enable him to feel at home in the Jewish community and become an active participant in both its religious and mundane life?”10 Bodian also writes of the “myth of restoration” that was developed among crypto-Jews and cherished by their descendants in Amsterdam, more evidence that she is aware that the placement of the re- was at least partially the work of her subjects. In Reluctant Cosmopolitans: The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam (another title in which boundary crossing and religious change are implicit), Daniel Swetschinki generally chooses return. He does so with some apparent circumspection, however, referring to conversos “manifesting themselves as Jews,” as well as “the return to Judaism of the erstwhile New Christians” and the “re-integration of the New Christians into a traditional Jewish community.”11 In general Swetschinski displays,


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like Bodian, awareness that former conversos self-consciously shaped new identities and treated Judaization as a new beginning—but he does not treat these processes as anything other than aspects of “return.” Yosef Kaplan offers, in the title of his book, a formulation that cuts out any direct reference to process: From Christianity to Judaism: The Story of Isaac Orobio de Castro. Within the text, however, Kaplan fully engages with Orobio’s gradual geographical, intellectual, and spiritual shift, most often referring to converso Judaization as “reversion.” This term offers some of the flavor of conversion, while at the same time suggesting that conversos were going back to a prior religious affiliation—though of course he is aware that no converso alive in the seventeenth century had been born into open Judaism and converted out. Nevertheless, whereas return can be construed as a reference to genealogical patterns (as in a branch reconnecting with the family tree), revert more clearly indicates a change of religion. That emphasis is reflected in Kaplan’s initial queries about the spiritual reckonings involved in such “reversion”: “What motivated them to go forth to a strange land, whose language they did not know and whose culture was alien to them, in order to begin a new page in their life-history?” he asks. “How successfully did they become absorbed into their newly adopted community, and what made them willing to submit to the religious discipline of the Torah and its commandments?”12 These questions, like Yerushalmi’s, are endemic to conversion studies, but the topic is kept at a remove from conversion per se. Of all of these examples, we may ask, Why the re-? Why not simply call it integration, education, or turning—or, indeed, conversion? One explanation is that the usage stems from an impulse to analyze the whole phenomenon within a Jewish frame. This includes a discomfort with the possibility of excluding non-Judaized conversos from the Jewish people and, possibly, a sense that conversion is not an inherently Jewish concept, deriving as it does from Christian theology and tradition. Let us address these two dimensions of the problem separately. First, there is the reluctance to deny converso Jewishness. On one rare occasion, Swetschinski uses conversion, but he distances himself from it with scare quotes, writing of “the paradox of ‘converts’ to Judaism embodying some of the quintessential features of modern Jewish existence.”13 There, he implicitly acknowledges that the term suggests the non-Jewishness of conversos or their fundamental estrangement from Judaism. This could be seen as disconnecting the forced apostates from Jewish history or portraying them as outsiders when they saw themselves as insiders. Many conversos did

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cultivate and perpetuate their Jewishness, even sometimes while wholeheartedly embracing Catholicism. And indeed, Judaization was not—or was not always—treated as conversion in halakhic terms. In some places, conversos underwent a formal process of giyyur, whereas in others, like Amsterdam, they did not. Although some Amsterdam sources do reflect anxiety about the status of unreturned conversos and awareness of the debate about whether they were Jewish,14 it does not appear that newcomers were called gerim or routinely asked to prove their ancestry—a move that would have been unrealistic in pragmatic terms, as well as a hindrance to communal growth. In general, circumcision was the standard for men’s inclusion and exclusion, in terms of synagogue and burial rights,15 but approval by a rabbinic court and ritual immersion were generally not required, and membership in the kinship network seems to have been enough to determine eligibility for Judaization.16 All of this would suggest that Judaism was seen as a preexisting condition of those conversos who came to join Jewish communities, supporting return as the appropriate term. On the other hand, for historians to adopt an unqualified view that conversos were Jewish, and therefore not converts when they came to Judaism, is a different matter from acknowledging that (some of) our subjects themselves did so. Clearly, to assume that Jews who had converted to Catholicism inevitably remained attached to Judaism or the Jewish people, whether religiously, socially, or corporeally, is problematic. Such perspectives informed the prejudicial “blood purity” laws of early modern Iberia and the general early modern Christian distrust of the religious sincerity of converts from Judaism.17 The attitudes of the seventeenth-century Jews and former conversos who accepted the process without giyyur should be read as a stance, and not a statement of objective truth. The only thing that seems clear is that there is no clear answer to how Jewish conversos were—in the in eyes of contemporaries, and much less on some imagined objective scale. The same was true at the time: B. Netanyahu’s 1967 interpretation of rabbinic responsa from the period, and Gerson Cohen’s strenuous rebuttal, reveals not only the difficulty of knowing how early modern Jews saw conversos but also the emotional stakes of historical conclusions, with the effect of declaring them in or out of the Jewish people.18 The second reason historians are likely to object to the term conversion is that, far from being a neutral or universal concept, it continues to be colored by its Christian origin so that its application to Jewish behaviors seems irrelevant or actively distorting, especially given that much of Christian conversion discourse set Judaism or Jewishness as an archetypal “other” that


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required transformation. This is tricky. It is true that Jewish discourse on giyyur is qualitatively different from Christian discourse on conversion: the former focuses primarily on kinship and membership, law and practice, whereas Christian conversion—and its extension into general use—usually centers on spiritual transformation. However, such a stark opposition may flatten the complexity of giyyur, in which religious conscience does play a role. As Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar point out, for example, both biblical and rabbinic sources suggest that conversion to Judaism is as much an acceptance of Jewish theological principles and ritual obligations as it is an acceptance by an ethnic or religious group. In fact, Zvi and Zohar have argued that the paradigm of giyyur that focuses on what they call the “normative cognitive aspect” has historically been just as strong as the competing one that focuses on genealogical or national membership.19 Likewise, a view of “conversion” (in general) as primarily spiritual ignores the social, legal, and intellectual dimensions of religious change even in Christian contexts, dimensions that have now been widely acknowledged by scholars. In other words, giyyur may be more like conversion than it first appears to be—a fact that points not only to some shared human experience but also to the richly intertwined histories of Judaism and Christianity from the ancient world to today. In addition, giyyur is universally translated as “conversion,” and from this it may be argued that there is a more neutral sense of conversion in modern English, meaning merely the transition from one religion to another, or from one sect, religious condition, or affiliation to another: conversion could simply mean “religious change.” It may be debated whether this definition, and the characterizations and studies of conversion as a universal concept that follow from it, can ever truly be distinct from the term’s intellectual and etymological history; more on this later. Nevertheless, it can be useful in the Jewish context for describing some va rieties of religious change among Jews: “becoming frum,”20 for example, or leaving a Hasidic community, would not be giyyur, but both might be forms of conversion. Likewise, it is not at all untrue to the meaning of teshuvah, both repentance and return, to see it as a kind of conversion. A hozer bi-teshuvah or a ba‘al teshuvah is someone who turns to a higher degree of halakhic observance as part of a religious reorientation. The confluence is doubled in the converso context, both because they could see their teshuvah as a literal, historical return and because their religious outlook was so shaped by early modern Christianity. When conversos and former conversos wrote about their experiences with Judaization, repentance

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and return are precisely the terms they tended to use, but this had at least as much to do with Christian tropes as with a Jewish sense of teshuvah. Their understanding of circumcision as a marker of transition and Jewish boundaries, too, was cast in terms familiar to them from Christianity, as Kaplan has discussed.21 Their background as Christians must be taken into account in a discussion of whether conversion is a foreign category in Judaism since conversion was truly a native concept for conversos. In 1996 Carsten Lorenz Wilke opened a door onto the question with an article entitled “Conversion or Return?” He called attention to a theme within converso literature in which authors modeled themselves on the trope of the “righteous stranger” (ger), rejecting religious dictates and wandering, naked of preconceptions, in search of pure and plain truth— a trope that Wilke found in Christian conversion literature of the time.22 This essay goes through the door and enters into the question from historical and analytical perspectives in order to answer with a robust “both.” The treatment has two parts. First, expanding on Wilke’s suggestion, I argue that conversion is a contextually appropriate label for a number of elements of Judaizing since ex-conversos themselves described their experiences this way, using themes—including return—associated specifically with conversion in early modern Christian culture. Return need not necessarily be rejected as a meaningful characterization of the Judaization of conversos, even if it is to be understood as a kind of “conversion.” I reject the dichotomy. Second, the actual lived process of Judaization closely approximated conversion as it is understood by modern students of religion. Unlike earlier historians who used the term without apparent reflection, I hope to benefit from a half century of relevant scholarship on conversion from outside Jewish studies, as well as, more recently, within it. I suggest that conversion as a term of art in the study of religions is a useful and appropriate term for converso “return.”

Contexts: The Right Turn Early modern Europe, with its Reformation, Counter-Reformation, religious wars, sectarian fragmentation, colonial expansion, and early religious toleration, was rife with conversion of almost unlimited va rieties, and it played a central cultural role. Conversion was part of literary, popular, scientific, legal, political, and humanistic discourses, as well as religious ones, often in multilayered and problematic ways. A Judaizing converso in the seventeenth


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century thus had many models on which to base a conception of his or her own religious change. Conversos were aware of debates about the necessity and efficacy of forced conversion, and about conversion and the state— whether regarding the treatment of religious minorities within European communities, the religious status of political leaders, or the conversion of native peoples in the colonial enterprise. They had been exposed in a deep way to the Pauline and Augustinian models as they were understood by early modern Christians, as well as to Christian religious and cultural anxieties specifically about Jewish conversion. Educated conversos also knew well the basic building blocks of Christian theology, in which the saving transformation of the individual soul is central. Although the Pauline model of sudden enlightenment precipitated by a single, unrepeatable experience is in some ways archetypal, many other forms of conversion coexisted with that one within Christian tradition. For Augustine, for example, conversion came about incrementally through a process of introspection and self-improvement. In the Middle Ages, conversion commonly referred to a new commitment to spiritual practices or other external changes, such as entrance into monastic life. The understanding of conversion as total transformation—as in translation, transubstantiation, or metamorphosis—was actually subordinate to its sense as “turning toward,” or even the more strongly contrasting “turning with”—that is, becoming more aligned with the divine in one’s movements, physical and spiritual. This long and deep stream of Christian expressions of conversion cut new paths in the changing topography of early modern religious life. The Protestant Reformation and Catholic Reforms had also produced vibrant new forms of conversion, including the possibility of conversion to a different denomination within Christianity.23 With the process of confessionalization and the incorporation of royal and mass conversion into the affairs of states, as well as emerging views of European nationhood that relied on religious identity, conversion was also important on a geopolitical scale.24 Several thematic clusters from these innovations are visible in the literature of former conversos: ongoing contrition and changes to one’s way of life; health, reason, and good order; and return to some ideal state. These interrelated themes are common in depictions of conversion among many early modern Christians, and they also characterize many ex-conversos’ presentations of Judaization. Taking the first of these themes, scholars have often noted the emphasis on repentance among Judaizing conversos. While it has primarily been

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understood as reflecting a deep feeling of regret or worry about the portion of their lives spent outside Judaism, it could also be said that they simply processed the change as a conversion, expressed in terms of repentance. While one dimension of repentance—the anguished regret over past sins—has been noted, another—the discovery of a new spiritual path—has escaped attention. The two are, of course, not mutually exclusive but rather seem to be two sides of a coin. Take, for example, de Barrios’ comment at the beginning of this essay: “I am so changed from my past life that I am at pains to recognize myself, and when I do it pains me. . . . In my longing for him I am already converted into another.” The contrition he expresses here could be understood as lamenting the time spent outside Judaism, but it could also express a sense that he had been insufficiently pious or other wise inadequate even after Judaizing. In other words, the transition to Judaism was of a piece with other kinds of spiritual transformation. It was not a once-and-for-all transformation but rather a change in direction, a turning with a profound—but perhaps not easy or automatic—effect on his external self. De Barrios frequently uses the notion of turning in repentance, as in his “Epistola aun mal encaminado” (“Letter to One Who Is Following the Wrong Path,” or perhaps, “Letter to a Misguided Person”), where he writes that true prayer, directed with a loving heart turned toward the divine, can lead (caminar) one to God.25 This sense has every thing to do with an understanding of conversion as spiritual turning that was perhaps influenced by Lutheran innovations but was broadly present in many confessional contexts by the seventeenth century.26 One way to describe it was in terms of a “path”—the choosing or following of a new path, or the necessity of following the true path.27 De Barrios wrote in the 1680s of one Paulo de Pina, a young Catholic of Jewish descent who had left his Iberian home around 1620 to seek the monastic life in Rome but was diverted to Livorno by a crypto-Jewish relative who hoped to alter the youth’s religious fate by sending with him a coded letter of introduction, which read, “Our cousin . . . is going to Rome to become a monk. Be so kind as to put him on the right path [encaminarlo].”28 De Barrios was not present for this event but rather tells it secondhand, so it is not clear whether the clever play on the dual senses of camino as a literal, geographical path and as a spiritual path was his own invention—but evidently the path was a recognizable metaphor both for Judaism and for spiritual correctness. In its connection with wandering, this metaphor possesses a sense of arriving from abroad—perhaps suggesting prior alienation from Judaism— and it also expresses inner transformation and spiritual seeking, as well as


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an appreciation for the quality of Judaism as a “way of life” and a religious path in itself. The image of the pilgrim that Wilke singled out fits into this category. As he pointed out, one of the printer’s emblems used by Menasseh ben Israel, depicting a traveling pilgrim, was copied from that of Jean de Gerson, the late medieval chancellor of the University of Paris. Gerson described his name as deriving from the Hebrew ger, construed as “pilgrim.”29 In Augustine’s Confessions, the ambiguous peregrinatio is used both for those who travel away from God and for those who move toward him, for both aversion to God and conversion (to him). Travel can be spiritual seeking or errant wandering.30 In the converso context, wandering also resonates with exile and homelessness, and of course with the broader Jewish exile. Similarly, therefore, the negative dimension of wandering is intimately connected with the positive one of spiritual salvation; one must travel abroad to return home. There is even perhaps a suggestion that the converso experience of estrangement from Judaism is necessary for true repentance. Sometimes, the “path” is equated with a turn away from worldly affairs. Recall that de Pina, at least in de Barrios’ depiction, was on his way to become a monk. De Barrios presents Judaization as a counterpart to entering the monastery, but not as its opposite; both paths reflect a deepening spiritual engagement and religious commitment, and the move toward Judaism may also have connoted a personal detachment from worldly concerns. Comments to that effect appear throughout the writings of Amsterdam Jews, including the autobiography of the financier Isaac de Pinto, the sermons of Rabbi Saul Levi Morteira, and the self-aggrandizing remarks of the politico/physician Isaac Orobio de Castro. In many cases, these comments are presented quite matter-of-factly. Orobio lamented the loss of status, offices, and income that Judaization brought him; de Pinto regretted the property left behind when his family fled Iberia; and Morteira suggested that attachment to worldly comforts prevented many conversos from Judaizing even when they wanted to. These comments should not necessarily be taken at face value—or at least, not only at face value. Although the losses sustained in the move to Judaism were very real to some, they also suited a preexisting trope of conversion. The poetry and prose of de Barrios and João Pinto Delgado, among many others, fairly drips with contempt for those who are blinded by the “veil of ephemeral enterprise,” as de Barrios put it.31 In his 1666 book, La certeza del camino (The certainty of the path), Abraham Pereyra describes the lifestyle of a moral and pious Jew, presenting himself as a penitent sinner—

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not only as a former converso but also as a former merchant. He explains that he had once mocked the earnest religiosity of his coreligionists in Amsterdam, as he truly valued only worldly matters, but that he has now devoted himself to the right path. Borrowing generously from sixteenth- and seventeenthcentury Spanish writers,32 he offers a guidebook for ethical and spiritual behavior in business, government, religious affairs, and matters of intellect. Like de Barrios, Pereyra expresses contrition for the delay between his Judaization and repentance, at least as much as he does for his converso past, focusing on two turns that are tightly linked but still distinct. Pereyra presents true Judaism—the path—as a way of life, led in fulfillment of halakhic and moral obligations, and he also follows convention in referring to Judaism simply as “the law,” or “the divine law.” This latter way of speaking highlights an additional connection between the “path” and Halakhah, the teaching of which was central to the literature that was produced for Judaizing conversos.33 In a very real and practical sense, the adoption of Judaism was the adoption of the path of Jewish law. By connecting Jewish law with a path of spiritual seeking and turning toward God using common Christian tropes, Pereyra and others cast this adoption as a conversion without having to use the word. A second cluster of imagery related to conversion has to do with health, reason, and order. In one lexicographic investigation of seventeenth-century conversion, Pierre Dumonceaux concluded that by the end of the seventeenth century, the primary meaning of conversion was a change away from vice and debauchery toward a healthier, more civilized mode. The idea of salvation had been secularized into health, and sin into vice; the sense of attaining or renewing adherence to the proper religion or faith disappeared from the dictionaries.34 In an example of this among the Amsterdam Sephardim, Orobio calls Judaism a cure for a sick soul: “Those who withdraw from idolatry to the lands of freedom for Judaism . . . arrive sick with ignorance . . .  but are easily healed when they taste the healthy and holy medicine offered to them through their brothers’ piety.”35 The rabbi Moses Raphael d’Aguilar agrees, telling conversos in southern France, “Flee away, flee away, haste you from this your Babylon, and come to find medicament that shall procure your salvation; for it is something that rests upon your own will, and it is within your power to achieve it.”36 Only in finding this path of salvation does the soul attain health and immortality, conditions that characterize the double meaning of salvation. These texts and the lexical change identified by Dumonceaux reflect a broader cultural tendency to pathologize converts.37


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A third cluster of themes has to do with reason, rationality, and order.38 João Pinto Delgado portrays himself as a seeker in the autobiographical section of his Dialogos contra a cristandade, “offended by much irrationality [muchas sinrazones] and obligated by reason” to follow his parents.39 The irrationality he refers to is the untenable or paradoxical situation of a Judeoconverso or crypto-Jew: as he explains, in a metaphor that is simultaneously corporeal and spiritual, his parents planted the seeds of divine truth in him, but material circumstances prevent him from allowing them to grow. Similarly, Pereyra explains that conversos continue to live as Catholics because they are too irrational to understand their obligations under Jewish law: “Their continued residence . . . in such places springs . . . from their incapacity to attain through reason a proper appreciation of the grave responsibility which is cast upon them.” 40 In his eyes, conversos bear a responsibility to practice Judaism, so they are in some sense already Jewish, not requiring a conversion. However, their present liminal state is characterized by irrationality and spiritual confusion, the resolution of which constitutes a kind of conversion. Another version of the same message reflects a tactic of conversos for whom Judaizing is inconvenient, apparently influenced by Catholic deathbed confessions. The refrain of de Barrios’ “Epistola aun mal encaminado” calls for the reader to “do that which you will want to have done when you die”—that is, live as a Jew. Cardoso explains further, “Balaam wished to die as an Israelite and to live as a gentile, and so he said: Let me die the death of the righteous, and let mine end be like his (Num. 23:10). This is the case with those who live in lands far from ours, following the rites and vanities of the nations, or even those who, installed in our midst, are oblivious of their obligations and wish to die as Jews though they live as gentiles. But these two extremes cannot meet, for death must correspond to life, and he dies well who has lived well.” 41 In addition to the discordant reality of conversos who want to Judaize but are afraid, as de Barrios and Pinto Delgado described, Cardoso calls attention to the irrationality of those who have Judaized but fail to maintain observance of Halakhah. In both cases, he says, “death must correspond to life”: ending life as a Jew without having lived as one is inherently disorderly. Cardoso’s biographer, Yerushalmi, wrote that this comment was “the closest to a statement of his own motive for taking the step [of Judaizing] which we shall ever hear from him.” 42 Pinto Delgado addresses the same phenomenon when he warns that one who waits until the end of life can only be “converted in affliction.” 43 His use of the word convertido only confirms the impression already given by other

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authors that the turn to Judaism had much in common with “conversion” broadly understood. These examples suggest that it was the illogic of the converso condition that made Judaizing seem to be only reasonable solution, but the meaning of rationality in this context ran deeper. In his poetic retelling of the book of Ruth, a frequent touchpoint and proof text for views on conversion in a Jewish context, Pinto Delgado expresses Ruth’s climactic decision to convert to Judaism as a turn to reason: Embracing [God’s] Law [she] bore the fruit of a holy King. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . She . . . turned [se inclina] With . . . a constant heart From error to reason, From the human to the divine Law.44 Once again, the genealogical component is present, as he notes that Ruth’s family line led to King David, but these lines also indicate that the prototypical conversion was not only a joining of genetic lines or the adoption of a tribe or nation but also a spiritual change characterized by a turn to reason. The desrazon that characterizes the social and political situation of conversos is part of a more essential desrazon of religious error. These figures thus presented converso life as liminal, plagued by inconsistency between material and spiritual concerns, as part of a view of conversion (couched as return) as a resolution of that inconsistency. Of course, this is “return.” Pinto Delgado called conversos to “turn, turn [volver] to the One / Who will shelter you and heed your call” and invokes an image of a lost sheep.45 De Barrios described true prayer as a return (volver) to God and a turn (tornar) toward the “Divine House.” 46 This sense of turning is highly personal and internal. Like the concept of teshuvah, it includes both the sense of turning and returning, and indicates a new mode or practice going forward, in addition to a change of heart. This turn toward God, rather than toward a religion,47 is also put in terms of return, as de Barrios writes, “Return [volver] to the God of truth,” and “turn [tornar] to God with a loving heart.” 48 Last, the emphasis on order and the idea that converso or crypto-Jewish life is an aberration is also related to a convention of Spanish Golden Age literature, in which a tale ended with the restitution of order in religious,


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familial, and civic relations.49 The sense is that conversion is one process among many that reconstitute some original good order. Evocative of the salvation of a fallen soul through its restoration to a prelapsarian state of grace, these tales narrate a disintegration of norms that is reversed at the end through a transformative restitution of the original, ideal state of things. This nicely encapsulates the way in which a positively valued transformation can be conceived as a reversion. Here again, Dumonceaux’s observations based on French dictionaries are highly relevant: he emphasizes that the majority of Latin translations of se convertir imply a return to a previous state judged good or acceptable: redire, se recipere, se revocare.50 A natural order, idealized and imagined as a preexisting state, is restored. In the writings of former conversos, the move to Judaism is similarly portrayed as the resolution of an inconsistency that causes disorder on many levels. Internally, they become faithful to a core identity, erase dissonance, find God, and reject the vanities of the world. At the same time, the move creates external change, reuniting the Jewish people and renewing the rightful correlation between godliness and earthly power. Pinto Delgado connects political restoration with new spiritual alignment, instructing conversos to return their hearts to God: “You, the people who expect / From God the scepter of piety / Return, return to him who shelters you / . . . / Make his law your objective and his reason your life!”51 Restoration was a prominent element of converso and crypto-Jewish thought, as evidenced by the visions of Bocarro Rosales, Sebastianism, and Sabbatianism, for example.52 In the context of Judaization, the turn to Judaism was a multilayered restitution of proper order, as the internal correction correlated to political and cosmic ones.

Approaching Conversion: A Different Path Conversos and ex-conversos called Judaization “return.” But they also called it “medicine,” “health,” “restoration,” and reorientation or “turning” of the soul. They saw it as an eminently rational and self-evidently rewarding choice. If adopting the latter perspective would be problematic for a historian, it should be equally so to call it “return” without qualification.53 In other words, external analysis does not have to—indeed, should not—rely solely on internal terminology to avoid anachronism or misrepresentation. Some recent studies of contemporary religious groups have categorized par ticu lar religious behaviors as forms of conversion despite the explicit claims of the subjects.

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Karin van Nieuwkerk looks at some converts to Islam in the Netherlands who avoid use of the term conversion, preferring reversion because of an ideological stance that Islam is the natu ral state of all people.54 In a study of “spiritualists” in contemporary Montreal, Deirdre Meintel argues that even subjects who overtly display an “aversion to conversion” may still be understood as undergoing a fundamental religious transformation that meets the conventional standards for “conversion.”55 I argue that something like this may be said about the Judaizing conversos. I suggested earlier that conversion can be understood in a general way as religious transition or change, and that treating converso Judaization as such, bringing it into comparison and conversation with other forms of conversion, will aid comprehension of its nuances and peculiarities. It must be acknowledged, however, that this broad definition is itself culturally contingent, and I emphasize that what follows does not assume that conversion is a universal phenomenon. It is an element of the religious and intellectual heritage of the Christian West in particular, so we may proceed with confidence that conversion was a real and operative concept within the historical context of seventeenth-century Europe—Christians, Jews, and conversos included. But it may not be applicable to contexts untouched by the dominant terms of that civilization, and a truly objective scientific assessment of religious behaviors—if such a thing is possible—could not rely on conversion per se as an essential or transhistorical category. At the same time, it is due to the effort to treat conversion scientifically or social-scientifically that it is now possible to speak about conversion in general terms that make sense across many contextual frames. When studies of conversion first entered modern scholarship, early theorists translated certain elements of Christian tradition or theology into universal, phenomenological terms. William James and Arthur Darby Nock described it as a deep spiritual experience that transformed individuals’ mental health, behavior, spiritual satisfaction, and perceptions of the world—a characterization with a clear analogy to Pauline conversion.56 But later, in the 1960s and 1970s, new approaches to religion, in combination with rapid cultural and religious change, produced a wave of studies of conversion that attempted to typologize it and describe the motivations and processes of all converts.57 For example, psychologist of religion Lewis Rambo subdivided the conversion process into “crisis, quest, encounter, interaction, commitment, and consequences,” emphasizing that the crux of conversion is what he called a “tradition transition,” a change to a totally new religious tradition.58 This


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last and most central depiction is typical of this literature, in which conversion is understood primarily as an individual’s radical religious change. Indeed, in a revealing footnote, John Lofland and Rodney Stark expressed disapproval of the way much earlier Christian writers had “muddied” understanding of the term by using it to refer not only to spiritual transformation or sudden enlightenment but also to “an aroused concern among persons who already accept the essential truth of the ideological system.”59 Reversing the ontological order of the Christian and the “universal” definitions of conversion, Lofland and Stark presumed that a radical break in religious identity was a universal religious phenomenon, and that medieval Christians had erred in associating it with other kinds of religious shifts and realignments, including, for example, repentance and return. Despite the continued view that conversion was essentially and fully transformative, this research opened the door to seeing conversion in nonChristian contexts. In fact, most of the subjects of these early studies were members of cults and small religious groups that catered to the dissatisfied, disconnected, or disaffected—people whom the researchers considered “deviant.” 60 From psychological and sociological perspectives, the convert was now pathologized, depicted as a “seeker,” or as undergoing “crisis” and “destabilization” that set the stage for religious change, in a process of reordering that creates a new stability. James studied primarily young people whose dramatic religious awakenings were contrasted with preexisting tensions, frustrations, or other adolescent discontent: their “conversions” left them ecstatically certain, with a feeling of resolution or denouement.61 Some later approaches recast this focus on subjective experience by examining converts’ personal expressions of the process, focusing on “discourse” rather than on mea sur able social or psychological outcomes, while still retaining the basic assumption that conversion meant total transformation. Sociologists David Snow and Richard Machalek produced an influential model according to which conversion leads to an individual’s immersion in a new “universe of discourse” and a “biographical reconstruction” that reinterprets preconversion life events in light of the converted identity.62 Similarly, Richard V. Travisano defined conversion as a change that disrupts identity, creates a rupture, and requires the adoption of a new “universe of discourse” that is proscribed by or negates the old one.63 Narrative and autobiography have also been seen as essential to conversion.64 Massimo Leone’s 2004 book on the semiotics of religious conversion takes the same view from a literary

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perspective, likening the destabilization of the self before and during conversion to the sensation of vertigo.65 Many of these descriptions of conversion have clear applications among Judaizing conversos. For example, we have already seen how conversos have been treated as deviant, unstable, and uncertain by historians who have seen the converso (or “Marrano”) outlook as emblematic of an early modern disintegration of simple faith and clear cultural categories, and indeed, how seventeenth-century new Jews portrayed Judaization as a return to reason and a glorious resolution of spiritual disorder and despair, as part of an early modern view of conversion as the restitution of proper order. The difference lies in whether the order is seen as internal (psychological) or external (historical). The convert’s rewriting of the self or reinterpretation of the past according to new norms can also be observed among Judaizing conversos. Although they generally did not compose spiritual autobiographies or conversion narratives of the type that was increasingly common among early modern Christians,66 writings like those of de Barrios, de Pinto, Pinto Delgado, Pereyra, and Orobio can certainly be understood as postconversion constructions of the spiritual self. The avoidance of such narratives might itself even be seen as self-defining, as in the “refus de mémoire” so cogently described by Swetschinski: they wished to see themselves as returning to origins, or revealing their true selves in an act of personal renewal, so they took biblical names and modeled themselves on biblical figures, while seldom overtly discussing their previous lives or the process of creating a new Jewish identity.67 New Jews, in other words, did not wonder aloud how it was that they could possibly reconcile Judaism with their preexisting cultural outlook, as later observers have done; instead, they created a new narrative that emphasized, even exaggerated, the longevity of their Jewishness. Later scholars of conversion distanced themselves more successfully from the Christian origins of the term, becoming increasingly thoughtful about how such universals could—or could not—be applied in various contexts. The definition of conversion as “religious transformation” gave way to accounts of such diverse events as changes in denomination, recommitment to former religious principles, and serial conversions; and scholars investigated the ways in which social and familial contacts and circumstances facilitated, mediated, and mitigated such changes, without suggesting that preconversion conditions were necessarily flawed or unhealthy. Henri Gooren, for example,


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introduced the idea of a “conversion career,” acknowledging that conversion takes place in different ways and sometimes multiple times throughout a life cycle. Embracing a multidimensional view of conversion, he offered a synthesis of the rich typologies and schemes that had been suggested by previous scholars. He listed twelve factors central to conversion, including a change in identity, a religious “market” with competition and rational choice, the evolution of some potential converts into “seekers,” the sense of commitment built by “role learning,” social networks, recruitment strategies or cultural politics, and the role of a destination tradition in shaping the experience and the convert’s self-expression.68 Such an approach allows for complexity, sincerity, and agency, as well as culturally constructed meaning, and when applied to the history of Judaizing conversos, the attention to external structures and social factors is useful. A typical path comes into focus: often, a converso’s transition to Judaism began when he was approached by a relative or friend or encountered polemical materials that circulated in manuscript.69 A period of seeking and indoctrination might take place, during which a potential convert lived with and learned from practicing Jews. Once he had made the decision to embrace life as a Jew, a converso would typically take up residence in a place where Judaism was openly practiced, and he would be circumcised soon thereafter. He would take a new name,70 acquire ritual objects such as tefillin, tallit, prayer books, or a Bible in Spanish (often received from a family member or spiritual guide), and make a debut appearance in the synagogue, sometimes receiving the honor of being called to the lectern during the reading of the Torah.71 These rituals, most of which functioned to publicly mark the convert’s new status as a Jew in genealogical, social, and religious terms, are classic examples of Snow and Machalek’s “demonstration events” and “compliance behaviors,”72 or of the “encounter” and “commitment” phases of Rambo’s scheme. Early modern Jewish polemical texts—Roth’s “conversionist literature”— reveal many factors included in Gooren’s treatment of conversion, such as cultural politics, recruitment strategies and methods, and competition in a religious marketplace, and Rambo’s “quest” and “interaction” stages are reflected there as well. Parallel to and overlapping this literature is the massive effort to educate the new converts, respond to cases of incomplete indoctrination, and stave off attrition. In order to ensure that new members of the Jewish community would remain present and committed, much energy was put into the creation of an educational system for children and the production

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of printed materials for adults that explained the basic tenets and practices of Judaism, confirmed new members in their religious choices, and offered them Jewish modalities of spiritual seeking and soul searching.73 Once again, this behavior is perfectly in line with that of a religious community for which proselytization is key, and in which new converts play important roles, and it is reflected in Gooren’s sixth and seventh factors, commitment built by role learning and activities of the organizational side.74 Especially key is the observation that such activities may reflect a normal element of the treatment of new converts and do not necessarily reveal any exceptional difficulty in reconciling with Judaism. David L. Graizbord, who has explored marginal figures of the Sephardic world, focusing on those who returned to Catholicism after flirting with Judaism, has emphasized external rather than spiritual factors, stating plainly that “whether a transient moved from Judaism to Christianity or vice-versa, it was his or her social and economic matrix that ultimately conditioned and even provided an impetus for the religious and territorial migration.”75 Certainly it was true that in many instances people were led to make the choice because family members or associates drew them in and persuaded them, or at least opened doors to them. This is in accordance with almost all of the sociolog ical and even psychological models of conversion reviewed by Gooren,76 and when Graizbord emphasizes the possibility of multiple reconversions, Gooren’s “conversion career” especially comes to mind. Where practicalities and social networks come into play, we might shy away from thinking of the change as a conversion, but in fact, modern researchers show that even the most deeply felt and transformative conversions rely on these factors. Whether or not rabbinic authorities and others treated this process as giyyur from a halakhic perspective, it was clearly perceived as a distinct religious change that affected an individual’s status in both spiritual and social ways. Kaplan has discussed the converso and new-Jewish valuation of circumcision, showing that they treated it almost as a sacrament that ensured the salvation of the Jewish soul.77 Rabbis and other Jews engaged in outreach to convince conversos that the open and full practice of Judaism was required of them, as against a widespread belief that they would still “be saved” or “have a place in the world to come” as long as they remained secretly faithful to Judaism. In Amsterdam and among the Jews and cryptoJews of southern France and Iberia, the issue was pressing in the first half of the century, and many worried for the souls of their un-“returned” kin.78


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Paradoxically, even though it is explicitly based on the perception of the conversos as Jews, this worry reveals an understanding of Judaization as effecting some essential change. This transition was acknowledged externally as well. Contingent on actually affiliating with and remaining attached to the Jewish community—obeying its internal laws and satisfying its religious, monetary, and cultural requirements—a converso was considered a Jew. Among the many dimensions and valences of conversion in early modern Europe, a legal ceremony ranks very low, and in this Jewish case, a halakhic process was not at all necessary for contemporaries to agree that a change had taken place. The attempt to precisely define conversion and differentiate other types of religious transition from social-scientific and phenomenological perspectives has resulted in a profusion of categories. Snow and Machalek name adhesion, alternation, consolidation, and regeneration as alternatives,79 recognizing the formalization, intensification, or revision of previously held beliefs as phenomena in their own right. On this model, Judaization could be seen as adhesion or consolidation if a preexisting attachment to or interest in Judaism is assumed. Using Rambo’s terms, “reaffiliation” might apply if earlier Jewish affiliation were assumed, and “institutional transition” is relevant but downplays the spiritual or intellectual dimension that appears strong in Judaization. Donald Taylor’s formulation that conversion can be “inward, outward, and awkward”80 resonates with the religious fluidity among seventeenth-century conversos, recognizing that any transition could be seen as inward or outward depending on how one views converso identity, and that the entire situation possesses a certain awkwardness. Historical and anthropological treatments have also acknowledged the incompleteness, gradualness, and messiness of conversion as it takes place in the real world. As one anthropologist put it, “Conversion is a form of passage, a ‘turning from and to’ that is neither syncretism nor absolute breach.”81 The result has been to show that in many or even most cases, even where conversion is understood to have been complete, the convert’s preexisting religious views and cultural background ineluctably alter the religion to which he or she newly adheres. This is evident in the mass conversions of native peoples, both in the Christianization of late antique and early medieval Europe and in the era of European expansion. Referring to the work of Susan Bayly and Eric Sharpe on the Christianization of Germanic peoples, Carole Cusack emphasized “the danger of assuming (as did the old psychological model of conversion) that when a religious change occurs, all that was formerly believed ceased to be.

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The Germanic peoples reinterpreted Christianity in the light of their culture, as indeed all converts do.”82 It is by now generally acknowledged that converts to Christianity, whether Jewish or pagan, reinterpreted their preexisting beliefs and practices in light of their new affiliation, with the effect of creating myriad diverse Christianities.83 Such models as accretion, layering, recognition, and convergence have been accepted as historians have turned their attention to interaction, contact, and diffusion in order to be more inclusive of the experiences of those who were subject to European cultural and religious hegemony.84 In this vein, the history of conversion has become, in the last few decades, associated with coercion—and this is perhaps another dimension of recent Jewish historians’ move away from a sense that conversos “converted” to Judaism. As Kenneth Mills and Anthony Grafton put it, “Religious conversion has been associated with an unyielding form of conquest. . . . Religious conversion is historically attached to the catalog of uncompromising demands made by the powerful upon the vulnerable.”85 Since conversos seem to fit easily into the role of the vulnerable, their movement out of that category—when they unbecome conversos and become Jews—appears as a liberation from oppression, throwing off the superstructure of Christianity that had been imposed from above and returning to a more authentic, original, and self-determined form of religiosity. But consider that the new Jews of Amsterdam did not take up precisely the same Judaism that their ancestors had practiced. Instead, they created a new Judaism, different both from other forms of Judaism and from the syncretic converso religion. If this Judaization is itself a conversion, then the compounding of cultures and perspectives—what Swetschinski calls the formation of a “patchwork culture”86—makes sense as a normal process. Ultimately, recognizing converso “return” as a variety of conversion paves the way for a better understanding of the experiences and religious views of conversos who transitioned to Judaism in this way. An insistence on return leaves the historian embedded in the terms of the period and shuts down any inquiry into the new Jewish outlook by collapsing it into narratives of remembering, forgetting, and doubleness. In contrast, as conversion it can be subjected to analysis along the lines of gendered, legal, and political hegemony; of syncretism, acculturation, and colonization; and of determinative social and psychological factors. A phenomenon that has been treated reverently as exceptional, problematic, and even miraculous is brought to earth and seen as one example of a wider phenomenon.

Chapter 8

The Persuasive Path Giulio Morosini’s Derekh Emunah as a Conversion Narrative M ic h e l a a n d r e aT Ta

As we watched the drama, our penetrating gaze entered the turbulent inner world of motives—and yet it seemed to us as if this were only an allegorical image which was passing before us, whose most profound meaning we almost believed we had guessed, and which we wished to pull back like a curtain, in order to catch sight of the original image behind. —Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy

Since the 1980s, scholars of conversion have challenged the paradigms traditionally used to describe the turn from one set of religious beliefs to another, demonstrating that no single definition can account for a phenomenon that may take several different forms, as variegated as the richly complex anthropological, sociological, and psychological experiences underlying it. Contextually, “conversion narratives,” both as confessional and autobiographical descriptions of the existential or spiritual experience underlying the

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turn and as discourses conceptualizing the individual’s new role in the adopted religion, have been recognized as the ways in which people articulate their conversion experiences in all sorts of contexts. Consequently, they can be deployed across literary genres and in the most disparate types of texts, including spiritual autobiographies, devotional treatises, religious polemics, proceedings of inquisitorial trials, and belles lettres.1 Recent scholarship has also challenged the traditional view of conversion as a historical, observable event that is referred to in the conversion narrative, though there is nevertheless general agreement on the phenomenological nature of the narrative itself and its significance as evidence to the researcher. This means that, although scholars obviously have no direct access to the original event, the conversion narrative still allows study of the underlying experience, as we assume that the convert’s account contains descriptions of some of the aspects of it. Certainly, one needs to exercise special caution when making inferences about events the conversion story presumably depicts and the possibility that those events happened in the way the narrator claims. An awareness of these concerns has led scholars to recognize conversion narratives as offering an “hermeneutics of conversion,”2 rather than a historical account of it, and consequently as fictionalized (though not necessarily untrue) stories in which the convert labels his or her experience and gives coherence to it through a process of constructing (and construing) selfunderstanding. Such an approach, by definition, requires consideration of the complex issue of the relationship between language and experience: by using language that shapes the narrated experience while it relates it, the narrator formulates a representation of the process he or she went through, an operation of self-explication that has both psychological and social dimensions.3 A conversion narrative can offer a means of creating an allegory of the individual’s personal transformation, or it can enable the construction of a “new” identity and legitimize it by referring to a prevailing form of social authority; at the same time, it can respond to a host of motives and aims besides (or other than) the shaping of the religious self, and it can be designed, for example, to convert others, or as a declaration of religious allegiance to the adoptive religious group, rather than as a polemical argument against former coreligionists. In this respect, the conversionist manual Derekh Emunah (Path of faith) written by the Jewish convert to Catholicism Giulio Morosini4 offers a remarkable example of what constitutes a conversion narrative and how problematic its relation to the original conversion event can be, while at the same


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time illustrating how the form itself can expand well beyond the purely confessional or autobiographical genre. Published in Rome in 1683, Derekh Emunah is a ponderous work, amounting to about 1,500 pages, whose bulk consists of a detailed description of Jewish customs intended for the use of Catholic preachers and missionaries to the Jews, as well as for the general audience, since, according to the author, “there is no one who does not deal with the Jews, [so that] everyone will have the opportunity to converse with them being informed of their things.”5 The author spent his first years under the name Samuel ben David Nahmias (or Namias, according to the Italian spelling), in the Ghetto Vecchio of Venice, and was subsequently baptized in December 1649, at the age of about thirty-seven, in the Venetian Church of Saint Tomà.6 Little is known from documentary sources about his life before conversion. On the basis of the details recorded during a few inquisitorial trials in which Morosini participated as a Hebrew expert or witness,7 and from other evidence surviving in the Venetian archives, we know that he was in fact born in Venice (and not in Salonika, as often reported) sometime around 1612; that his family belonged to the Levantine nation and engaged in maritime commerce;8 that he had been living continuously in Venice until 1631, when, because of the plague then ravaging the lagoon, he and his cousin Isaac had moved to Ragusa for two years;9 and that, before leaving the city, he had married a cousin named Letizia,10 who then bore him at least two children.11 Once he stepped into the efficient mechanism of state conversion in Venice,12 Morosini seems to have had the career that was typical of welleducated and, in the eyes of the church, particularly promising neophytes. As was customary, he took the family name of the Venetian nobleman who had sponsored his conversion and financially supported him before and after he received baptism, the procurator of Saint Mark, Angelo Morosini. He had not come to the baptismal font by himself but, as was often the case, with other members of his family, specifically his brother Joseph and the young David, one of Giulio Morosini’s sons, who would be christened as Angelo. His wife, Letizia, had remained Jewish, a circumstance that was to be the cause of a long civil litigation over her dowry and that Morosini would later polemically blame on the malicious influence of his former father-in-law and the entire Jewish community of Venice.13 During the first decade after his conversion, Morosini apparently lived most of the time in Venice and was still associated with the local House of the Catechumens, from which he also received financial support.14

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It was probably not until the beginning of the 1560s that Morosini first reached Rome.15 There he gravitated to the circles of the Vatican Library and the Collegio dei Neofiti, where he filled different posts. Stipends in return for his ser vice as a Hebrew expert (scrittore di ebraico) at the Vatican Library began in 1671, though the official appointment dated back to 1668, when he was summoned to replace Giovambattista Jona, a Jewish convert and formerly a rabbi from Safed who had served in that position from 1638 until his death.16 Jona’s work on the textual variants in the Targumim on the Torah, left unfinished because of his death, was completed by Morosini and is his only other surviving work besides Derekh Emunah.17 In Rome, Morosini probably started to attend to the composition of his conversionist manual, a work that he saw as the climax of his career in the adoptive faith and to which he would owe his mainly posthumous fame. This book has been quoted often, particularly because of the extensive information it provides on contemporary Jewish customs (Cecil Roth famously described it as “extraordinarily replete with information for the reconstruction of the social history of the Ghetto in his [i.e., Morosini’s] day”),18 but it still awaits a systematic examination. Similarly, still to be investigated is the book’s reception among both Christians and Jews,19 as well as its actual utilization as a “conversion handbook” by those in charge of preaching to the Jews or of instructing catechumens of Jewish descent. In my analysis, I propose a more contextualized and methodologically informed discussion of the parts of Morosini’s Derekh Emunah that constitute a conversion narrative—that is, those passages in which the author tells his personal story, from his reconstruction of the reasons that brought him to convert to scattered autobiographical references to his past life as a Jew, from the panegyric on Catholic institutions and their leaders to a sketch of the uncommon history of his family. I will address Morosini’s conversion narrative not only, or even primarily, as an account of actual events but rather as a confessional writing that offers the author an opportunity to celebrate and reaffirm the dual effect of his conversion—that is, the awakening to what he identifies as the true faith and the consequent spiritual and material transformation of his life. My primary goal here is not to search for the historical reality beyond Morosini’s account but rather to look at the text itself to see how the narrator retrospectively reshaped his conversion through language. By discussing the author’s self-representation (or self-explication), I will also show how he construed his experience through narration with reference to a set of social values and shared cultural practices characteristic of his age.


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By discussing those parts of Derekh Emunah that constitute a conversion narrative, I will also offer a contextualized reappraisal of Morosini’s personality—as it emerges from his work—that attempts to avoid the pitfalls of interpreting ideologically charged literary materials of a confessional or autobiographical nature. I am particularly referring to the risk, on the one hand, of overestimating Morosini’s prejudicial attitude toward his former coreligionists as the primary readership for the book, an approach that, while blurring the contours of Morosini’s humanity and consequently undermining his credibility as an author, also tends to reduce the convert’s psychology to a sort of typified hostility of the neophyte toward his former self. On the other hand, the second risk, only apparently antithetical to the previous one, lies in the temptation to attribute to Morosini’s diffuse and vivid description of the Jewish world in which he used to live a sort of nostalgic and sentimental quality, implying the existence of an unsettled inner conflict, supposedly the result of an insincere or defective conversion and consequently of a split or divided self. This approach reflects an entirely modern dichotomy, hardly reconcilable with an outlook, such as the early modern one, in which the coexistence in one personality of opposing or even antithetical aspects did not necessarily imply a condition of inner contradiction. In order to avoid the aforementioned risks, the deliberate, delicate process of Morosini’s construction of his own identity as a convert and its literary unfolding in Derekh Emunah will be here understood in the light of contemporary concepts of selfhood and subjectivity and of the question, essentially baroque, of the relationship between appearance and reality. This question found prominent articulation in the predilection (typical of the age) for the interplay between identity concealed and revealed, the real face and the assumed mask, and more generally for dissimulation and simulation, which were a widespread component not only of philosophical and literary culture but also of contemporary piety, religious devotion, and proselytizing zeal.20 At the same time, Morosini’s missionary discourse on conversion (and, by extension, also on Judaism) will be understood in light of the principle of authority characteristic of the age of the Counter-Reformation and of the contemporary use of rhetorical tools to achieve religious persuasion and a universal conformity to the norm. My assumption is that Morosini’s effort to integrate these values and practices (and the system of symbols associated with them) into the autobiographical tale of his conversion also meaningfully reverberated with other aspects of Derekh Emunah, and that this process,

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if correctly understood, can help cast light on the book’s polemical discourse as well.

Double Readership, Double Author The idea of conversion as an ideological undertaking has a long history in Western culture. In early modern Italy, conversion from Judaism to Catholicism involved a social operation typically designed to induct the convert into the prevailing religious and political structure through methods of indoctrination and sometimes coercion.21 Baptism, marking the entrance of the convert into the new order, symbolically sanctioned the shift from one set of beliefs to the other, thus also acknowledging the divide between communities and their conflicting ideologies. As beliefs were grounded in collective agreement and constituted also a social real ity, conversion to Catholicism implied the endorsement of the ideological practices advocated by the adoptive group and consequently also the assumption of its specific discourse. In this respect, Morosini’s conversionist manual allows us to trace the crucial link between language and political and religious power. Indeed, the entire book can be seen as an attempt by the author to conform to the church missionary ideology and to apply it to his own discourse both at the level of his personal history, as retold in the book, and at the level of the apologetic and polemical arguments against Judaism that form the core of the work. This complex operation is performed by Morosini through the use of the communicative strategies of the time—that is, the principles of rhetoric that were taught in schools and religious colleges, and that had achieved a dominant role in the education and public activity of many a religious order, first of all the Jesuits, in whose constitutions they played a central role.22 As a matter of fact, starting from the end of the sixteenth century and then during the seventeenth, the art of persuasion had become a universal cognitive model that was leaving profound marks on cultural, political, and social life.23 In the age of the Counter-Reformation, in a world mired in religious doubt and in which knowledge had become fragmented and subject to uncertainties, rhetoric was now put to the ser vice of Catholic polemical discourse, especially in the aftermath of the Council of Trent.24 The rhetorical canon of ancient Greece and Rome, inherited from the Renaissance, was now instrumental to religious diatribe and theological disputatio


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and sustained the two contiguous domains of sacred oratory and apologetic literature. Significantly, in the first of the two introductions included in Derekh Emunah, when explaining the events that occasioned the manual, Morosini states that he was moved to write the book by his long-lasting effort to convince his former coreligionists to embrace Christianity, certain that he could do with his pen what he used to do with his own voice.25 Morosini is referring here to his activity as a preacher to the Jews, in which he apparently engaged after his move to Rome, possibly in connection with the local Collegio dei Neofiti. Though not a novelty, the use of converts as preachers became an integral component of the missionary policy of the Counter-Reformation church, and it was clearly seen as an effective tool to overcome Jewish stubbornness. Besides, in the effort to convince, the oral and the written word were considered not just connected but rather interdependent.26 And yet, writing Derekh Emunah was apparently not easy. In the same place, Morosini mentions the encouragement he received from a member of the Roman curia and a man of letters to put together “an overall exposition of the rituals of the Jews and their ceremonies for the use of preachers.”27 Thus Morosini embarked—according to him, not without some hesitation—on the composition of the book, initially concentrating on the polemical and apologetic materials that could make it a practical, ready-to-use guide in preaching to the Jews. Only later on was he advised by other friends and colleagues of the opportunity to expand his work into a thorough description of Jewish customs, in the belief that “the curiosity of the topic would also attract literati, since the Jewish ceremonies had not been fully described by anyone else.”28 Those same people also supplied him with bibliographic materials useful for his compilation,29 while others—Morosini mentions Andrea Peschiulli and Giovanni Pastritio in particular30 —actively assisted him in revising and editing the text. From Morosini’s words, it is clear that Derekh Emunah was in some respects a collaborative work in which several people active in the Vatican circles, either scholars in the field of Hebrew or people sharing a “professional” interest in Judaism, participated in a variety of ways. If their requests guided Morosini from the very beginning of the composition, we can legitimately suppose that their remarks substantially influenced his writing at the level of ideology, consequently requiring from him an effort to adjust contents and tone to their expectations, a process that is likely to have approached a form of self-censorship.

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Indeed, the assumption that Morosini himself saw his work as responding to the tenets and ideology of Catholicism, and that the book stood at the apex of the process of the convert’s acceptance and studious adoption of the church’s correlated practices, is supported by the dedication of the work to the cardinals of the two Roman congregations—that is, the Holy Office and the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, the latter sponsoring the publication—with which the book opens. By resorting to the rhetorical technique of maiestas, intended to inspire in the reader an admiration that would make him or her susceptible to proselytization, Morosini describes the book’s dedicatees as “two such brave squadrons of heroes, defenders and promoters of the religion of Christ, who are perpetually on the alert to preserve the purity of the militant Church and endeavor for its expansion, thus making it triumph everywhere.”31 The message conveyed here—which is both political and religious—is clearly designed to inculcate in the reader the admiration of the obedient subject in the presence of a theocratic power. The cardinals are depicted shrouded in pomp, conveying that ideal of perfection and grandeur according to which religious command is a natural and prescribed quality. Notably, Morosini exhorts his dedicatees “to see him as a statue modeled by their incomparable generosity,” since—he claims—truly great souls “like to see the effects of their generosity in those who benefit from it,”32 an open expression of his self-identification with the cardinals and the ideological practices they embody. In Morosini’s view, by receiving him in its bosom, the church has also made him an empowered member of that particular society, a member now actively participating in the conversionist campaign directed at the Jews, to which his book is meant to provide a major contribution. Thus, by addressing the champions of the church, Morosini is not only paying a debt of gratitude (where gratitude is the corollary of institutionalized conversion) but also metonymically asserting the heroic character of his own literary achievement. Here the desire for public legitimization combines with the proud awareness of having been admitted through conversion to a privileged space and accepted into an exclusive and self-aware company of elected souls. By resorting to bombastic rhetoric, Morosini’s dedication reflects the idea of the existence of a differentiated and hierarchical social system divided into “high” and “low” and entailing a strict and binding structure of relations governed by a complex system of rules. Living in a world obsessed with social order and in need of marking class and religious divisions by utilizing


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specific behavioral and linguistic codes, Morosini endorses the idea that different interlocutors called for different modes of communication. That different social strata required different kinds of discourse and different registers had been illustrated by Giovanni Della Casa (1503–56) in his Galateo and in his tractate on the reciprocal duties of potentiores and tenuiores.33 In fact, the necessity for a double register of persuasion, distinguishing between addressees on the basis of the traditional dichotomy between the political and ecclesiastical elites and the uncultured masses, was also strongly advocated for by religious orders, primarily the Jesuits. In this respect, the bilingual title, Derekh Emunah or Via della Fede, that Morosini chose for his conversionist manual can be expected to have deep implications regarding the author’s assumptions and agenda, as identity is always negotiated through language within a particular community.34 The option for a double linguistic medium calls for a double readership—that is, for two different groups of interlocutors— which means that Morosini was from the beginning addressing not only a Catholic readership pursuing instruction in Jewish rituals and customs for conversionist purposes but also his former coreligionists, with whom he shared the common alternative linguistic medium of Hebrew. Hence the presence in the book also of two separate introductions, one addressing “the gracious Christian reader” (“Al Cortese Christiano Lettore”) and the second directed “to the dispersed children of Israel of the present captivity” (“Á i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele della presente cattività”). The first is structured in the form of a lengthy captatio benevolentiae in which Morosini displays deliberate concern for the more specifically literary aspects of the book and the issue of the reception of his work even outside the limited circle of readers for which it was originally meant. In this first introduction, Morosini illustrates the reasons that drove him to undertake the composition of Derekh Emunah35 and recalls the mentally and physically demanding long years spent in writing his book. He also gives vent to his fears at now seeing his work in the public domain and at the mercy of readers and critics, apologizes for any deficiencies or omissions, and instructs the reader in how to use the book for both informative and pleasurable reading. Beyond the obligatory conformity to literary conventions, Morosini’s seems to be well aware of the difficulties and consequences of transforming a literary work from a semiprivate manuscript into a printed book. His concerns also imply the equation, characteristic of the age, of the written word and moral public conduct, and convey the idea that literary expression is a manifestation of the author’s mores and sentiments, with the consequent need

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to achieve an accomplished communicability, which is perceived as the conditio sine qua non for the author to publicly show his individuality and vouch for his own reliability. This also implies that detraction of the book would mean the author’s vilification, and that the extreme effort put into publicly manifesting the self has as its scary and frustrating counterpart the imponderable reception by the audience: It is powerful and very perilous to make one’s own sentiments public, for then one will talk not with a few living persons, but with the entire world, that is to say with innumerable sorts of people, perhaps often contrary, and not just only with the present but also with the future generations. Thus, where one may glance through—out of mercy or conformity of feeling or less capability or simply carelessness—others may stop and notice what displeases them, and making an accurate list of its faults, they condemn the work together with its author. The applause of some is silenced by the disapproval of others, and what is welcome as wisdom by those eager to learn, is rejected as superfluous food by others. . . . If books adorned with the gems of eloquence, and embellished by the embroideries of many a science cannot escape the slating of criticisms, what can I expect, gentle reader, for the present work Path of Faith, as I do not dare place my name among those of the literati; on the contrary, lowering my eyes reverentially, I consider it a great favor if I am just allowed to gather some of the crumbs that are dropped from their tables?36 Morosini continues by stating: If I am not mistaken, the utility of the book is not at all narrow, if not almost universal. Perhaps it will not displease the Jews, as by dealing with their ceremonies it follows a new path that can easily entice them, nor will it be useless, as in it they will find the antidote to their poison. For religious preachers it will be indispensable, as they need to be instructed in what the Jews say and do—for with the Jews they have to discuss from the pulpit concerning the controversies that they raise against them. For the rest of the faithful it will be neither displeasing nor useless, as not only is it worth knowing how such an ancient people, such as the


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Jews, once favored by God and who hold the original of most of the Scriptures, govern themselves and live, but in reading it one will also find several opportunities to understand many passages from the Scriptures, and every one will be confirmed in his Faith.37 The awareness of the role of persuasion in society, and more generally the idea that mastery of the art of rhetoric is a mark of distinction and prestige, a privilege shared by the well-educated elite and an instrument of power,38 also explains Morosini’s profession of his inadequate command of the Italian language (Toscanesimo) in view of his Venetian origins.39 It is not just a question of grammar: in a society in which the forms of communication are as important as the message conveyed, every word has to be deciphered according to a code that identifies the true gentleman and reflects his superior modus vivendi. Consequently, the Jews, who are formally excluded from human society as a result of their stubborn adherence to obsolete beliefs and practices, are seen by Morosini not only as immoral and wicked but also as coarse and unrefined (popolo degli Ebrei rozzo), and hence less sensitive to rhetorically sophisticated persuasion.40 As we might expect, Morosini’s introduction meant for his Jewish readership is written in a rather different tone and style from the one directed to Christians, a circumstance that allows us to discern not only the accuracy of his insight into the “sociological” makeup of his audience but also the degree of his emotional involvement with the intended reader and that, at the same time, further confirms the author’s familiarity with contemporary rhetorical strategies. Indeed, thanks to the popularization of ideas initially developed in Jesuit circles, a more belligerent and solemn idea of religious conversion as the heroic deed of a “holy army” became conventionally used at the level of the official religious discourse, especially with reference to the political implications of missionary activity. At the same time, the pedagogic function of religious conversion was often portrayed as a gentle violence, the result of a shrewd and effective action, particularly when it was aimed at the inferior classes (such as women, children, and, generally speaking, the socalled rudes, or illiterate).41 Morosini’s discourse, while clearly adhering to these same principles, is further complicated by the religious specificity implied in addressing the Jews and by the tension, nurtured by a mixture of competitiveness and disdain, that inevitably originates from the confrontation with his former coreligionists.

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The opening of this second introduction features apparently conciliatory words: Morosini addresses his former coreligionists by calling them “dearest Israelites” (Israeliti carissimi) and in a patronizing tone relates that he wrote the book especially for their benefit, with the hope that it might help them see the errors of their present ways and make the change advised. In his eloquence, softness and sadism are mingled, as exemplified by the continuation of his discourse, in which the apparently caring tone gives way to a skillful and revealing comparison as the author, in an attempt to vouch for his work, resorts to the paradigmatic figure of biblical Joseph: Whoever you are, dearest Israelites, who prepare to read this treatise, whose title is Path of Faith and that has been written to help you mend your ways, before you start to examine it, please dwell on this page in order to understand who the one presenting it to you is. The pause will not be in vain, as I claim that the credit of a book grows or diminishes with that of the name of its author. From the details concerning myself that I am about to disclose, you may reach the conclusion that I did not undertake an effort that is beyond my strength, and thus be even more inclined to go on and look at the contents of the book, or rather arguing other wise, escape the labor of turning so many pages from which you suppose no benefit will derive. Nonetheless, I hope I will make you resolve for the first, rather than the second decision, and declare I will not say things that are not very true, and for the most part common to many of the richest and most famous Jewish communities that are in Christian countries as in the territories oppressed by the Ottomans. Therefore . . . , I will say that I am presently named Giulio Morosini, but if you cannot know me by that name, as once Joseph’s brothers were unable to know him, when they heard his name in the Egyptian language . . .  I will follow the example of that great Patriarch, who in order to be fi nally recognized by them, said: “I am your brother Joseph,” and so I also add that I am, or to express it better, I was, when I used to live among you, Samuel ben Nahmias the son of David.42 By establishing a link between the system of symbols of the Hebrew Bible and his own experience, Morosini’s identification with Joseph reflects


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a literary convention typical of contemporary learned culture, which loved modeling its own experiences on those of the scriptures, as well as on those of classical antiquity, and often even combined the two. By comparing himself to the biblical hero, Morosini alludes to his new religious affiliation by virtue of which his former brethren have become spiritually estranged and are now relegated to a lower status. The affirmation of the social and intellectual superiority that the author is persuaded to have acquired through conversion is clearly intended to build a didactic (and coercive) relationship with his former coreligionists. It also betrays the author’s desire for social revenge against his former community, though his past affiliation is not denied or repudiated, as is implied by the simile constructed on a fraternal image. From the biblical story of Joseph, Morosini borrows another element, besides the brotherly image, capable of adding an even more dramatic flavor to his discourse—that is, the denouement. In fact, when addressing his former brethren, Morosini implies that they cannot “recognize” him, as his identity is disguised behind a new (Christian) name and a different religious affiliation. A second Joseph, he is forced to disclose his original Jewish name in order to make himself identifiable to his former coreligionists and thus be given the credit he deserves. By means of this rhetorical game of substitution, Morosini conveys not only the idea of the transformative power of conversion but also the concept, quintessentially baroque, of personal identity as a mask and a metaphor,43 as his revealing indecision between present and past tense, when disclosing his former Jewish name, seems to indicate. The interplay between identity revealed and disguised, metaphor and meaning, this time governed at the rhetorical level by the concept of contiguity rather than of substitution, is found also in Morosini’s portrait (the only one believed to show his likeness) inserted in Derekh Emunah. A wooden plate engraving, the portrait depicts Morosini as a clergy-like figure dressed in a black robe, with a beard and moustache in the Spanish fashion, and with a skullcap on his head. The image is encircled by a Latin script in which the acquired Christian name of Morosini is followed by the indication of his Jewish name and his provenance and age: “Iulius Maurocenus olim Samuel Nahmias Venetus aetatis suae lxxii anno—MDCLXXXIII.” Functioning as a sort of early modern visiting card, the portrait represents a symbolic and stylized exhibition of the self in line with the predilection, characteristic of the age, for iconic representation; it also well exemplifies the coexistence of a double set of identity values in Morosini’s figure. That the reference to his Jewish ancestry was not simply useful for the didactic purpose of the work

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but rather responded to an authentic need for public recognition and was consequently perceived by Morosini as a sign of distinction is confirmed by the reproduction of the family crest of the Nahmias in the upper part of the frame in which the portrait is encircled.44 At once elegantly moralizing and endowed with an element of heroic decorum, the portrait becomes a laconic and miniaturized visual autobiography, capable of summing up an entire life experience in just one image and its accompanying caption. Its emblematic power is reinforced and at the same time wittily explicated by the Latin motto “Qui fuerim vultu disces ab imagine, Lector. / Qui genio fuerim te mea scripta docentur,” (From this image, o Reader, you learn who I was. / About my talent you learn from my writings) added at the bottom of the page and paradigmatically condensing the eidetic and existential tension between visual representation and written word.45

Unfolding the (Other) Self In the introduction for Jewish readers, Morosini both reveals his double Jewish Christian identity and provides an account of his own conversion. Given the nature and purpose of Derekh Emunah, the placement of his personal story in this section of the book is dictated first of all by propagandistic purposes: by giving public testimony of his own experience, Morosini aims to create a rhetorically persuasive presentation for the reader, grounded in the “factual objectivity” of his personal history, and thus hopefully capable of enticing his former coreligionists to emulate its author and embrace Christianity. At a deeper level, the literary formulation characterizing the conversion narrative, in combination with the autobiographical elements integrated into Morosini’s account, allows us to detect the typical signs of a process of “identity formation.” 46 It also helps us to comprehend how the complex integration of the present self with earlier versions of it, and the resulting selfexplanation by the narrator, is similarly construed in relation to wider common cultural and sociopolitical values. In this respect, we can consider Morosini’s conversion narrative as an allegory in which the narrator places himself on the border between truth and fiction, thus creating a literary metaphor of his own destiny. Even if we assume no conscious intent to deceive, the relationship between Morosini’s conversion story and the original events it depicts is problematic, as the story may very likely reflect a subsequent elaboration that took shape after his conversion. This process may have


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been partly unintentional and partly a conscious attempt to shape an official public image for himself. In any event, it seems that the problematic task of approaching the conversion narrative is, in Morosini’s case, further complicated by a process of intentional hiding behind a mask that eventually leaves the inner self unrepresented and that, moreover, looks like an operation meant to remove the same inner self from any attainable outward representation. Such a peculiar attitude becomes clear if placed in the context of contemporary cultural habits. Scholars have described the early modern period, and particularly the baroque period, as an age in which dissimulation was considered normal and even recommended social conduct for all. Philosophers as well as moralists were apt to believe that a degree of honest dissimulation was justified since it could, at times, help to keep and preserve the value of truth. If no one would publicly endorse outright deceit, spoken and written discourse still had to find ways to preserve truth while disguising it. On the one hand, scholars tend to believe that such convictions emerged from the disorienting and painful understanding of the deceptive and ephemeral appearance of reality characteristic of the age. In a world in which a new cosmology had demolished the old one without being able to fully replace it, truth could be subject to distortion and misinterpretation and, as a consequence, ultimately deferred to the eternal beyond, as the only dimension in which it could permanently and unequivocally manifest itself. On the other hand, scholars have also interpreted dissimulation as a reaction to political absolutism and to the policies of censorship enacted in particular by the Counter-Reformation church, as a consequence of which the spoken and written word became constrained under a mask of inscrutable circumspection.47 While an unprecedented fondness for semantic latency and polysemy as displayed in contemporary literature was turning metaphor into the favorite imagery of the age,48 defense of private intimacy became a common necessity and required individuals to shape a veiled and sophisticated form of communication. Dissimulation thus came to be seen as a defensive wall between individuals and the world, allowing them to tolerate life in a world where, as in a theater, according to the famous statement by Torquato Accetto, “comedies and tragedies are staged every day.” 49 Paradoxically, while individuals tried as much as possible not to commit themselves in their innermost being and found in mental reservation a way to escape authoritarian control, this was also an age that demanded the true intention of the heart, partly because of the sacrament of confession, with which the Counter-Reformation had

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sharpened inner scruples and created introspective instruments.50 As a result of this tension, while the expression of the inner self was encouraged, the forms it could take were strictly circumscribed. In this respect, it is worth noting that Morosini’s account of how he converted is devoid of elements of introspective analysis that would justify its definition as the relation of an intimate journey toward God, nor can it be considered, as Gary Wills, studying Augustine’s Confessions, has proposed, a “spiritual psychodrama.”51 Elements that we would expect from a spiritual confession are here missing or only very briefly referred to: there is no sigh of the soul, no unleashing of strong emotions, no diffuse description of an inner turmoil preceding conversion. General autobiographical elements are stronger than confessional ones, and inner inspection is replaced by the relation—with a clearly ideological connotation—of the external aspects of the convert’s life before and after his conversion. At the same time, Morosini’s account is far from being a chronological record of objective events or an ingenuous factual report. Rather, it has to be taken as a construct of a highly symbolic sort, which also constitutes a process of meticulous selfexplaining and self-representation. Thus, Morosini describes the “historical” circumstances that brought him to embrace Christianity not in terms of an abrupt revolution but rather as a progressive evolution. There is no sudden revelation of the supernatural or the divine, and the reader is confronted with the description of an intellectual process more than an emotional one. His conversion, as Morosini presents it, was the result of a gradually increasing insight in which the move from the immediate Jewish context into the new belief system seems to have been facilitated by encounters and interactions with members of the other faith who possibly functioned as advocates of Christianity. Living among Christians, says Morosini, and continually associating with them, he grew to appreciate the Christian religion and was persuaded of the veracity of Jesus’ divine and messianic nature. In order to explain his adhesion to Catholicism, he resorts to the concept of genio, meaning by this the distinctive and proper character of religions. His resolution, he states, was reinforced by the positive opinion of Christians held by a distinguished rabbi like Leon Modena,52 who had been one of Morosini’s teachers and was famous for his association with non-Jews. The final rupture, according to Morosini, was, however, occasioned by the outcome of a public dispute held in Venice in which two brothers, both descendants of forcibly baptized Jews (one of whom had reverted to Judaism, while the other had remained firm in the Christian religion), publicly debated the


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question of the true interpretation of the prophecy of Daniel regarding the seventy weeks (Dan. 9:24–27). According to Morosini, the arbiter in the dispute was the famous rabbi Simone Luzzatto (1583–1663), who eventually had to recognize that its outcome inclined toward the Christian brother: Here being the appropriate place in which to speak of my conversion, I do not consider it vain to give a thorough account of it, as from that relation it can be acknowledged how God, always longing for our welfare, never ceases to offer us opportunities of repentance. . . .  Know, indeed, that as I used to live, as a great part of you still do, among Christians, and having continuously the opportunity to converse with them, I noted that their customs were more sincere than ours, something I attributed more to the nature [genio] of religions than of the peoples. I was hearing great things about the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, and it seemed to me that they were almost all contained in the foretellings of our prophets. Also, I remembered having heard Leon Modena, who at the time was one of my teachers and a highly esteemed rabbi, praise the goodness of Christians, and feeling myself from time to time in my heart the secret though sharp impulse to embrace that faith. Amidst such sentiments, God wished to make me feel the pull of his divine call once more during a dispute that took place in Venice, between two brothers of Jewish descent, whose native land I will not disclose. One of the two, who used to live under Christian disguise and was one of those whom you call anusim, had secretly left his homeland and arrived in Venice, in 1649, where he publicly declared himself a Jew. Once the other brother learned it, he came to Venice too, having in mind to show his brother his mistake and convince him to return to the Christian faith. Being both very learned, they started to have fierce arguments, until they eventually agreed, on the suggestion of the Christian brother, to submit to the true meaning of Daniel’s prophecy on the seventy weeks, establishing as a condition that the defeated of the two contenders would follow the religion of the winner. Having agreed to this, the unbelieving brother resorted to Rabbi Simone Luzzatto, who was at that time very highly esteemed as a scholar of the Hebrew Scriptures, and trusted by the Christians too for his competency in the sciences and his eloquence, and

The Persuasive Path


begged him to do every thing in his power in order to win such a remarkable soul as the soul of the brother, something to which the rabbi pledged his word. Simone Luzzatto then gave instruction to the main rabbis of his yeshivah asking the most learned among them to study the above passage. When the day established for the debate came, the two antagonists initially fought bravely between themselves before a large public, of which my brother Joseph and I were also part. Knowing that the victory clearly was going to the Christian, Rabbi Luzzatto, who sat at the front and was acting as the judge over the debate, suddenly banged his hands on the table and said: “As you know, the text debated here is a source of perplexity and bewilderment for all the most distinguished rabbis, to the point that they do not know even who they are.” After having said that, he pressed his forefinger to his lips, adding: “Hush, then, and let us close our books, for if we shall keep on speculating over Daniel’s prophecy, we shall have to become Christians, since it cannot be denied that the coming of the Messiah, whose time has already passed, be clearly proved in it; on the question if this is Jesus the Nazarene, I do not wish to speak.” Thus the gathering was ended, as was the devotion for the Jewish sect in my brother and me; hence our common resolution to embrace Christianity.53 Much ink has been spilled in trying to identify the protagonists of this episode,54 and even more in trying to assess the reliability of Morosini’s testimony concerning Luzzatto. Although the possibility that such a dispute really took place cannot be dismissed, it seems that both the situation recounted and the involvement in it of a great authority among contemporary Venetian rabbis are instrumental to Morosini’s apologetic. The image of the arguing brothers echoes the metaphor construed on the figure of the biblical Joseph that Morosini used at the beginning of his exposition in order to describe his new situation, and it seemingly alludes to the old confrontation between the church and the synagogue. The incident, as reported, also provides a precedent for the moralizing epilogue of Morosini’s account, in which he and his brother Joseph, themselves of Iberian and Marrano descent, are represented as unanimously resolving to convert. Furthermore, while the passage from the book of Daniel was traditionally at the center of conversionist polemics between Jews and Christians, boasting the placet of a highly esteemed


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rabbi like Luzzatto for its Christian interpretation was clearly useful for Morosini’s self-confirmation in front of his former coreligionists. In fact, the strategy of trying to show the Jews that the truths of the Christian faith were self-evident in their own texts was not a novelty. What was innovative (though paradoxical to the modern reader) was to claim the endorsement of a contemporary rabbi: through the anecdote, the symbolic victory of the adoptive Christian community over the old Jewish one could be renewed in time and space, supporting the claim for the perennial theological superiority of the church. Moreover, the surrender of Luzzatto the philosopher and eloquent rabbi to Christian argumentations is construed by Morosini as the defining moment in which God intervened in a demonstrable way in his life, and though it is described in rational rather than emotional terms, it shares a sort of ineffable miraculous quality. Following a pattern so often found in conversion narratives since Paul, this would be the extraordinary event that explains the subsequent radical change in Morosini’s life and for which his conversion stands as indisputable evidence. In the light of the prevalent culture of dissimulation, to which I referred earlier, it is worth pointing out that, although central in the economy of the conversion narrative and dramatically captured by Morosini’s prose, the transformational (or supposedly so) event in his life is significantly consigned, eventually, to the imponderable and enigmatic realm of silence, as symbolized by Luzzatto’s allusive gesture.55

Past and Present Following a literary convention common in conversion narratives, Morosini’s account of how he became a Christian is preceded by a chronicle of his life as a Jew. This autobiographical account is neither naive nor casual. Besides emphasizing some aspects of his experience while downplaying or even excising others, Morosini constructs a retrospective narration to explain personal transformation, which obliges the narrator to determine what he was then from the perspective of what he is now.56 Thus, while promising to retrace the story of his life, what Morosini actually offers here is an apologetic of the individual that takes the structure of an exemplum, a sort of hagiography, with the purpose of edification. Through his account, Morosini retrospectively lives out a symbolism designed to represent the transcendent level on which God is seen as already operating in his life before conversion. An example of such a teleological reinterpretation of his past is provided by

The Persuasive Path


the details that Morosini relates concerning the figure of his paternal grandfather, Isaac Nahmias. Isaac had left Spain as a New Christian around the middle of the sixteenth century and moved with his father, David, to the Ottoman Empire, where they both reverted to Judaism. According to Morosini, as a memento of his remarkable existential itinerary, Isaac added to his proper name the Hebrew epithet of ba‘al teshuvah (repentant),57 which he retained for the rest of his life, even after he moved his commercial business to Venice and established himself and his family in the ghetto, a circumstance whose historicity is indeed corroborated by documentary sources.58 By referring to his grandfather’s reversion to Judaism, Morosini introduces the concept of return in his discourse, a circumstance that takes a particular significance in view of early modern Christian interpretations of the phenomenon of conversion. Since the Middle Ages, the idea of conversion as a profound transformation, as a renunciation of the past and the beginning of a new life, had combined with the concept of conversion as a return. Though the idea itself possessed a long history and was already present in early Christian thought,59 it was during the age of the Counter-Reformation that the concept of conversion as return was again placed front and center, especially in the wake of the theological divisions opposing the Roman Church to the Reformed Church, and linked to the concept of tradition “with the comfortable fascination for the ancient and the perennial that was associated to it.” 60 It is clear that the “return” of his forefather assumes special significance for Morosini, as it symbolically prefigures the one he himself would later undertake, which, although reversed in direction, is perceived as similarly marked by a sort of programmatic quest for self-emendation. Morosini’s accurate selection of particular events from his past for retelling and the process by which he attributes significance to the sequence of those events and their arrangement in a plotted structure are well exemplified by his remarks concerning his family’s financial prosperity and liberality, virtues that are now retrospectively seen by the author as a sign of divine intervention in his life. Once the Nahmias had moved to Venice, states Morosini, and built a solid trade business there with connections to the major markets of Europe and the Ottoman Empire, the already high reputation of their commercial house was increased by the exemplary honesty of their conduct in business, toward Jews and non-Jews alike. It was because of the merits of his family, Morosini continues, that he and his brother Joseph could eventually know the grace of illumination and experience the awakening to the true faith. Publicly recognized in the temporal, mundane realm, his


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family’s bona fama (good name) is tied by Morosini to the spiritual and metaphysical one: The credit that this [i.e., my] Household enjoyed was further increased (and I am saying this without boasting) by the approval of all for its integrity, as well as for the liberality that it exercised not only toward coreligionists, but also toward all others without distinction, so that I like to believe that my conversion, as well as that of my brother, to the true Faith was a grace exceeding all our merits, bestowed by the Divine Liberality as a reward for us and our ancestors always having performed deeds of mercy and having been honest toward everyone in the manner that I already described.61 To be correctly understood, Morosini’s remarkable assertion must be inserted into the frame of the narrative construction around which his conversion account revolves, through which, as we have seen, the author creates a retrospective past of his own that is capable of legitimizing his present. Certainly, Morosini’s insistence on his family wealth and prosperity betrays his defensive attitude toward the not uncommon accusation that his conversion might have been motivated by solely materialistic considerations, and possibly also toward widespread prejudices against Iberian merchants. Yet dismissing the apologetic elements in Morosini’s argument as merely contingent would be to ignore the consequential value of conversion as a matter of serious scrutiny. What Morosini actually does here is reread his personal history in a Christian key or, better, give to it what we would call, by borrowing a rhetorical term, a “Christian amplificatio.” In fact, the conscious use of Christian theological categories is evident in Morosini’s interpretation of his personal story as part of the wider design of Divine Providence and as the demonstration of how God bestows his paternal love on his creatures. Conversion is here presented in terms of divine call and human response, posing the idea of a relationship between human and divine agency in salvation that falls within the theological frame of Catholic prevenient grace while at the same time linking it to what Morosini interprets as the destiny of his family. But if Morosini is willing to acknowledge divine grace as already operating in his past life as a Jew, thus allowing him to participate in the sacred history, he is also ready to admit the less edifying aspects of his old self and

The Persuasive Path


make amends for them. Creating a contrast between the erroneous past and the blessed present is a common feature of conversion narratives that is generally meant to legitimize the convert’s new identity by posing a definition ex contrario. A specific category of past errors and misbehaviors seem to be particularly painful for Morosini in his new social and religious identity. Expectedly, several pages of Derekh Emunah deal with the theme of Jewish anti-Christian hatred. Partly based on previous anti-Jewish literature, Morosini assembles an entire repertoire of misbehaviors and crimes, particularly describing the many forms to which, he asserts, the Jews viciously resort to express loathing for Christians and the Christian religion. This catalogue of despicable acts remind us of those recorded in various contemporary inquisitorial proceedings against Jews:62 alleged blasphemous rituals, behavior offensive to Christian symbols or images, and open derision of Christians and Christianity. Here, as frequently elsewhere in the book, Morosini suddenly switches to personal memories, and with the attitude characteristic of a repented sinner, he gives a description of the evildoings of his erring older self: In contempt of our Holy Religion, they [i.e., the Jews] make their Christian servants, maids, and wet nurses do many shameful things, nor do they miss any opportunity to give vent in different measures to their hatred of Christianity. Any Jew knows that this is the plain truth, but will never admit it; on the contrary, they will deny it in order to avoid being molested. But I know it well, as I used to be on friendly terms with the Christians, although I myself never stopped acting as above. In Venice distinguished Jewish merchants are on familiar terms with Christian patricians, to the extent that the latter sometimes leave to the former the keys of their houses or palazzi so that they can go and see the place. Now, I remember (although with utmost pain) that when— before I was enlightened—I happened to go together with several other Jews, we used to stroll through all the rooms by ourselves, without the company of Christians, and whenever in the presence of any religious image reminding of Christ or of Christians, we used to make all the acts of contempt we were able to, with gestures and words, and even spitting on them. And yet, by nature we were pleasant people and of noble spirit, according to the opinion of the Christians, and courteous and discreet, and, as they commonly say, reputed to be gentlemen.63


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Morosini’s account of his conversion, in the introduction for the Jewish reader, ends with the detailed description of his cursus honorum within Christian society since he converted. Triumphantly, Morosini exalts the many favors, both material and spiritual, from which he benefited thanks to those who first sponsored his conversion and later supported him while he was working on Derekh Emunah, thus providing a financial and social net that sustained and comforted him both during his transition from Judaism to Christianity and in his new role at the ser vice of the church. Proud of his accomplishments, Morosini presents himself as the living demonstration of how rewarding the awakening to religious truth can be, since, as he declares, the Jews “should know with what great zeal of Charity the Church cherishes those who take shelter under her wings, no matter their previous beliefs, and especially those of your religion, and mostly among you those whose personal qualities make them for some reason worthy of consideration.” 64 Beyond the compliant adoption of a conventional argument from the church’s propaganda directed at the Jews, one finds in Morosini’s statements the idea of conversion to Catholicism as a way of overcoming what is perceived by the author as the abject condition of the Jews within the Christian social body—that is, their exclusion from the humanum consortium by reason of their obsolete beliefs and extravagant religious practices—an opinion that seems to have played a role in Morosini’s own conversion experience, too. The mention of “personal qualities,” clearly self-referential, seems to express not only an awareness of the special eagerness and effort put forth by the church to entice Jews from well-to-do families or with a higher degree of education to convert but also Morosini’s intimate persuasion that the crossing of religious (and cultural) barriers, implied in the existential circumstances of Jewish converts, makes their contribution utterly distinctive.

Conclusion The “path of faith” alluded to in the title of Morosini’s conversionist manual is supposedly the path from erroneous beliefs to true faith that the author himself undertook when he abandoned Judaism for Christianity, the same itinerary to which he now points his former coreligionists. The typical metaphor for conversion, representing it as a transformative journey, is here proposed as bearing a twofold value—that is, as the outcome of Morosini’s

The Persuasive Path


personal existential reorientation and as an edifying and iconic exemplum that others might hopefully emulate. The stress on faith as truth is meant to assert the author’s reliability not only with regard to his alignment with the adoptive religion but also in view of his own authoritativeness, grounded in his former Jewish identity, to accurately treat the subject of Judaism for missionary purposes. Morosini is thus associating himself with a new kind of anti-Jewish polemics in which authority is based on personal experience and testimony, rather than just on textual criticism.65 In the introduction for the Christian reader, Morosini declares that he intends his book as a public profession of faith, a proud assertion of complete allegiance to the Christian faith, meant to prove to his former coreligionists that, having embraced Christianity, he was also resolved to die in it.66 In the second introduction, directed at Jewish readers, he states that the unrelenting effort he invested in bringing his former coreligionists “into the holy bosom of the Church” since he had converted was meant to make amends for having prevented many of them from becoming Christians when he was still living as a Jew.67 Though conventionally worded, Morosini’s remarks are nevertheless significant, as they give voice to the problematic issue of individual authenticity in conversion and to the delicate dynamics between the old and the new self that characterize religious change, which also make it difficult to define the reality of the turn—let alone the degree of sincerity or its lack—even in the case of those converts who, like him, became apologists and polemicists for their new religion. Apologetic toward his new self and polemical toward the old one, as toward the entire Jewish people, Morosini seems to have definitely internalized the authority of the power structure of which he is now a member—that is, the Roman Catholic Church. As we have seen, Roman Catholicism and its values provide an interpretative frame that allows the author to order his experience and that eventually also shapes his narrative conversion. Through the ideological lens of his adopted faith, Morosini is able to interpret his personal experience as part of the larger story of salvation retold in the Bible and to refer his narrative perspective to some larger principle of meaningfulness and to a higher moral end or purpose. In doing so, he also aligns himself with the traditional uncompromising conviction that religious truth is one and self-evident, a circumstance that justifies the necessity of the missionary effort and therefore of writing a book such as Derekh Emunah. In this respect, Morosini clearly sees himself as metonymically incarnating the historical primacy of the verus Israel over the destitute Jewish people, and as a soldier in the faithful and brave militia of the church,


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which, perfectly in tune with prevalent Catholic ideology, he envisions essentially as a hierarchy, rather than a mystical body. As a conversion narrative, Derekh Emunah gives Morosini the opportunity to display himself as the product of his choices, in both his new and old identity, and in this sense it is a work of self-fashioning. What complicates the coherence of the narrative persona is the multidimensional nature of Morosini’s character. He does not deny the Jewish aspect of his personality but transforms it into an apologetic tool, as is powerfully expressed by his portrait and ultimately also by the bilingual title of the book. In this respect, Derekh Emunah exemplifies, as a sort of Janus, the paradoxical condition of many converts, especially those, like Morosini, who, by virtue of their familiarity with traditional Jewish studies, were recruited to the ideological and missionary enterprise of the Catholic Church. Moreover, a question then arises concerning the inner tension between the totalizing (or expected so) process of what Arthur Darby Nock, in his classic study on conversion in antiquity, defined as the “reorientation of the soul” 68 of the converting individual on the one hand, and the reality of that individual’s participation in the sociopolitical order he or she has embraced on the other, a tension that complicates the outcome of the religious change. In fact, while Catholic institutions were particularly attentive to implement measures to combat religious ambiguity or relapse among neophytes, in no way did conversion guarantee complete acceptance of the new member into the social body of Christianity. For many converts, the choice of Catholicism involved perpetually being labeled former Jews, notwithstanding the ontological consequences of conversion.69 The idea that in spite of the successful completion of the conversion process, which nominally ensured a full assimilation of the convert into the adoptive society, the new member was still the bearer of a distinctive identity and was to be perceived as such had profound social implications and a powerful psychological effect arising from a mixture of expectation and suspicion. Among converts, internalization of such perceptions was common, and it was often articulated as a confirmation of their new religious identity and a proud assertion of the validity and superiority of their choice, a solution allowing the convert to come to terms with social ambivalence and at the same time strengthen his or her faith through commitment to the new ideological referential system. This process sometimes resulted in the assumption of an ostensibly disparaging attitude toward the religious group of origin, or even in the resolve to engage in polemical controversy against it. In this sense, Morosini is no exception. Nevertheless, his

The Persuasive Path


outpourings against his former coreligionists seem to be dictated more by personal grudges and rancor nurtured by the specific circumstances of his departure from the Venetian Jewish community70 than by a completely hostile and ideological fanaticism such as the one that can be found, for example, in a later convert and ferocious anti-Jewish polemicist, Paolo Medici (1671– 1738). In fact, the supercilious, scornful tone that Morosini assumed in his diatribe against his former coreligionists seems to reflect a rigid and somehow conventional adoption of traditional anti-Jewish arguments, and as such it can be seen in part as an extrinsic structure, possibly superimposed, a sort of intellectual mask necessary to his new identity and role. In this respect, while the extent to which Morosini’s discourse on conversion and Judaism reached the missionary and apologetic goals that the author set himself remains an open question, his figure and work pose a fascinating case for the cultural historian, as well as for the scholar of religion, marking a unique shift from traditional anti-Jewish polemic to a sort of philosemitic posture, certainly more tolerant, though perhaps not less insidious.

Chapter 9

“Precious Books” Conversion, Nationality, and the Novel, 1810–2010 S a r a h g r ac oM be

She took out of it a number of elegant Bibles. “Precious books,” she exclaimed as she clasped them to her throbbing bosom. “O, precious books! would I had read you more!” — Osborn W. Trenery Heighway, Leila Ada, the Jewish Convert: An Authentic Memoir Well, the nation-state . . . found the novel. And vice versa: the novel found the nation-state. And being the only symbolic form that could represent it, it became an essential component of our modern culture. —Franco Moretti, The Atlas of the European Novel

Tolle Lege Novels In the film Circumcise Me, comedian Yisrael Campbell traces the initial inspiration for his multiple conversions to Judaism to reading not Exodus but Exodus, not the Bible but a novel.1 Of course, as my first epigraph suggests, conversion has long been associated with “precious books,” from the book of Ruth to Augustine’s Confessions to Maimonides’ responsa. Following the lead of Campbell’s anecdote, in this essay I want to add the novel to the genres

“Precious Books”


of “precious books” pertinent to scholarship of Jewish conversion. For novels— especially during their heyday in Victorian Britain—frequently depicted converts, borrowing from older accounts of conversion and new representational techniques to assess modes of, shifts in, and doubts about conversion. 2 According to Todd Endelman, eighteenth- and nineteenthcentury “English Jews who converted almost never recorded their reasons for doing so.”3 But the fictional Jews in Victorian conversion novels were far more forthcoming. While these novels should not be treated as evidence of real lives, they do provide insight into the cultural context and narrative frameworks through which transformations such as conversion were articulated by writers and absorbed by readers.4 This holds true for both the religious narratives about Jewish converts written by Protestants and the secular narratives about converts from and even to Judaism by Anglo-Jews. For these reasons, nineteenth-century novels can teach us about contemporaneous understandings of conversion, nineteenth-century conversion can teach us about contemporaneous novels, and both can teach us about the entwined, evolving definitions of being Jewish and being English. For narrating conversion inevitably forces one to define exactly what is being converted from and to— and uncovers when such definitions are unstable. Specifically, I propose that turning to novels about “turning” illuminates what I view as two questions central to England in the nineteenth-century, a time of escalating imperialism, immigration, and secularization, questions more closely related than they might seem. First, can conversion ever fully eliminate Jewishness (a term I employ because it best captures the blurring of religion, race, culture, and nation evident in Victorian conceptions of Jews)?5 Second, could the narratives and methods of religious conversion serve as a template for national conversion, for a transformation to Englishness? In foregrounding these questions, I aim to participate in the broader interdisciplinary rethinking of conversion as a phenomenon whose contours extend beyond religion.6 To do so, I track the evolution of the conversion plot from early nineteenth-century novels about Jews becoming Protestant to later novels that repurpose this plot to meet the needs of an increasingly national modernity. The former were largely overlooked until Michael Ragussis’ groundbreaking research in the 1990s, which demonstrated how, between 1790 and 1870, “the ideology of conversion [wa]s located inside the English national (and nationalist) ideology of tolerance.”7 Drawing on this work, in the first section, I examine the tropes and tensions of the religious conversion plot, particularly the way it inadvertently exposes conflicting


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beliefs about the transformability of Jewish souls and the racial fixity of Jewish bodies. In the second section, focused on Anglo-Jewish writer Israel Zangwill, I investigate how late Victorian novels adapt this plot—its narrative structures, its rendering of physical and psychological change, and its ideological conflicts—to simultaneously advocate for and subvert the idea of converting to Englishness. Borrowing conversion fiction’s belief in the transformative power of texts, the late Victorian writers I analyze suggested that, just as bibles could trigger religious conversions, novels could not only depict but possibly trigger national conversions. The shift from bibles to novels is especially appropriate for English conversion narratives about Jews in that it replicates the supersessionary logic of Old to New Testament, a shift frequently enacted within religious conversion itself.8 While the role of reading in Jewish conversion has been previously recognized,9 what the replacement of religious texts with literary ones— and the selfreflexive acknowledgment of this replacement within novels themselves— reveals about changing definitions of Englishness and Jewishness has yet to be fully explored. Finally, in the concluding section, I analyze the recent iteration of the Jewish conversion plot through a close reading of Howard Jacobson’s novel The Finkler Question (2010). Jacobson reverses nineteenth-century precedents by narrating a contemporary English conversion to Jewishness, intensifying the notion in some late Victorian texts that Jewishness possesses greater vitality and cultural authority than Englishness. Yet Jacobson also reflects the persistence of nineteenth-century anx ieties about Jewishness’s fluctuating status as culture, race, religion, and nation, fluctuations that mirror those of Englishness in the Victorian era and our own. As is generally the case with literary history, the genealogy of the conversion plot I trace here lacks neatly delineated chronological and generic boundaries. This is amplified by the fact that the three conceptual categories under investigation—conversion, novel, and nation—are notoriously difficult to define, nor is my aim to do so comprehensively. What links these concepts is that, in the nineteenth century, all were increasingly understood in relation to interiority. First and foremost there was the evangelical attention to faith as an internal condition, a “religion of the heart.” The same period saw growing attention in literature to characters’ inner worlds; now what characters thought as well as did merited sustained narration. Finally, given the logic and logistics of empire, nineteenth-century England saw growing attention to nationality as a state of mind, dependent on what in 1879

“Precious Books”


George Eliot called “common memories and habits of mind” and, almost one hundred years later, Benedict Anderson called an “ imagined community.”10 The texts I examine propose a causal connection between habits of consumption and habits of mind, between one’s books and food and one’s sense of national belonging. These three types of interiority constitute the crossroads at which the conversion plot sits. Because today early nineteenth-century conversion fiction is so rarely read, we risk missing the extent to which later works pass through this intersection. Yet one cannot fully grasp the complex implications of the shift from religious to national conversions without examining the literature in which this shift is rooted. In what follows, I argue that tracking the conversion plot’s evolution helps to elucidate the way English identity was increasingly articulated as a constellation of cultural habits and sensibilities that can be acquired through the same kinds of reading, study, consumption, and internal belief associated with religious conversion. But tracking the conversion plot also elucidates lingering doubts about the efficacy of this national conversion and perhaps, more surprisingly, about Englishness itself.

Plotting Religious Conversion Victorians inhabited a culture suffused with “proselytizing mania,” a phrase tellingly employed by a tract arguing for improved Catholic-Protestant relationships in Ireland, an article criticizing missionary imperialism in India, and an annoyed Jewish character in the conversion novel Judah’s Lion.11 As these references attest, conversion was enmeshed in English political and social life well beyond theology; the idea of conversion was a central way Victorians perceived, narrated, and attempted to control their changing world. While efforts were devoted to converting the “heathens” and anxiety felt about Catholicism’s perceived incursions,12 given their tiny percentage of England’s population, Jews received particular attention. Some felt the shared biblical history created a special bond between “chosen peoples,” Jews and English Protestants, while others were motivated by the longstanding belief in the “restoration of the Jews” as a precursor for the Second Coming. Out of such beliefs grew countless articles, fund-raisers, and institutions such as the London Society for the Promotion of Christianity Among the Jews (founded 1809) and the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among Jews (founded 1842).


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Such conversion efforts failed badly with most actual Jews.13 But they worked wonders with the fictional Jews in conversion narratives. That there is such a thing as conversion fiction might seem surprising: evangelicals were often skeptical about novels and their inherent fictionality. Although now we tend to think of the nineteenth-century novel as esteemed, “classic,” in the early part of the century, what Henry James termed “the old evangelical hostility to the novel” framed the genre’s reception.14 Take the “Spiritual Barometer,” a scale of vice and virtue introduced by the Evangelical Magazine and reprinted elsewhere.15 Here “Love of Novels, &c” came in at an arctic −40 degrees. This placed novel reading as one notch worse than “much wine & spirits,” a strange yet fitting place, considering that critiques of novels often likened them to alcohol in their ability to distract, deceive, and disorder— critiques that indicate a fear of being under the influence of novels.16 And yet, paradoxically, because of this influence, fiction became a pivotal tool for evangelicals to encourage readers to discover or strengthen their faith. Why? What made novels so applicable to narrating conversions? For a variety of historical, technological, and formal reasons, novels were a genre adept at exploring diverse paths of religious transformation, from Pauline epiphanies to gradual transitions to “drift and disaffection.”17 At its most basic level, conversion aligns with the novel because they are premised on the same fundamental question: Can people change? Whether it is the bildungsroman’s investigation of literal and figurative education, the social problem novel’s investigation of state policy’s consequences, or the sensation novel’s investigation of psychological phenomena like amnesia, all ask whether an individual mind can be altered, and if so, how. The genre of the novel is adroit at exploring such changes partly because its length facilitates portraying characters over time, so spiritual alterations can be documented and their permanence tested. The realist novel is also the genre most attuned to a pairing of exterior and interior: with its detailed descriptions of bodies, objects, thoughts, and desires, it attends closely to domestic spaces, physical appearances, and psychological interiority. As Ian Watt explains in his seminal study of the novel, “We get inside [characters’] minds as well as inside their houses.”18 What makes this mix of exteriority and interiority well suited to conversion specifically is that its focus on things, habits, and rituals allowed novels to test whether these could function as markers and instigators of changed identity. Similarly, novelists’ focus on mental states allowed them to test whether professed conversions were internally authentic. Indeed, nineteenth-century British Protestantism’s understanding of faith as an

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inward phenomenon, located in the minds and hearts of regular people, informed and was informed by the nineteenth-century novel’s comparatively new emphasis on the private experience of ordinary individuals.19 Formal techniques such as the use of fictional letters in the epistolary novel, firstperson narrative voice, and the development of free indirect discourse created a sense of accessing characters’ hearts and minds.20 In short, novels were useful precisely because their narrative strategies allowed them not only to describe the exterior but to enter the interiority of characters during the transformative process of conversion, and, in doing so, of readers as well. To exemplify the narration of this transformative process, I turn now to Osborn Heighway’s Leila Ada, the Jewish Convert: An Authentic Memoir. Reprinted multiple times and followed by sequels, Leila Ada was praised as a story about “one of the loveliest and noblest specimens of humanity that has been seen in this the nineteenth century” and “one of the most interesting books of its class to be found in English literature.”21 Despite its title, the “class” of literature to which Leila Ada belongs is not actually “authentic memoir” but conversion fiction.22 As such, it highlights the genre’s conventions and the way these conventions often break down under the weight of competing desires about Jewishness and Englishness. This genre generally depicts an “interesting Jewess” and her path to Protestantism.23 For Leila Ada as for most converts in such texts, this path involves the following stages: discovery of the New Testament, which triggers conversion; abuse by angry family members; illness, death, or exile; and inspirational conversion of friends and relatives. Leila Ada starts out as a beautiful young woman devoted to her father, her English home, and her Jewish faith. But she has always had a “thirst for truth,” and this draws her to the New Testament and away from the “puerile and absurd follies” of the Talmud.24 Victorian Protestant accounts of conversion routinely rested on reading’s ability to transform interiority. Such is the power of the New Testament that, in A Narrative of Lydia M***, Lydia’s sister converts “at the very first perusal of the Gospel.”25 Despite the opposition of relatives and rabbis, Leila Ada likewise adopts Protestantism. At the end of the novel, she even functions as her own conversion society, dispensing New Testaments to her friends and family.26 Thus, as one reviewer noted, Heighway illustrates “the power of . . . the Gospel to convert the heart.”27 But what about the conversion of the body? This is where fiction’s anxieties about genuine conversion, about shedding Jewishness entirely, are made manifest. We can see such anxieties most clearly if we attend to the logic of


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narrative closure. Given that nineteen-year-old Leila Ada has undergone a successful conversion, one might expect the novel to end the way most Victorian novels featuring beautiful, dutiful girls end: with marriage. Instead, soon after her conversion, Leila Ada becomes ill and dies. Illness might seem an odd narrative strategy to promote the appeal of Christianity, but it proves effective. Conversion novels use illness to probe the convert’s honesty, to inspire witnesses (Leila Ada’s father converts after seeing her joyful Christian death), and, finally, to erect a barrier between the convert and her Christian companions without seeming to do so. Illness puts the convert’s new faith to the ultimate test: In the face of death, is she really Christian?28 That one’s own assertions of faith are not enough, that converts must offer what Heighway terms “tangible evidence,” again demonstrates the deep anxiety surrounding conversion. This anxiety, as Ragussis and Endleman have argued, was fueled in part by mistrust of Jewish converts and “crypto-Jews” rooted in British historiography about the Inquisition.29 But a key reason for this apprehension is that evangelical conversion was held to occur in what novelist Amelia Bristow called “the inmost recess of [the] heart”—an area that must be trusted because it cannot be verified.30 Conversion texts employ several strategies to counteract this anxiety, both drawing on and anticipating narrative devices employed by nonreligious fiction to make interiority legible. Among these strategies are authorial truth pledges and authenticity effects like footnotes and appendices. Borrowing from the epistolary novel, which drew on the belief that “letters are the most direct material evidence for the inner life of their writers,”31 Heighway also incorporates fake letters and diaries to offer seemingly unmediated access to Leila Ada’s thoughts. After delving into her journals, poems, and letters, readers could feel as if they knew Leila Ada intimately. Another strategy such works utilize is making interiority legible on the body. For example, when praising Jesus, Leila Ada is described as having a “soft brightness . . . [on] her face like a shadow from the wing of angelic spirit.”32 Similarly, in the novel Julamerk, the “expressive countenance” of one convert “prove[s] how profoundly her soul was interested” in Protestantism.33 In other words, Christianity has become part of converts’ appearance, there for all to see. Yet this strategy runs counter to alternate ways of reading the body, such as phrenology, common at the time. Occurring almost simultaneously with the “proselytizing mania” mentioned earlier was what one phrenologist called “a SEEING MANIA which scrutinizes everybody and every thing.”34 Nadia Valman rightly draws attention to the way that, in

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contrast to the circumcised male body, the Jewish female body does not have “Judaism permanently inscribed” on it.35 Judaism no, but Jewishness? Was conversion fiction untouched by the common belief in the distinctiveness of Jewish bodies?36 The women in conversion fiction are generally described as physically Jewish. In another Heighway novel, Adeline, for instance, the heroine has a legibly Jewish face of the sort that “makes the Jewish woman the most beautiful.” Similarly, another character’s face “proclaimed him beyond a doubt to be a member of the house of Israel.”37 This points to a paradox: How can one have a face that is at once definitively Jewish and recognizably Christian? In other words, when Jews convert, what happens to the physical Jewishness these novels imply exists? Inevitably, the logic of faith-based Christianity that much Victorian Protestantism espoused collides with the logic of physiognomic Jewishness. This collision helps explain why Leila Ada is denied a marriage, the traditional sign of novelistic endorsement. The marriage plot is the most common way that nineteenth-century narratives mediate conflicts both social and national. Yet when the conflicts involve Jews, marriage often becomes not the solution but the problem. The conversion plot ostensibly sets out to enfold Jews into the larger sphere of Protestant Englishness, but as we get closer to the ending, the narrative retreats. Christians might, as Leila Ada declares, “very, very ardently love the Jews,” but Jews are rarely allowed to love them ardently in return.38 Leila Ada, the story of an attractive, eligible, yet Jewish woman, reveals the incompatible, if unstated, desires of many nineteenth-century conversion narratives: to prove the universal appeal of Christianity and to preserve English blood from supposed Jewish corruption. As this makes clear, such conversion fiction recalls England’s long history of anti-Semitic fears about Jews contaminating English bodies and territories.39 In narrative terms, we might see this as a tension between the conversion plot, aligned with religion (beliefs and practices that can be changed), and the marriage plot, aligned with race (bodies that cannot). For a version of the racialized thinking that would become more prominent as the century progressed was evident well beforehand—less grounded in (supposedly) scientific or empirical data, but still focused on the physical qualities and hereditary aspects of Jewishness. I want to be clear that I am not trying to elide early and late Victorian understandings of race or biology, which constitutes a larger scholarly debate.40 But before Darwin, before sciences like ethnology refigured the vocabulary of racial difference, conversion plots implied a residual racial difference in their own way. Not the rhetoric but the narrative of conversion novels


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implies a kind of innate, biological Jewishness that reading or praying can never fully erase.

Plotting National Conversion Although novels such as Leila Ada did not entirely vanish, the number of novels treating religious conversion of Jews was in decline by roughly the 1860s.41 But the conversion plot survived as scaffolding on which later tales of national and cultural transformation were built. In this section I examine the shift to plots in which characters, particularly Jews, employ methods similar to those in religious conversion to “turn” English, plots that retain embedded within them doubts about conversion’s efficacy. Early indicators of the shift from religious to national transformation can actually be seen in some religious conversion fiction. For example, Heighway’s Adeline opens with the unusual declaration that it aims to display the “feeling, and the cultivated intellect—even in matters of general taste—which our Jewish brethren possess; in opposition to a very prevalent belief—vide the Morning Herald—which holds it ‘impossible to elevate a Jew to an Englishman.’ ” 42 Heighway’s language suggests both that at least some Jews have become English already and that to be English depends on “feeling,” “intellect,” and “general taste”: in short, a definition of national belonging predicated on culture and interiority.43 The rhetoric of turning Jews into Englishmen arose frequently in political discourse about Jewish emancipation. For instance, Tory politician Robert Inglis initially rejected emancipation because “a Jew could never be made an Englishman, even though he be born here,” while Whig supporter Thomas Macaulay argued that “till we have carried the experiment farther, we are not entitled to conclude that they cannot be made Englishmen altogether.” 44 Macaulay’s advocacy of Jewish emancipation was part of his overarching investment in a secular nationalism that, as Gauri Viswanathan has persuasively shown, also entailed converting Indians into “deracinated replicas of Englishmen, even while they remained affiliated with their own religious culture.” 45 “It is possible,” Macaulay assured a wary domestic public, “to make natives of this country [India] thoroughly good English scholars,” foreign “in blood and colour, but English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” 46 Indeed, the potential to “make Englishmen” was central to nineteenth-century England’s attempts to manage a growing empire

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abroad and an immigrant population at home partly through a regimen of culture. This was the context in which, as we will see, English writers, politicians, and the general public considered Jewish participation in English civil society through the lens of conversion even after emancipation in 1858. Macaulay’s, Inglis’, and Heighway’s views about whether Jews could be “made” into Englishmen and Englishwomen bring us back to a question with which I opened this essay: Could someone become English through a kind of national conversion? In wrestling with this question, nineteenth-century writers sometimes explicitly used the term conversion for the transformation of national identity they depicted; more often, they borrowed the plot, processes, ideas, and anxieties of conversion to explore this transformation. In doing so, they were generally not implying that national identity required a theological change or spiritual epiphany but rather framing nationality, like religion, as a category of identity reliant on interior beliefs, memories, habits, rituals, and practices— something one could become, inside and out. Some of these texts could also be described as stories of assimilation and its discontents. The two (conversion and assimilation) are not, in my view, mutually exclusive. Like conversion, assimilation raises the question of just what one is “assimilating” to and by what process. But recognizing the influence of and parallels with conversion narratives, tropes, and practices helps us better understand the context in which shifts in national belonging—and the novels that explored them—occurred. Increasingly, novels were thought to function both as texts that could represent conversion to Englishness and as ones that could enact it, inculcating what Macaulay calls “English taste.” The same things that make novels particularly suited to narrating religious conversion—length, description of exteriors, attention to interiority—make them particularly suited to national conversion. After all, Victorian novels have hundreds of pages to reflect and shape Englishness by foregrounding characters’ cultural habits, objects, and “inmost recess[es]” that are least likely to be recorded in other types of documentation but so central to a sense of national belonging. While debates about the novel’s aesthetic stature lingered, as James Eli Adams has shown, “by mid-century the novel had become the dominant cultural form in Britain. . . . More than any other genre it came to define what it meant to be ‘Victorian.’ ” 47 Watt similarly asserts that “the novel’s power over private experience has made it a major formative influence on the expectations and aspirations of the modern consciousness.” 48 This influence was recognized in the nineteenth century itself. For instance, as early as the 1830s,


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novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton articulated the transformative potential of novels in his study England and the English (1833), referring to certain novels “converting the multitude.” 49 Here again Heighway’s Adeline is informative; in the preface, Heighway explains his preference for fiction: “Happily, we are fallen on times when the novel is taking its true position [as] the Aaron’s rod in literature,” a comparison that highlights the way novels have assumed the function of bibles to instruct and inspire.50 In other words, if novels about conversion asked, Can people change? they increasingly also began to ask, Can novels change people? This question, I have argued, was implicit in the belief that conversion fiction had the power to change hearts and minds (one influenced by the long history of literary didacticism). But it becomes explicit in metafictional moments in which novels portray characters who are themselves transformed by reading books. If the novel defined “what it meant to be ‘Victorian,’ ” it did so not just by including characters, places, or habits labeled “English” but by constructing itself as one such essential English habit. Nineteenth-century novels were interested, we might say self-interested, in the power of novels. To illustrate the conversion plot’s shift from religious to national affiliation, consider the following pair of novels: Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone (1868). While neither deals directly with Jewishness, I address them briefly insofar as they elucidate the larger Victorian social shifts and the rise of the novel as self-conscious agent of conversion. Robinson Crusoe is often regarded as the first English novel, one that epitomizes English individualism, capitalism, and nascent imperialism.51 It is also a story predicated on religious conversion: the shipwrecked Robinson discovers a chest containing tobacco and bibles, reads the latter, looks “inwards,” and undergoes a conversion to become a true Christian, a transformation reified when he converts a native he names Friday. The plot of religious conversion is thus located at the heart of English novelistic tradition. The Moonstone, often regarded as the first English detective novel, seems quite different, playful, suspenseful, and undidactic. Yet it too treats questions of conversion. Showing the comparative decline of evangelical power, Collins mocks religious conversion through the hypocritical evangelical character Miss Clack and her religious tracts. Miss Clack’s efforts to get her relatives to convert by reading these tracts, which she calls, in language reminiscent of Leila Ada, her “precious books,” fail miserably (and comically).52 But there is a more important kind of conversion in The Moonstone, one that exemplifies my argument about the shift from one kind of “precious

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book” to another: conversion by novels. One of the story’s main narrators, Gabriel Betteredge, treats Robinson Crusoe as his bible, engaging in bibliomancy (novelomancy?) and citing it chapter and verse. Invoking Defoe while tweaking anxieties about fiction’s intoxicating strength, Betteredge explains, “I have tried that book for years—generally in combination with a pipe of tobacco—and have found it my friend in need in all the necessities of this mortal life.”53 Toward The Moonstone’s conclusion, Betteredge even participates in his own “proselytizing mania”: “Now, sir, do you believe in Robinson Crusoe?” I asked, with a solemnity, suitable to the occasion. “Betteredge!” says Mr Franklin, with equal solemnity, “I’m convinced at last.” He shook hands with me—and I felt that I had converted him.54 Of course, Collins is winking at readers, since Franklin’s conversion is, like so many before it, rather doubtful. Still, it would be a mistake to dismiss this moment as delegitimizing the novel. There is no regret here for the lost authority of the Bible, no desire to return to scripture. Instead, Robinson Crusoe’s status further demonstrates how the novel has replaced the Bible in the plot of conversion, in doing so revealing how pivotal to cultural Englishness novels have become. This Bible-to-novel trajectory can inform our understanding of Victorian representations of Jewish converts, in part by refocusing our attention on what Jewish characters were thought to be converting to. Consider AngloJewish novelist Israel Zangwill’s revision of the religious conversion plot. Zangwill, though once famous, has largely dropped out of the Victorian and Edwardian canon. If he is remembered today, it is generally for his controversial relationship to Zionism or his play The Melting Pot (1908), a sentimental paean to America that also contemplates whether one can convert to a new nationality. But the nation where most of his life occurred, the “ imagined community” his work most often reimagined, was not Israel or America but England. This is most apparent in Children of the Ghetto (1892), his multigenerational tale of Anglo-Jewish modernity. Zangwill diagnoses the central problem of Anglo-Jews as their “yearn[ing] to approximate as much as possible to John Bull without merging in him . . . to be and yet not to be.”55 That last phrase encapsulates the ontological double bind of Anglo-Jews: Can


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they convert to Englishness and still “be”? By alluding to national icon Shakespeare,56 the phrase also registers the influence that the cultural habits of Englishness, especially its books, already had on Zangwill’s thinking about this bind. To narrate this double bind, Zangwill repurposes the conversion plot by frequently connecting it to his Anglo-Jewish characters’ desire to “read and read and read English books” (199). As in conversion fiction, Children of the Ghetto’s heroine, Esther Ansell, is caught reading the New Testament by a shocked relative. But, unlike Leila Ada, Esther remains unconverted by the Christian Bible. Instead, it is the words of “Dickens, . . . George Eliot . . .  Thackeray” (205) that prove transformative. The passage is worth citing at length: Esther led a double life, just as she spoke two tongues. The knowledge that she was a Jewish child, whose people had had a special history, was always at the back of her consciousness; sometimes it was brought to the front by the scoffing rhymes of Christian children, who informed her that they had stuck a piece of pork upon a fork and given it to a member of her race. But far more vividly did she realize that she was an English girl; far keener than her pride in Judas Maccabaeus was her pride in Nelson and Wellington; she rejoiced to find that her ancestors had always beaten the French from the days of Cressy . . . that Alfred the Great was the wisest of kings, and that Englishmen dominated the world and had planted colonies in every corner of it, that the English language was the noblest in the world and men speaking it had invented railway trains, steamships, telegraphs, and every thing worth inventing. Esther absorbed these ideas from the school reading books. The experience of a month will overlay the hereditary bequest of a century. And yet, beneath all, the prepared plate remains most sensitive to the old impressions. (152) There is much to say about this passage’s eloquent expression of Anglo-Jewish identity. But particularly relevant is the way Esther “absorbs” Englishness by reading not bibles but novels, newspapers, and schoolbooks.57 These books are so powerful they allow a child of immigrants to insert herself into English history (“her ancestors” won at Cressy). Through free indirect discourse, the

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literary technique in which an omniscient third-person narrator’s voice is inflected by a character’s, we hear Esther’s praise for the English language and pride in English technological innovations underwriting capitalism and empire. Esther seems a testament to Macaulay’s project of national conversion: her “race” (a term signaling, with typical Victorian ambiguity, a mix of what today would be called race and ethnicity) might be Jewish, but her thoughts assure us that she is “English in taste, in opinions, in morals, and in intellect.” Yet this passage, mirroring Esther’s double consciousness, has a double movement: from Jewishness to Englishness and back to Jewishness. After the cascading phrases of enthusiasm, the passage ends with a somber tone accompanied by the claim that, no matter how many English books one has read, Jewishness lingers “beneath it all.” Envisioning the mind as an etching plate, Zangwill implies that Jewishness is not something that can be erased. In this, he again echoes the religious conversion plot, one in which, as we have seen, a kind of unstated racial Jewishness remains after conversion. Only here this Jewishness is registered with sympathy and nostalgia rather than prejudice. Nevertheless, this passage reveals that Anglo-Jews were also grappling with how much “hereditary bequests” could and should be forgotten in the process of national conversion. Moreover, this passage is significant in its emphasis on how food, like books, can foster, or thwart, national belonging. Esther’s “consciousness” of her Jewishness is awakened by a mere reference to “a piece of pork.” Food plays a prominent role in Children of the Ghetto’s articulation of what constitutes both Englishness and Jewishness. Just as novels inculcate Englishness, food inculcates Jewishness. In fact, Children of the Ghetto prioritizes a Jewishness predicated less on theology or ancestry than on cultural habits and sensibilities, whose rise parallels that of cultural Englishness. For example, Zangwill lovingly describes fried fish (not to be confused with fish and chips) as the “national dish” of Jews. “Charged with memories” and “sacred associations,” food, the novel suggests, is more effective at sustaining Jewishness than ritual or lineage is. “Fried fish,” the narrator declares, “binds AngloJudaea more than all the lip-professions of unity” (115). Zangwill’s emphasis on novels and food as agents of conversion is not anomalous. George du Maurier’s tremendously popu lar transatlantic best seller Trilby provides another compelling example. Written two years after Children of the Ghetto, Trilby depicts conflicting efforts— one Jewish and the other English—to convert its eponymous heroine. The first conversion


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attempt is orchestrated (literally) by Svengali, the brilliant musician and predatory mesmerist whose name has entered our cultural lexicon. Today the label “Svengali” has shed its Jewish implications, but Du Maurier’s Svengali is marked as a Jew from his first appearance. Svengali “converts” the tonedeaf Trilby into Europe’s most dazzling singer and cosmopolitan diva; through the power of his music and mesmerism, he makes her “think his thoughts and wish his wishes—and love him at his bidding” (299). This mesmeric model of conversion, one especially troubling because Trilby does not even know it is occurring, registers the novel’s uneasiness with Jewish influence.58 But it is the second and perhaps less obvious effort to convert Trilby that is especially relevant to this discussion. That effort is led by Little Billee, an English painter and the novel’s hero (though, as I have argued elsewhere, it is his “priceless” “homeopathic dose” of Jewish blood that makes him such a talented artist and that exposes the novel’s anxiety that pure Englishness needs a “dose” of Jewishness59). Little Billee’s attempts to transform Trilby into a good English girl rely on many of the strategies employed in the religious conversion plot. He begins by giving Trilby “English books: Dickens, Thackeray, Walter Scott—which she devoured in the silence of the night . . .  and new worlds were revealed to her. She grew more English every day; and that was a good thing” (64). Later, Trilby is given novels like the “heavenly” David Copperfield— a terms that slyly reinforces the secular sacredness of fiction—which teach “her more of the aspect of English life (the life she loved)” (273). Influenced by this reading, just as in religious conversion fiction, Trilby repents for her sins, undergoes an inner reformation, and begins to change her way of thinking about her own identity; she even begins to look more English (84, 90, 121). The parallels with the religious conversion plot continue at the novel’s conclusion, where this seemingly successful conversion leads not to a happy marriage for Trilby and Little Billee but to death: Trilby, Little Billee, and Svengali all die by the final pages. Trilby’s Englishness is tested by illness much as Leila Ada’s Christianity is: just as Leila Ada’s narrator remarks of his dying heroine, “How beautiful she looked as she peacefully reposed upon the white pillow! Her bright eyes . . . enclosed within their snowy lids,” 60 so too Little Billee’s family finds Trilby “more beautiful in their eyes, in spite of her increasing pallor and emaciation” (266). The more likely to die she is, the more the English characters accept her. Thus, despite their differences of perspective, Du Maurier and Zangwill both recognize a gap between being English on paper and in one’s mind

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and house. Both confirm that Englishmen cannot be “made” purely through political or juridical methods, for acts of Parliament emancipating various groups alter their legal status but not their cultural habits or thoughts. To enact this change, both embrace a kind of “you are what you eat; you are what you read” nationality. This is quite literal in Trilby: just as she “devour[s]” English novels, she begins to devour English food (giving up French food in favor of English is surely the ultimate proof of her commitment to Englishness). In nineteenth-century novels, food and books often function similarly, consumable commodities rich in symbolic value. In an age of empire, immigration, and urbanization, this value is enhanced, Du Maurier and Zangwill further indicate, because books and food can be easily deployed to new locations.61 Whether it is Zangwill’s ode to fried fish, Du Maurier’s praise of “British beef and British beer,” or tea’s ability to “unite the diverse peoples of England,” these products served as portable repositories of cultural Englishness.62 By foregrounding the role of novels and food in conversions to Englishness, Du Maurier and Zangwill anticipate Benedict Anderson’s wellknown argument for the role of novels and newspapers in cementing loyalty to an abstraction—the nation—most of whose members will never meet. And yet, through the doubts they raise about the success of these conversions, they also anticipate a possible critique of Anderson’s argument that novels facilitate the view of the nation as “always a deep, horizontal comradeship.” 63 Alert to inequality in actual nations, Anderson’s analysis occludes how these inequities are repeated, and sometimes shaped, in the pages of novels. Both Du Maurier and Zangwill attest to the lure of this horizontal Englishness but also hint at what we might call its verticality, the idea that some characters might belong to Englishness just a little bit more. This vertical Englishness is stark in Zangwill’s later story “Anglicization” (1907), which offers a similar scenario to Children of the Ghetto, this time through the young protagonist Simon Cohn.64 The story follows Simon’s conversion to Englishness and its consequences; after consuming cultural Englishness, Simon volunteers for the Boer War and becomes an English hero. But he mistakes the completeness of his Englishness, assuming his Jewishness will be no obstacle to marrying the nominally Christian sister of one of his war buddies. When this proves not to be the case, Simon—and the promise of successful conversion to Englishness—is devastated. Simon’s conversion begins, naturally, with the secretive reading of novels: while his father recites Jewish prayers that to Simon are just “empty Oriental


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sounds,” texts devoid of meaning, Simon consumes The Pirates of Pechili, “dexterously concealed in his prayer-book.” Fiction has literally replaced religious texts—that is until Simon’s father burns his favorite book in “an avenging fireplace.” 65 Just as in religious conversion fiction, this family punishment only encourages the potential convert to strengthen his inward commitment to his new identity. On the level of the narrative, too, The Pirates of Pechili cannot be destroyed; instead, it becomes a recurring figure of conversion, resurfacing at key moments of Simon’s Anglicization. For instance, in synagogue Simon appears “a demure son of the Covenant” but “a young Englishman lurked beneath his praying-shawl, even as beneath his prayer-book had lurked ‘The Pirates of Pechili’ ” (65). This description drives home the extent to which Englishness has replaced Christianity as the feared identity to which Jewish youths might “turn.” Whereas Leila Ada’s relatives resisted her Protestantism, Simon’s father resists his Englishness. Again, a work of secular fiction (The Pirates of Pechili) has replaced a work of religion (the prayer book)—taking over its conversionary powers and its place in Simon’s heart. The novel resurfaces again as Simon contemplates his Anglicization in terms that will sound familiar: “From his schooldays he had felt himself a descendant, not of Judas Maccabaeus, but of Nelson and Wellington . . .  mixed with this genuine instinct of devotion to the great cause of country, were stirrings of anticipated adventure . . . heritages of ‘The Pirates of Pechili’ ” (74). This is, notably, almost a word-for-word echo of Esther’s thoughts. As such, it underscores Zangwill’s confidence in reading’s ability to instill national affiliation. The passage’s rhetoric attests to the belief that fiction creates its own lineage (“descendant,” “heritage”), one that seemingly overrides the racial “hereditary bequests” articulated in Children of the Ghetto. Zangwill illustrates the powerful physical and metaphorical portability, as John Plotz puts it, of texts.66 For Simon does not even need to take an actual copy of The Pirates of Pechili with him to South Africa; he has internalized it in his memory. Therefore, Simon’s conversion seems successful; following the religious conversion plot, his inward Englishness is soon matched by an external Englishness; in uniform, he looks “every inch an Anglo-Saxon” (74). But the limits of Anglicization are exposed when Simon is rejected by his fiancée’s father for being Jewish. The story’s heartrending final lines return to The Pirates of Pechili: “He broke into sobs—sobs that tore at his mother’s heart, that were charged with memories of his ancient tears, of the days of pater-

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nal wrath and the rending of ‘The Pirates of Pechili.’ ” Similar to Leila Ada, the marriage and conversion plots collide, leaving the Jewish protagonist outside Englishness’s borders. But whereas in conversion fiction that exile is disguised as a “happy death,” in Zangwill’s work the ambivalence of this position is recognized. In “Anglicization,” the would-be convert does not die; he just wishes to do so: “ ‘Why didn’t a Boer bullet strike me down?’ Then with a swift pang of remorse he raised his contorted face and drew [his mother’s] close against it—their love the one thing saved from Anglicization.” 67 Zangwill mourns for the failure of permanent, accepted conversions to Englishness. But Simon’s tears also register the threat to Jewishness in such conversions. In all his representations of Anglo-Jews, Zangwill represents a vitality and warmth lacking in Englishness. What Children of the Ghetto calls “vivid tints of the East” are endangered by “the uniform of gray of English middle-class life,” intimating that Englishness could use a bit of Jewishness as well (68). In offering these close readings of Zangwill’s work, my aim has been to show his participation in a larger debate about the potentials and pitfalls of national conversion, particularly for Anglo-Jews, and how this national conversion relied partly on novels. Zangwill’s representation of the novel’s role in national conversion calls to mind what postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha has described as the paradigmatic “scenario, played out in the wild and wordless wastes of colonial India, Africa, the Ca ribbean, of the sudden, fortuitous discovery of the English book.” 68 For Bhabha, the encounter with these texts reveals the power of colonial discourse but also its vulnerability to revision by colonial subjects.69 In representing his Jewish characters’ discoveries of English books, Zangwill similarly testifies to Englishness’s power, its ability to transform interiority. But through the writing of his own “English books,” ones full of Jewish characters, Zangwill also resists that power, prodding readers to consider what is lost as well as gained in the process of national conversion.

The Conversion Plot in the Twenty-First Century The modern Anglo-Jewish writer Howard Jacobson might be said to have inherited Zangwill’s ambivalent “bequests.” With its swearing and sex, its references to Gaza and Obama, no one would confuse Jacobson’s Booker Prize–winning Finkler Question with a Victorian novel. Yet Jacobson describes


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himself as the “Jewish Jane Austen,” indebted to George Eliot and Dickens.70 In this essay’s final section, I propose that we might also look to another form of nineteenth-century novel as a precursor to and influence on The Finkler Question. For neither the trappings of twenty-first-century life nor what some reviewers have seen as the novel’s relative plotlessness should obscure the nineteenth-century conversion narrative at its heart.71 Jacobson both echoes and wryly inverts this narrative. The most salient reversal is the direction of conversion, which moves—or tries to—from Englishness to Jewishness. Here, even more than in Zangwill, the process of conversion involves shifts between Jewishness and Englishness rather than Christianity; Anglicanism is taken for granted as Englishness’s default setting yet is largely irrelevant. The novel follows Julian Treslove, a wandering Englishman of sorts, who yearns to become Jewish, even if he cannot quite define what that means. The title captures the novel’s revisionism: Finkler is the last name of Sam Finkler, Julian’s first Jewish friend, his introduction to the mysterious appeal of Jewishness; from childhood on, Julian mentally substitutes “Finkler” for “Jew.” In other words, this is a novel about “the Jewish Question” cheekily reformulated for contemporary culture, a novel whose central question (a recurring one in Jacobson’s work) is just what it means to be an English Jew. Extending Victorian novels’ focus on interiority, most of The Finkler Question consists of Julian’s inner ruminations on this question, presented through free indirect discourse. As the narrative slips in and out of Julianisms, it is not always clear when we are meant to agree with a sentiment or stereotype, which is, as we will see, largely Jacobson’s point. Like the characters, readers are forced to evaluate whether there is such a thing as “thinking Jewishly” and whether that form of thinking can be learned by reading the novel itself.72 The Finkler Question, like its nineteenth-century conversion precursors, approaches such questions in part by testing whether one can stop being Jewish, since Sam Finkler abandons his Judaism and sometimes his Jewishness as he embraces Englishness. But the novel also tests whether one can start being Jewish. The old questions asked about Jews who turn Protestant or English are reversed: Must one inherit Jewishness, or can one convert to it, and, if so, how? Are official sources of authority necessary, or can Jewishness be acquired through Jewish foods, books, or “habits of mind”? As Julian’s son asks, “You can’t just get up one morning and decide you’re a Jew—or can you?” (106). Reading The Finkler Question through the lens of the conversion

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plot sheds light on the novel’s answers to these questions, or rather the elusiveness of such answers. It also helps us understand the way stories of Englishness and Jewishness have been recalibrated in our own cultural moment and yet, deliberately or not, so often echo those of the nineteenth century. Like Children of the Ghetto, Jacobson’s novel is a hybrid of comic riffs, romance, satire, and somber meditation on Jewishness. Naturally, much has changed since Zangwill: Jacobson’s great-great-great-grandchildren of the ghetto now live in Hampstead and St. John’s Wood, eat bacon sandwiches, choose whether to attend synagogue with minimal angst, and feel almost at home in cultural Englishness. Almost. It is the almost that haunts The Finkler Question, which worries about whether one should still worry about antiSemitism. The novel is motivated by larger debates about whether critiques of Israel (whose very existence is another obvious change since Zangwill’s era) are slipping into or facilitating hostility to Jews. The Finkler Question takes these debates on directly in its caustic send-up of a group called ASHamed Jews, cofounded by Sam, who relish what the novel portrays as self-indulgent castigation of Israel. But there are more similarities to Zangwill’s work and the culture of conversion to which it responds than might be initially apparent. In fact, the continued relevance of conversion can be seen in legal and social divides over the Jewish Free School case that occurred while Jacobson was writing, a case that pivoted on who is an authentic convert to Judaism; whether being Jewish is a religious, cultural, or racial identity; and what role the English state possesses in authorizing that identity.73 In its own exploration of such issues, The Finkler Question revisits the tropes of conversion fiction, from the emphasis on transformative texts to the troubling idealization of Jewish women to, above all, the sense that some hazy but potent racial element makes conversion nearly impossible. Although Julian’s fascination with Jewishness originates in his school days, his interest in conversion begins with an unusual mugging that opens the novel: Julian is accosted by a woman who whispers, “You Jew,” though, since Julian is “an unreliable witness to his own life” (82), we are never sure whether these words were really spoken. Played as comedy, the mugging nevertheless serves as our first warning that Jewishness is, so to speak, in the ear of the beholder, a matter of interpretation. But the incident is laden with meaning for Julian, for he wants to believe that he was perceived as Jewish, even that he actually is Jewish. This is because Julian, who works as a celebrity


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double, fittingly a “lookalike for everybody and nobody” (10), is a character in search of an identity. As Sam declares, “You don’t know what you are so you want to be a Jew” (67). Given this everyman appearance and lack of self-definition, Julian can be seen not just as an idiosyncratic individual (though he is that) but as a representative of an anemic modern Englishness. Reversing the pattern of “drift and disaffection,” now it is Englishness that is disaffected and, embodied by Julian, drifts into Jewishness. In fact, the puzzling mugging might be read as representative of Englishness’s lost identity. Just as Julian has had his “watch . . . wallet . . . fountain pen . . . mobile phone and . . . self-respect” taken (108), contemporary England seems to have mislaid its identifying papers, its means of communication (pen, phone), its sense of time, order, and power (watch, wallet). The novel as a whole suggests that twenty-first-century Englishness, economically weakened and without the empire on which its self-identity and conversionary impulses relied, is enervated and uncertain. Like Julian, in the wake of all its losses, it turns to Jewishness to fill an “absence . . . for which [it] didn’t have a word” (10). There are a number of things Jewishness has—or that Julian thinks it has—that Englishness lacks. Raised in the “chill” of Englishness (98), Julian finds in Jews a “vitality” and pleasurable “animal warmth” (225, 83). As this language indicates, he harbors various Victorian assumptions that skirt the line between anti- and philosemitism. He associates Jewishness with a sense of loss and suffering; with a “secret language”; with Godlike “creative force”; with intelligence and music; with the urban and the urbane. In short, this is a new twist on familiar tropes. In Jacobson’s 2010, it is the gentile Englishman who envies the Jew and feels “the old sensation of exclusion” from a club with unwritten rules (83). The irony of this entitled sense of exclusion and the relativity of that “old” may be lost on Julian but not on readers. Sam sums up the turning of the cultural tables: “ There has always been some part of us you have wanted. . . . Now you want to be a Jew. . . . Lots of people want to be Jews” (67). For the contemporary Englishman, the novel intimates, Jewishness is now the solution rather than the problem of the modern identity crisis. As the novel progresses, we learn that Julian has already tried one method of acquiring Jewishness: he has slept with Finkler’s wife, Tyler, whom he romanticizes as the “eternal Finkler woman” (75). The affair illustrates the novel’s ambivalence about Jewishness and conversion, again both echoing and critiquing assumptions underlying the conversion plot. Just as nineteenth-

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century conversion fiction idealized Jewish women in problematic ways, so too does Julian, who “get[s] hot” merely pronouncing the term “Jewess” (122). The only problem is that Tyler is not originally Jewish. As Julian discovers, she converted before her marriage to Sam (decidedly her choice, not his). This revelation immediately undercuts the notion that Jewishness is physically legible—Julian has misread Tyler’s “Jewish” appearance—or static, “eternal.” The converted Tyler embodies the view that to be Jewish is to follow a set of practices and beliefs one can acquire through education and consumption. Tyler explains to Julian that she spent two years “learning how to run a Jewish home, how to be a Jewish mother . . . how to kosher a chicken . . .  what do to in a mikva” (77). Based on this knowledge and commitment, Tyler persuasively argues she is more authentically Jewish than Sam: “I’m the Jew of the two of us even if I was born a Catholic” (78). And yet Tyler’s own comments signify that she has internalized the uncertainty about this acquired Jewishness, the skepticism directed toward converts by Jews and nonJews alike. She knows she was never seen as fully Jewish by Orthodox Jews. But she also doubts whether she counted as fully Jewish even to her own husband. She tells Julian, “I’m not [a Jew]. Except by adoption and hard work” (120). That so much of what the novel values—choice, textual study, dedication—is labeled an “exception” underlines the tensions over who gets to authorize Jewishness. Moreover, just as in Victorian conversion novels, in which the convert’s death proves her new faith to those who never quite accepted it, Tyler also dies young. Her death, further echoing the inspiring endings of nineteenth-century converts, also helps to spark Sam’s reengagement with Jewishness by the novel’s end. The tensions registered in Tyler’s conversion become more palpable as Julian’s own conversion efforts become more determined and more central to the narrative. These efforts again start with his desire for a Jewish woman, Hephzibah Weizenbaum. Not Julian’s usual type of “scrawny Anglo-Saxon cow” (87), Hephzibah attracts him with what he views as her zaftig, funny, nurturing Jewishness. She warns him not to idealize or exoticize that Jewishness by detaching it from her Englishness. (For example, Julian wishes that her terrace look out not over Lord’s Cricket Ground—symbolic location of cultural Englishness74—but rather over the Wailing Wall [160].) But, in his zeal, Julian does not heed the warning. That he thinks of himself as a convert becomes explicit when he describes their relationship as “like a religious conversion . . . [an] experience [of] . . . unfathomable joy” (164). But this time Julian is determined to become more thoroughly Jewish. Unlike


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Tyler, he does not seek the aid of rabbis or religious institutions, which seem to him, and, I would argue, the novel itself, unnecessary for interior transformation. Instead, he follows the familiar Victorian pattern of cultural consumption, seeking transformation through books, food, and habits. For instance, he attempts to study “Jewish books” (192), particularly Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed. In a scene that neatly recalls and inverts the secret reading in conversion fiction and the Pirates of Pechili trope in “Anglicization,” Julian covertly reads a Yiddish dictionary when he is “certain that his sons [a]ren’t looking,” hiding his interest in Jewishness from his family (160). In addition, Julian eagerly consumes Jewish food. There is an epic catalog of Jewish fish—“herrings in red wine, herrings in white wine, herrings in cream” (178)—and descriptions of Hephzibah’s energetic, maternal cooking habits. Although there is a mocking edge to the depiction of Julian’s consumption, the novel as a whole seems most attached to this version of cultural Jewishness. This sense is bolstered by comments Jacobson has made in articles and interviews. For example, he has described his family as “stomach Jews, we were Jewish-joke Jews, we were bagel Jews. We didn’t go to synagogue. I’m frightened of synagogue to this day.”75 Like Zangwill’s “fried fish Jews,” this is a Jewishness predicated on food, texts, and talking. As such, it is a Jewishness Julian seems capable of achieving. Yet, for all of his efforts, Julian never manages a full conversion. He thinks, “ These Finklers!”—an exclamation capturing his admiration verging on resentment—“Here he was. . . . Almost [a Jew] himself. In his heart one, certainly. . . . And yet there still seemed so far to go” (226). His thoughts recall nineteenth-century conversion fiction’s focus on interiority, a religion of the heart, and its sense that conversion can never be complete. Julian finally realizes that “he, Treslove, was no Jew” (289). As one character warns, “Some things cannot be acquired” (191). In other words, The Finkler Question seems to endorse a view of Jewishness grounded in choice and habit but, like nineteenth-century texts before it, falls back on a sense of ethnic or racial belonging. The undertow of doubt that identities can be learned and freely chosen grows stronger at the novel’s conclusion. While Julian fails at being Jewish, Sam fails at leaving it behind. Grappling with the suicide of an old friend (Libor, the novel’s other major Jewish character) and belatedly with Tyler’s death, Sam reconnects with a Jewishness that is no longer grounded in shame or self-aggrandizement. The novel ends with Julian parting from Hephzibah just as she and Sam unite to mourn Libor in proper Jewish fashion. What this means to each is different. But the novel is not

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anxious about these differences, as long as these original Jews are, one way or another, still “thinking Jewishly.” There is a moment that crystallizes The Finkler Question’s humorously serious investigation of modern Jewishness. Julian wonders whether there is a “Jewdar” (Jewish radar) that allows Jews to recognize each other, an extremely contemporary term that nonetheless invokes old dilemmas of Jewish legibility, authenticity, and interiority. In response, Hephzibah—the novel’s most appealing and astute character—struggles to articulate her deep yet elusive sense of Jewishness; she tells Julian it constitutes a mix of “features, facial expression, a way of talking, a way of moving.’ ” Julian asks, “So you’re making racial calculations?” “I wouldn’t call them racial, no.” “Religious?” “No, definitely not religious.” “Then what?” She didn’t know what. (242) Without resorting to genre boosterism, in this essay I have tried to demonstrate why the novel in general— and the plot of conversion in particular—is a literary form especially skilled at exploring the slippery categories of race, religion, and cultural habits mentioned earlier, categories around which Englishness and Jewishness have long revolved. Novels capture both exteriors (through descriptions of physical features, habits, and “way[s] of talking”) and interiors (through dialogues and descriptions of the thought processes associated with such “ didn’t know whats”). They are good, we might say, at investigating uncertainty concretely. While not given to metafiction, The Finkler Question itself implicitly makes this case for novels through its own open-endedness, its willingness to accept that questions about Finklers may not have definitive answers. As Jacobson himself has said, “Here’s the wonder of the novel. The novel is the great fluid form in which all those possibilities flow in and flow out. Nothing is definite, nothing is finished.”76 This assessment holds true for the conversion plot itself, which, after more than two hundred years, remains a compelling, sometimes unsettling, way of wrestling with complex personal and national transformations. Rather than fading out with the rise of secularization or globalization, as we might expect, this plot still frequently structures the narratives told about Jewish


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bodies, Jewish minds, and Jewish belonging. Ultimately, Leila Ada, Trilby, “Anglicization,” and The Finkler Question all serve as reminders that, while fictional converts may not fare well, the plots of conversion—and the debates these plots engender—continue to thrive. By examining these narratives, I hope this essay might also serve as a reminder of why the diverse scholarship on conversion could engage more often and more closely with novels, modernity’s most “precious books.”

Chapter 10

Between European Judaism and British Protestantism in the Early Nineteenth Century e l l io T T ho ro w i T z

From Lemberg to London In 1816 a “Narrative of the Conversion of a Polish Rabbi” appeared in the pages of the recently founded Jewish Expositor and Friend of Israel, published by the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews. Its author, Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon, who had arrived in England some two years earlier, declared at the outset that he would “leave out the particular providences” of his “past life as a Jew outwardly,” except for such minimal details as his 1791 birth in Lemberg (now L’viv), where he was “educated under the care of parents and tutors distinguished for their piety in Judaism, with the view of being a Rabbi.” Accordingly, his “studies were directed more to the Talmud and its innumerable commentators than to the word of God”— by which he meant the Bible. Moreover, “the prejudice against the name of Jesus” had been impressed on his mind “with the deepest profaneness and blasphemy,” though he “never heard who Jesus was, nor what he said concerning himself.” At about his “twentieth year,” Solomon developed a “desire, or rather, curiosity . . . to inquire more particularly about this person, but the church of my country being Roman Catholic, and myself confined in the house in study, all opportunity to gratify my desire failed entirely.”1


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These comments are characteristic of other European-born converts to British Protestantism during the early nineteenth century, some of whom will be discussed in this essay, in that the conversion is seen as a transition not from Jew to Christian but from being a Jew “outwardly” to grasping the true meaning of Jewishness. Furthermore, the lack of unmediated contact with the biblical text is often presented as having served as a hindrance to grasping that meaning, as is the “idolatrous” environment provided by local Catholicism. Arriving in England and reading the New Testament—or even parts of the Hebrew Bible—for the first time are therefore frequently seen as parallel experiences of a providential nature. “In the year 1813,” Solomon continued, “I was directed by the Lord . . .  to leave my country, kindred and my father’s house”—paraphrasing God’s words to Abram (Gen. 12:1)—“and was marvellously directed . . . unto this land, which flows with spiritual milk and honey.” Upon arriving in London, in early May 1814, he visited the Ashkenazi chief rabbi, Solomon Hirschell, who allegedly warned him that a local society had been established “for converting Jews,” thus renewing his earlier curiosity about Christianity. Two years later, Solomon recalled May 17, 1814, as “the day when the Lord favoured [him] with the first sight of the Gospel by St. Matthew in Hebrew.” That volume had recently been published by the London Society, whose complete Hebrew translation of the New Testament was to appear only in 1817. The Hebrew Gospel had been placed in Solomon’s hand, “together with a prayer for spiritual illumination”—which had been translated for him into German—by a person “whom, by the blessing of the Lord, [he had] now reason to call, with reverence and gratitude, ‘[his] father in the Lord Jesus Christ’ in more than one sense.”2 That unnamed person was clearly Lewis Way (1772–1840), who at the time was perhaps the major figure in the London Society, having recently contributed over £10,000. Solomon’s reference to him as his “ father . . . in more than one sense” evidently alluded both to Way’s role in his conversion and to the latter’s subsequent financial support. After studying at Eton and Oxford (Merton), Way had been called to the bar in 1797 and thereafter pursued a successful legal career. Seven years later, an event occurred that suddenly changed his life; an elderly and childless man whom he had befriended died and left him a legacy of £300,000, with the following instruction: “Remember it is a gift through God’s providence, and should be used to the glory of God.” Way soon purchased a large estate in Sussex (Stansted Park), but only in 1811 did he begin to divert his wealth “to the glory of God”

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through the recently founded London Society. It has been asserted, in fact, that “for the next decade and a half the history of the Society is his history.”3 The four months following Solomon’s first encounter with the New Testament were spent partially “in London under a tutor and a part in the country.” 4 The “country” part was clearly spent at Stansted Park, where another Polish-born Jew, later to be known as Erasmus H. Simon, would also spend important reflective time after first encountering the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew—handed to him by Solomon himself. The tutoring in London apparently included Greek and Latin—toward a possible clerical career—and was evidently at Way’s expense. In his memoirs, the Jewishborn Anglican missionary Joseph Wolff (1795–1862) recalled Solomon as having been a “young man of extraordinary talents” whose beard Way had “shaved off” and then “had him instructed in Latin and Greek” before being “ordained Deacon by Dr. Burgess, the Bishop of St. David’s [in Wales].”5 Way had brought both Thomas Burgess (1756–1837), later bishop of Salisbury, and his younger colleague Henry Dudley Ryder (1777–1836), who was bishop of Gloucester between 1815 and 1824, into the London Society as patrons. It is was thus eminently suitable that the former, a graduate of Oxford (Corpus), ordained Solomon—to whom Way later referred as his “eldest child”—as a deacon, and the latter, who had studied at Cambridge (St. John’s) presided over his 1817 ordination as an Anglican priest. Burgess, who was a respected scholar, was known for insisting on Hebrew and Greek literacy among those he ordained, and he had, in fact, composed a number of Hebraic works—including Motives to the Study of Hebrew (1810).6 Solomon’s Greek would later prove particularly valuable when he took on the project of translating the New Testament into Yiddish. Even before that translation was completed, Ryder announced, at the London Society’s tenth anniversary meeting, that “he had never, in the discharge of his duties, laid hands on any man with more pleasure.”7

Bringing the Word of God to the People of the Book By that time, Solomon had departed with Way, who had been ordained shortly before him, and a third Anglican divine—Robert Cox, vicar of St. Leonard’s in Bridgnorth (Shropshire)—for eastern Europe on a major missionary journey sponsored by the London Society but clearly underwritten by Way. The aims of that journey—ostensibly more investigative than


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propagative—were, as the society reported, “to investigate the state and opinions of the Jews abroad, with the most probable means of enlightening their minds—to distribute the Hebrew New Testament, wherever they may be found willing to receive it—and to awaken Christians on the Continent to the conversion of the Jews.”8 The New Testament to be distributed by the missionaries was the London Society’s own edition, which had begun to appear in 1813 and was completed, as noted earlier, in 1817. Before their departure later that year, one hundred copies of that edition were entrusted to Way, as well as “nearly seven hundred and fifty copies of various portions of the New Testament.”9 Even before the appearance of its complete Hebrew edition, the London Society was able to report with “much pleasure” that “one thousand copies of the Hebrew Gospels and Acts” had been purchased by the British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), “with an intention of sending them to Poland, to be distributed amongst the numerous Israelites resident in that country.”10 The BFBS, which had been founded in 1804, subsequently purchased 456 copies of the London Society’s first full Hebrew edition, as well as “large quantities” of the 1821 and 1828 reprints.11 In many cases, as we shall see, missionaries who represented the London Society abroad also distributed scriptural texts—of both the Old and New Testaments—on behalf of the BFBS. The Bible Society, as it was commonly called, had emerged in the early nineteenth century as an evangelical alternative to the (Anglican) Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and it was dedicated, as Leslie Howsam has noted, “to the circulation of the scriptures, in foreign languages as well as English, to readers who would other wise have gone without.” The omission of commentary in the Hebrew Bibles printed and distributed by the BFBS was an early policy decision linked to its own interdenominational character, without consideration of its utility to proselytizing efforts among the Jews. As Howsam has noted, the new society’s “ fundamental principle” was “the distribution of the scriptures, without note or comment, a rule which the founders hoped would avoid doctrinal disputes between Anglicans and Dissenters.”12 This eventually had consequences for missionizing among the Jews, few of whom, it was to be discovered, had ever seen a Hebrew Bible—or even parts thereof—without traditional commentary. In 1828 the London Society’s two Warsaw-based missionaries, Alexander McCaul (1799–1863), a native of Ireland, and his older—but junior— colleague Ferdinand Wilhelm Becker,

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acknowledged that “the great object of the Society, in distributing their editions of the Old-Testament Scriptures is to draw away the Jews from the Traditions of the Elders, to which they have been in bondage for more than 1800 years; and to bring them back to the pure Word of God, without note or comments, and thereby to the knowledge of God, which is Christ Jesus.”13 The German-born Becker, who had arrived in England only in 1820, was soon afterward—even before his ordination—sent to assist McCaul in Poland, after Solomon’s dramatic defection.14 When, during the following decade, their Jewish-born colleague Ferdinand Christian Ewald (1802–74) arrived in Tunis from Malta, many local Jews expressed interest in the books he had sent over, which included Hebrew Bibles. Some, he reported, “had never before seen the whole Bible” and thought, therefore, that his copies contained “other books . . . which did not belong to the Jewish religion.”15 Other Jews “were very much pleased with the edition of Van der Hooght, because the types are large.” Ewald was referring to one of the recent editions of the Biblia Hebraica—probably that of 1831, which appeared in Leipzig—originally published by the Dutch Hebraist Everardus van der Hooght (1642–1716).16 The Jews of Tunis, we learn from Ewald, preferred the updated versions of Van der Hooght’s Biblia Hebraica, many copies of which had been bought by the BFBS,17 to the one published by the London Society (evidently the two-volume edition of 1812–14), complaining of the latter’s small print. The missionary sought to interest them in the Hebrew New Testament also published by his society, “telling them that this is the book of the Berith Hadascha, which God has promised by Jeremiah (31:31),” and adding “that they would find in the Berith Hadascha (New Covenant) the life and wonders of Jesus, the true Messiah.” This seems to have aroused their curiosity, as Ewald also managed to sell those customers “some copies . . . of the New Testament.”18 After eleven months in Tunis, he had sold all copies of “the small Hebrew Bible, printed by our Society,” which he had brought with him from Malta, and asked for “some hundreds more.” This despite the fact that he had recently received, “through the kindness of the British and Foreign Bible Society[,] . . . upwards of 400 copies” of their larger and more legible Hebrew Bible.19 Already in 1816, the BFBS missionary Robert Pinkerton had written from Vitebsk (modern Vitsyebsk, White Russia) that “a wide door is opened for circulating the holy scriptures of both the Old and New Testament among the numerous Jews” of the region, “many of whom,” he claimed, “seem well inclined towards Christianity.” The Scottish-born missionary reported that


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“the twenty copies of the first two gospels, in Hebrew,” which he had brought with him from Berlin, “were presented to Jews,” and “always received with joy.” He was “fully of the opinion,” moreover, “that the very circumstance of their being in the Hebrew language will gain them a perusal among the learned Jews in every country, where no writing on the subject of Christianity, in any other form, would be attended to.” During the summer of 1818, Pinkerton reported, from the same region, having “distributed about seventy copies of the Hebrew New Testament among the Jews,” adding that he could have “given away many of hundreds of copies more” had he possessed them.20 Pinkerton explained to the secretaries of the BFBS his method of deciding how to distribute those “precious” copies of the recently completed Hebrew New Testament—of which, as noted earlier, his society had purchased fewer than five hundred. “In general, I first examined the person who made application for a copy . . . by making him translate for me [into Yiddish?] a few verses of the fifth chapter of St. Matthew [the Sermon on the Mount], the first chapter of St. John, or the first chapter of the Hebrews; and when I found that he understood what he read, then I bestowed the precious gift.” Some of the Jews, Pinkerton added, “offered money for the copies.” In the town of “Borisoff ” (probably Borisov, current Barysaw, near Minsk), a Jew “who had been in possession of a Hebrew Testament for some months” before his arrival told him “that neither they nor their fathers had ever read those things before.” In summary, Pinkerton wrote, “nothing is so well calculated to remove the prejudices of the Jews against our religion, as enabling them to understand it in its genuine purity and simplicity.”21 The Borisoff Jew had evidently received his Hebrew Testament from Pinkerton’s Anglican colleagues Solomon and Way, who had visited the Jewish communities between Smolensk and Minsk during the late winter and spring of 1818 after Way, who would soon return to England, arranged for Solomon to receive a letter of protection from Prince Alexei Golytsin (a.k.a. Gallitzin), Czar Alexander’s “Minister of Religion and National Civilization.” The letter, issued through the authority entrusted to Gallitzin “by his Imperial Majesty,” called on “all local authorities, ecclesiastical and secular,” to afford Solomon, “as a preacher of the word of God among the Hebrews, every protection, defence, and all possible assistance.”22 In late July 1818, by which time Way had left for England, Solomon wrote to the London Society from Saint Petersburg summarizing their activities before his colleague’s departure. Before arriving in Minsk, they had stopped at “Barrissoo,” where the “Rabbin . . . in particular came to see us . . . on a Saturday, and thanked us

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heartily for a copy of the Hebrew Testament.” In Minsk itself, “about two hundred of the choicest and most respectable in the community” came to the missionaries’ inn to hear them speak, “and more than that number of the lower class were kept out” by the local police. Some came, Solomon reported, “even with Hebrew Bibles in their hands.” At the inn, “Mr. Way distributed above twenty Testaments among those who were assembled.” Earlier, in Lyady, a small town in the Vitebsk oblast where the founder of Habad Hasidism had been born, the missionaries were visited by “a venerable elder of the synagogue,” followed by “eight or nine of his brethren.” The elder, Solomon reported, “read the Hebrew Gospels fluently, and observed that this book was entirely new to him, but that it appears to be founded on Moses and the Prophets.” He acknowledged, however, that there was also “a prejudiced Pharisee” among those present who “inveighed loudly against our endeavors.”23 Earlier, Way himself had written (on March 9) from Smolensk, where they visited a “Jewish family of three generations,” the eldest of whom, “a man of ninety, infirm and bedridden, was leaning on a miserable bench reading his Talmud.” The missionaries showed him “the Hebrew New Testament opened at the third [chapter] of St. John,” and the old man, who had formerly been a teacher, “read the whole conversation of Nicodemus [“a man of the Pharisees”] with great energy and feeling.” On the night of their departure from Smolensk, they stayed “at a Jewish inn, where Solomon had a long conversation with five Jews, and left a Testament and [missionary] tracts.”24 Solomon’s own account of the encounter in Smolensk with the old man was somewhat more expansive. He had first gone himself earlier the same morning to the latter’s home, where there were also “eight Israelites assembled together for prayer.” While they were waiting—presumably for a tenth to complete the necessary quorum, not wishing to count the visiting apostate—the old man was “reading in his bed the Talmud, on the subject of Passover.” Way had not known, of course, which portion of the Talmud was being studied when he joined Solomon on his subsequent visit. The latter, however, had immediately recognized that morning “an excellent opportunity for an edifying conversation” with the old man, who “appeared much surprised” at Solomon’s “acquaintance with his Talmud.” This “prepared him as well as the others to listen with attention” while their former coreligionist “endeavored to explain unto them the nature and use of the passover [sic] lamb, and whom it did prefigure.” Here was a clear illustration of the benefits gained by the London Society in having a “native” missionary accompany


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Way to eastern Europe. Solomon’s morning discussion with the old man prepared him for a return visit later that same day “with Mr.  Way, who brought him a New Testament, and pointed out . . . the third chapter of St. John’s Gospel.” Solomon reported similarly that their elderly host read the chapter with “such joy and avidity that he not only shed tears himself, but drew them from our eyes by his interesting countenance.”25 In Mozir, on the way to Zhitomir, Solomon “conversed . . . for a considerable time” on theological subjects with the local rabbi, whom he described as “an intelligent old gentleman . . . comparatively free of that bigotry and assuming sanctity” commonly to be found “amongst all of his reverend brethren.” Although there were some other Jews present, the rabbi “did not scruple to receive a copy of the Hebrew Testament in their presence.” Consequently, “many of them came to our inn, and asked for more copies for their private perusal.” In “compliance with their request,” the missionaries “left five exemplars among them.” Particularly striking, however— and “peculiarly gratifying” to Solomon—was the “extreme eagerness” among the recipients to examine those copies, “for no sooner had they obtained the books, than they hastened to their homes, and set about reading.” Moreover, “not content with the mere indulgence of empty curiousity,” Solomon reported, “some of them returned in about the space of two hours with the Testaments in their hands,” and when they found him in the market, they “pointed out some passages they conceived objectionable, and others, which they said, were above their comprehension.” From Zhitomir, where they were advised “to desist at present” from missionizing among the local Jews “as they were particularly prejudiced against the Christian religion,” the missionaries continued to Kiev, where, Solomon reported, “the rabbin himself, a very aged man, conversed with us freely and received the New Testament.” This despite the “afflicting state of mind he was in on account of his young daughter,” who had recently “confessed herself a convert to the Christian religion and was baptized in the Russian church.”26

The London Society’s Yiddish New Testament Despite his relative success, with his gentile colleague, in distributing Hebrew New Testaments among the Jews of eastern Europe, Solomon made a special plea, in his 1818 report to the London Society, for a Yiddish version to be printed and distributed. “I hear you are printing off another edition of

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the Hebrew Testament,” he wrote in late July of that year, “pray let your committee remember that an edition of a Jewish-German Testament is indispensably requisite.” Solomon had presumably heard this from the recently departed Way, who probably also told him of the plan to print a German translation in Hebrew letters. “Should you print Luther’s translation merely with Jewish German [“Rashi”] types,” the former warned, “it will be of use only in Germany.”27 Nonetheless, in its tenth report, published the following year, the London Society reported its decision “to print an edition of Luther’s German New Testament, in the Rabbinical or German Hebrew character, for the benefit of such of the Jews, inhabiting Germany, Poland, and the neighboring countries, as do not understand the Biblical Hebrew.”28 Solomon, in his 1818 report, stressed that “in Poland the unlearned Jews, and the women, have a totally different dialect peculiar to themselves, and will in no wise be able to understand Luther’s language, which is pure German.” As he well knew, several Yiddish editions of the New Testament and parts thereof had already been published, including Christian Moller’s 1700 translation of the entire work, 29 but these may not have been appropriate for the unlearned Jews of nineteenth-century eastern Europe. Solomon had apparently discussed this matter in person with his BFBS colleague Pinkerton. “Should Mr. Pinkerton not find the copy he talked of at Berlin,” he promised his London superiors, “I shall as soon as I am settled, commence a translation of the Gospels.” Solomon’s model would be the Yiddish “translation of the Old Testament in the language which is . . . revered among the Polish Jews,” which was, “in a measure,” his own “native language,” and he hoped to find “some Polish Jew” to assist him.30 Some three years later, at the London Society’s thirteenth annual meeting, it was unanimously resolved “that the translation of the New Testament into the Judaeo-Polish language, by the Rev. B. N. Solomon, his recent ordination as a priest by one of our Right Rev. Patrons [the bishop of Gloucester] . . . and the intended exercise of his ministry among his Polish Brethren . . . are to be thankfully received as tokens of good, and evidences of the divine blessing on the labours of this Society.” In its report for 1821, the London Society announced that Solomon’s “undertaking has been completed”—in fact, the first edition appeared in 1820—and that it was “in contemplation to prepare an edition of the Old Testament in the same language, should funds be supplied for the purpose.” It is not clear, however, who the society thought might prepare that edition, since, as it also announced on that occasion, “Mr. Solomon is now preparing to return to Poland, accompanied


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by Mr. Alexander M’Caul, a graduate of the university of Dublin,” who was then studying at the society’s seminary in Stansted.31 As we shall see, although McCaul did indeed travel to Poland, where he remained for several years, he did so without his senior colleague Solomon. The latter’s Yiddish translation of the New Testament did make its way, however, to eastern Eu rope. In 1822, when another Jewish-born missionary affiliated with the London Society, Johann Christian Moritz (1786–1864), traveled there, he carried with him not only Hebrew New Testaments but also copies in what he called “Polish-Hebrew.” Writing from Zhitomir, where Solomon and Way had previously been warned that the local Jews “were particularly prejudiced against the Christian religion,” Moritz reported with considerable enthusiasm— and perhaps with some exaggeration—that “at least eighT hundred Jews, of all ages,” had come to see him, including “all the Jewish Schoolmasters of the place, and the greater part of the youths that study the Talmud in the Beth Hamedrash.” He distributed among them “1000 Hebrew and 200 Polish-Hebrew Tracts, and 59 New Testaments in these languages.”32 In its fourteenth annual report, the London Society reported that it had, during the year 1822, circulated 2,459 Hebrew Testaments, slightly more in “Judeo-Polish” but only 892 in “German Hebrew.” Two years later, the number of New Testaments issued in Hebrew and Judeo-German fell to only 1,497 and 341 respectively, but the number in “Judeo-Polish” increased to 2,634, so that more copies were distributed by the London Society in Yiddish—in both Britain and Europe—than in the other two Jewish languages combined. Beyond those copies entrusted to its own missionaries, 200 “Judeo-Polish Testaments” were also purchased by the BFBS, which had printed 300 of its own, for distribution in Europe by the Prussian Bible Society.33 Clearly Solomon’s Yiddish New Testament had proved to be a great success, but by the time those thousands of copies were circulated, he himself was no longer affiliated with the missionary society that had published them—nor was he any longer a missionary at all.

“Strong, Very Strong Reasons” In its report for 1822, the London Society acknowledged that “the Rev. B. N. Solomon, having completed his translation of the New Testament into the Polish-Hebrew, was about to return to Poland, to exercise his ministry

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amongst the numerous Jews in that country.”34 Solomon did indeed depart with McCaul, as had been planned, and they traveled together to Holland, as had also been planned. In early June 1821 Solomon reported to the society on his activities in Amsterdam, where he had preached in the local “Episcopal Chapel to a good congregation, among whom were seen about seven or eight Jews,” and discovered in the city’s Jewish quarter “three or four houses” in which “various tracts of our Society” could be found. The tracts, he further noted, appeared to have been “read through,” for “when a Jew peruses a pamphlet he will generally leave such marks . . . as would convince you at once that he did not allow it to lay idle on his shelf.” Those missionary tracts may well have included one authored by Solomon himself, which had recently been translated into Dutch as Aanspraak aan de Joden . . . (Amsterdam, 1820).35 From Amsterdam he also asked the London Society to send him “soon 50 copies of the Judeo-Polish Testament to Amsterdam, to try if the common Jews here will understand it.”36 Although Solomon himself had composed that translation, he was evidently unsure as to how well Dutch Jews would understand his Galician Yiddish. Three days after composing that letter, Solomon wrote a briefer one that would change his life, informing the London Society’s resident missionary in Amsterdam, Algernon Thelwall (1795–1863), that he was leaving the city “with the intention not to return again.” He added that “strong, very strong reasons” had brought him to that “determination,” and expressed the hope that his colleague would “manage matters as to do as little harm to the Society as possible.” Solomon’s next written communication, dated June 11, 1821, was sent from Frankfurt to the society’s secretary in London. It began, “You will by this time have heard from Mr. Thelwall, of my departure from Amsterdam—it was an unexpected and perhaps not the most prudent or christian step, but I could not resist it: it was not premeditated, but by an indescribable force I was actually rushed into the determination. . . . I think the step cannot now be possibly taken back, even if my friends and myself were to wish it. You will easily perceive that I did not do it for my interest or advantage whatsoever—I saw clearly the contrary.”37 Solomon expressed his intention to continue to Warsaw, where he planned “to stay for some time,” though he did not say for what purpose. If he did go to Warsaw, McCaul did not find him there.38 “We had hoped and expected,” the London Society soon reported, “that after remaining a short time in Holland, he would have proceeded with his companion, to the destined field of their labors. But in a manner unaccountable to us and


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respecting which we have in vain waited for fuller information, he has, like the companion of Paul and Barnabas of old [John/Mark], turned aside from his work, and relinquished for the present his missionary exertions.”39 It was, nonetheless, assumed that “the consideration of his wife and children had wrought more powerfully” on the missionary’s “mind than his spirits could bear”—evidently because of a previous incident, to which we shall soon return, in which family matters had impinged on Solomon’s missionary activities. The society was assured, moreover, of the unlikelihood of his having “apostacized from that faith which he professed with so much apparent sincerity as to commend him to the regard and affection of all who knew him.” 40 Nothing was said, however, about the possibility of unethical conduct on Solomon’s part. This, however, was hinted at in a letter from the secretary of the society’s Irish Auxiliary, written in November 1821 and subsequently published in the Jewish Expositor. The secretary expressed relief from “the painful suspence of ignorance as to the fate of Mr. Solomon,” adding that while the society’s Irish members “mourn over his defection,” it was still “a matter of consolation” that his defection “has not been attended with any gross act of criminality which would bring reproach upon the cross.” 41 In a subsequent communication, the London Society reiterated that upon arriving in Amsterdam, its two missionaries “immediately engaged in mea sures for the Jews of that city,” but “Mr. Solomon”—as he was now called—“most unexpectedly quitted his companion [McCaul], and his undertaking, without assigning any other reason for so doing, than the sudden impulse of uncontrollable motives.” Solomon, as we have seen, had referred rather to “an indescribable force” by which he had been “rushed into the determination” to defect from his mission. The society, however, expressed even greater confidence that their missionary’s motives “were connected with the circumstances of his wife and children”—who had never embraced the Christian faith. On the basis of a letter he “had accidentally left behind him,” and from local “intelligence” in Poland—probably provided by McCaul—it was now asserted that Solomon had returned to his native Lemberg “and taken one of his children.” Nothing was evidently known about where he had taken that child, or how the former missionary was occupying himself. The society’s central committee nonetheless found it a “matter of consolation, that they have at present no grounds to think” that his defection had “been occasioned by apostacy from the faith of the gospel.” 42 On June 15, 1821, only days after Solomon’s sudden disappearance, his colleague Joseph Wolff, another rabbinically trained Anglican missionary,

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wrote to London from Gibraltar on his way to the Holy Land. Wolff reported that among the “rich and learned” Jews of Sephardic background, he had succeeded in holding missionary discussions and distributing New Testaments, presumably in Hebrew. Subsequently, he “observed them reading it in shops, and in their houses, and arguing about it among themselves.” After distributing both New Testaments and (Hebrew) books of Psalms among the “poor Moorish and Barbary Jews” of North African origin, however, he “met with pieces of the New Testament, and even of the Psalms of David, in the street, burnt and torn in pieces.” Toward the end of his letter, Wolff begged of his correspondent “to press upon the [London] Society, to send to Gibraltar, for twelve months, the Rev. Mr. Solomon,” whom he described as “a man of much solidity, and unquestioned sincerity.” 43 It is curious, nonetheless, that Wolff, who presumably read the society’s reports, believed that Solomon might have been free for assignment to Gibraltar shortly after having departed for Poland. Perhaps he had reason to suspect his colleague’s reluctance to return (again) to his native region. Some four years later Wolff, then in Georgia—where he had traveled by way of Persia—reported in his missionary journal having met in Teflis (Tbilisi) “a Jew, Lorwiez by name, who was convinced of the truth of Christianity by Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon . . . when at Odessa.” Wolff then inscribed the following comment: “I must observe here to the honor of my nation, that I know the reason of Mr. Solomon’s leaving the [London] Society, and I have strong reasons that Mr Solomon has done it for good motives,” adding that had he been in the latter’s “situation,” he “would perhaps have done the same.” Wolff noted also that Solomon was “believed” to be in Moldavia, adding furthermore that he had “likewise strong reasons to believe that he has remained faithful to his saviour.” 44 It is striking that Solomon’s fellow convert was concerned both with the latter’s loyalty to their shared Christian faith and with the honor of their shared nationhood. Nonetheless, he remained quite cryptic as to what Solomon’s “good motives” might have been. When the third volume of Wolff’s Missionary Journal was published during the late 1820s, an Anglican reviewer quoted his comments regarding Solomon, whose divorce “some years since,” he recalled, “was sanctioned by eminent and excellent Christian ministers; yet it always appeared to us wrong, and was very possibly the first step which led to his departure from the Jew’s [sic] Society.” The anonymous reviewer derived some comfort, however, from Wolff’s confidence that “Mr. S has not after all apostatized from the Christian


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faith.” 45 The matter of Solomon’s divorce from his Jewish wife, which had been imposed—as we shall see—by her father, had indeed been discussed by the London Society in its reports of his missionary activities in Europe. Although we know when he was divorced, it is not clear when he was married. In 1816, when the twenty-five-year-old Solomon was proudly presented, with two other recent Jewish converts, at the society’s annual meeting, his marriage was apparently still a secret, as only one of the three—Matthew Michael Joseph, still sporting his “long beard and flowing locks”—was described as having left behind “a wife and children.” 46 Neither were his wife or children included among the “particular providences” of Solomon’s “past life as a Jew outwardly” mentioned in his “Narrative of the Conversion of a Polish Rabbi,” published that same year in the Jewish Expositor. In fact, one suspects that he chose, unlike some other contemporary converts of similar origins, to “leave out” most of those “particular providences” in part to avoid mentioning the Jewish wife and children he had left behind.

Solomon and Simon They were not, however, kept entirely secret, as their existence was known to the future convert Haim (later Erasmus) Simon, who met Solomon in London before the latter’s 1817 departure, with Way and Cox, for Holland and then eastern Europe. In her 1837 Memoir of Erasmus H. Simon, clearly based on autobiographical fragments he had both written and spoken, Simon’s Scottish-born wife, Barbara, reached back not only to her late husband’s early life in Poland but also to the lives of his parents—the learned Haim (who died before Simon’s birth) and the “modest and lovely Michlah.” She also described Simon’s six years as a yeshivah student— during which “every thing calculated to attract or to divert the mind was studiously relinquished and determinedly avoided”—which preceded his four years of academic study in Posen (Poznań).47 Upon the conclusion of those studies, Mrs. Simon wrote, “an extraordinary thirst for historical knowledge, ancient and modern, had awakened in the subject of this Memoir”—whom she had not yet met—“an ardent desire to travel,” especially to Great Britain, “which from a small beginning had attained so much political preeminence.” 48 Its preeminence, moreover, was not only political. Simon’s decision, like that of Solomon before him, to travel to England was made during the decade between Nelson’s 1805 victory at Trafalgar and Wellington’s at Waterloo. When

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each was baptized into the Church of England—Solomon in London and Simon in Rotterdam—they also joined the rampant British Empire. Later, as missionaries for its established religion, they also, in effect, represented it. Mrs. Simon described, at considerable length, the first encounter in London between Solomon, referred to throughout as “S——,” and her late husband—whose eye fell “one day, in a crowded street . . . upon the unobservant countenance of a young compatriot.” Simon’s first thought had been to ignore the recent convert, whose “apostacy was rendered more obvious in having witnessed the sufferings of his young wife, who with her three infant children had been deserted.” On second thought, however, he decided to accost “the playfellow of his earlier days” in order to ask what had induced him “to leave our holy religion for such a one as Christianity,” and to leave his “wife and infants without their natural protector.” 49 Solomon, rather than attempting to defend himself, “took from his pocket the record of the evangelist Matthew, the only portion of . . . the Apostles which had then been translated into Hebrew,” and challenged his former coreligionist to read the “ little book” before concluding that he had “departed from the religion of Moses and the Prophets.” It is clear, then, that this encounter took place sometime between 1813, when the London Society brought out its Hebrew Matthew, and 1817, when the entire New Testament was first published. As to his wife and children, Solomon reportedly replied that his heart was “not alienated” from them, but rather, “in misapprehension of the Truth” that he had embraced, his wife had withdrawn her affections, “and by her [he was] considered as one to be forgotten.” The willingness of Simon’s former coreligionist to abandon his beloved family for the sake of that truth seems to have had as strong an impact on Simon as the Hebrew letters of the Gospel of Matthew that had been shown him. “The characters being those of the holy language,” wrote his wife, “and the demeanor of S——being so altogether affecting,” Solomon’s compatriot “greatly desired to read a little book which could have power to make a heart not without affection, act so out of character.”50 A week later, when the two Polish natives met again, as planned, Simon allegedly said, “Here is your book. I have read it, and can only say that its light is of such a disturbing kind, as to have me often wish that I had never seen it.” His growing respect for the Gospel’s content, however, did not prevent him from continuing to chide Solomon for having involved his “innocent family in the dreadful consequences” of his baptism. The latter, seeing that Simon was also beginning to consider the possibility of conversion,


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introduced him to a “gentleman who had then become conspicuous by the zeal with which he sought to promote Christianity among the Jews.” That gentleman, referred to throughout as “Mr. W——,” was, of course, Solomon’s patron Lewis Way. The two soon arrived at a pact. Way would show Simon “many things” that he had been “in the habit of overlooking in Moses and the Prophets,” and the Polish Jew would teach him Hebrew. Simon agreed to spend the remainder of the summer, which was apparently that of 1816, amid the “tranquilizing quiet of nature’s verdant scenes” at Way’s Sussex estate, referred to as “S——Park.” That decision did not, of course, please the rabbi with whom Simon had been staying, who was a friend of his stepfather’s, and who “lost no time” in informing the latter that Simon was considering conversion to Christianity.51 Over the next nine months, the young Jew wrote “letter after letter” home, hoping to engage “the powerful understanding of his father in an investigation so worthy of his truth-loving mind,” but none of his letters were acknowledged. Simon soon found himself, as he informed Way, in a situation akin to that in which Solomon had earlier been—forced to decide between his family and his faith. “I am not sufficiently fortified by derived strength,” he wrote, “to throw myself out of the bosom of the warm and confiding affection of my own.” At the end of those nine months, Simon sent a fifteenth letter to his father, written “more with tears than ink.” That letter, as his wife later reported, finally succeeded “in touching a heart whose affection was only suppressed.” In his reply, Simon’s stepfather avoided all mention of theological matters, sternly informing his stepson that only by indicating that he was returning home could he atone for “past regardlessness” of filial duty. This was enough of an invitation for Simon, who after a week of deliberation “sailed for Rotterdam with the design of proceeding immediately by the Baltic to Hamburg, and so on to Poland.”52 Before sailing, however, he had formally applied for baptism through Way. We know this not only from Mrs. Simon’s “memoir” but also from Way himself, who was in Rotterdam with his missionary colleagues Cox and Solomon in August 1817 when Simon—who had been in contact with the port city’s Presbyterian preacher James Anderson—finally decided to undergo baptism.53 “Almost the first information we received on our arrival in Rotterdam,” Cox later reported to the London Society, “was that a young Jew, with whom Mr. Way had previously been acquainted,” was about to be baptized. The ceremony was performed by the local “English episcopal minister [Richard John Hay], in the presence of a large congregation.” It was

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preceded, Cox added, by a “preparatory sermon” delivered by Solomon in the morning and followed by Way’s sermon in the evening “to a large and attentive congregation, amongst whom were four or five Jews.”54 In his own account of the ceremony Way, like Cox, made a point of concealing Simon’s name, writing of “——, the Jew who had left——about a year ago, whom Mr. Anderson had patronised here.” That Jew, Way reported, was to have been baptized in Rotterdam’s Scottish Church “the following Sunday [August 24], but finding that he had applied to [Way] for baptism in England,” the Scottish minister “voluntarily gave him up, that he might be baptized [on the preceding Sunday] according to our forms.” Although Way—or the London Society’s editors—took pains to conceal Simon’s surname, no attempt was made to conceal the baptismal name of the formerly Jewish Rotterdam convert “who, in remembrance of the Reformer . . . was called Erasmus.”55 Another curious inconsistency was that although the London Society’s report claimed that “Mr. Way” had “administered that ordinance [of baptism]” to the Jew who became Erasmus, in Mrs. Simon’s account the former, “who had just taken orders,” and whose identity she insisted on hiding under the surreptitious title “Mr. W——,” had merely “expressed a wish that he should administer the ordinance of baptism.” That wish, in her version— based, no doubt, on her husband’s recollections—was deflected by “the Rev. Mr. Hay,” who was unwilling “to authorise the transfer of his official duties as resident representative of the Church of England.” Consequently, Way and the Scottish minister Anderson—who surname, like that of Hay, she felt free to reveal—“stood as witnesses (godfathers),” and “Mr. W——” conferred on Simon the name of Erasmus “at once to identify him with the place in which he had so marvelously been arrested by the immediate power of Almighty Truth” and also, in her telling, “to indicate the obligation under which he lay to become a protestant against contemporary error.”56 One suspects that the bad blood that developed, perhaps as a consequence of that baptismal dispute, between Way and Simon caused the former to conceal the latter’s surname in his report to London, and Mrs. Simon to later conceal that of her husband’s erstwhile host and patron. Way, for his part, was considerably more stirred by the experience of hearing Solomon preach before Simon’s baptismal ceremony than he was by the ceremony itself. He had previously preached at the former’s ordination ceremony, which took place shortly after his own.57 “You may suppose,” he wrote from Rotterdam, “I felt not a little for the first effort of my eldest child, but I assure


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you he delivered himself with so much propriety that I was more than satisfied; and when time and experience have given him full possession of his powers, they will, I doubt not, be owned and blessed to Jew and Gentile.”58 In referring to Solomon as his “eldest child,” Way sought perhaps to contrast him with Simon, his recently baptized younger “ brother,” who might have insisted more forcefully that his spiritual “ father” perform the “ordinance of baptism”—as the London Society actually chose to claim Way had.

From Holland to Germany In both Rotterdam and the Hague, the three Anglican missionaries met not only with local Jews but also with their rabbis. In the latter meetings, the London Society reported, Way “had a peculiarly interesting conversation with the chief Rabbi,” particularly “on the subject of the two great prophetical periods mentioned by . . . Daniel in his ninth and twelfth chapters,” concerning which the rabbi allegedly “expressed himself dissatisfied with the calculations of the Targumists and Rabbins.” During the “whole of the intercourse” between them, the rabbi, it was further reported “shewed the greatest civility, and accepted a copy of the Hebrew New Testament.” The The Hague rabbi’s civil behavior was contrasted with that of his Rotterdam colleague— evidently Elias (Elijah) Casriel (1815–38), who had allegedly declined the Hebrew volume “as an unholy thing.”59 Casriel’s more negative reaction may have been a response to Simon’s very public baptism in Rotterdam. Moving on to Deventer, they encountered, wrote Way, an erudite professor (Jacob Verburg) who, until meeting the English missionaries, had not thought “Jewish conversion of as much importance as Hebrew punctuation.” A Jewish teacher “turned over one of the Hebrew gospels with a scornful look, and said that as it related to a Messiah who was already come, he would have nothing to do with it,” but there was also a Jewish woman who “seemed to hear of a Saviour gladly.” The woman “listened to the things which Solomon said, especially when he acknowledged that he himself had been a Rabbi, and now preached the faith he was once taught to despise.” Crossing over into Germany, the missionaries discovered in Hannover that “numbers in the higher classes” of Jews had recently been baptized—“but with few exceptions, it is to be feared,” Way added, “chiefly with a view of obtaining civil privileges and admission into Christian society.” He “left Testaments”—presumably in Hebrew—“in the hands of a Christian banker, to be given to his brethren

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in business who were Jews.” He also “left a copy . . . with the chief Rabbi.” 60 This was evidently Marcus (Mordecai) Adler. Both Way and Cox wrote to the London Society from Berlin. “The character and condition of the remnant of Israel, resident in the capital of Prussia,” wrote the former, “exhibits an appearance altogether dissimilar from that of any other place perhaps on the face of the earth.” Way added that “the rabbinical opinions and systems have almost disappeared,” a “distinction” he attributed “to the character and writings of Moses Mendelshom [sic].” 61 Cox, by contrast, was impressed by Berlin’s reform synagogue, “handsomely fitted up and numerously attended, in which the disgusting yells of three clerks are exchanged for the solemn singing of the whole congregation . . . a proverbial indecency of deportment for the decorum of a Protestant congregation, and a heterogeneous jumble of prayers in an unknown language, for a careful translation of them, translated into their native tongue.” He found it “encouraging to behold so large a body of the most enlightened and respectable Jews, acknowledging the necessity of a radical change among them” and “rejecting the Talmud as a system of blasphemy and absurdity.” Cox expressed his frustration that “not a few” of those enlightened Jews “profess their belief in Christ as a true prophet” but at the same time “inconsistently decline hailing him as the promised Messiah.” 62 Way, who summarized their visit to Berlin on a positive note—“the attention of the Jews is roused, they treated us with respect and attention, nothing of ill will appeared”—found it necessary, nonetheless, to acknowledge “the only untoward circumstance that occurred” during their stay there: “Mr. Solomon’s father-in-law pursued us to Berlin with a paper executed at Hamburgh, for the divorce of his daughter.” 63 Despite Way’s earlier reference to Solomon as his “eldest child,” it was Cox who either volunteered or was deputized to travel with their colleague to Hamburg, where Mrs. Solomon was staying with her children. Upon returning to Berlin in early November 1817, he reported to the London Society that Solomon had been “not a little surprised,” upon arriving there, to discover his father-in-law waiting, “especially as a correspondence had always been carried on in the most amicable manner” between him and his wife. “We all, however, hoped,” Cox added, “that if he had an opportunity of seeing and freely conversing with his wife, she would be completely reconciled to the idea of living with him.” Moreover, they felt that “it was his indispensable duty to see her before he could consent to the divorce.” During the several days Solomon spent with his wife in Hamburg, he “repeatedly assured her that although he was fully convinced of the . . . divine authority


Elliott Horowitz

of the Christian religion,” he would “permit her, without any restraint, to worship God according to the various rites of the Jewish religion.” Yet, Cox continued, “from the first moment of their meeting . . . she remained inflexible in her determination never again to live with him, unless he consented to return to the Jewish religion,” asserting (presumably in Yiddish), “That a godly Jewess should consent to cohabit with a Christian, and especially a Meshumad . . . was a thing not to be heard in Israel.” Cox stressed that his colleague’s “conduct during the whole of this most trying business has been truly satisfactory,” adding that “it has been alike honourable to his character as a man, and as a Christian.” The divorce ceremony “was accordingly performed in Altona . . . in the presence of three Rabbis and other suitable witnesses.” 64 After the divorce, Solomon made his way to Thorn (in Prussian Poland), from where he sent a revealing letter to “a brother convert in England” that the London Society decided to publish, although “not intended for publication[,] . . . as it tends to set his conduct towards his unhappy relatives in a point of view peculiarly interesting to his Christian friends.” From the letter it is clear that Solomon and his wife had been separated for “three years and a half ” and thus had not seen each other since 1814. It is also clear that his “ brother convert” knew of the couple’s problems and of their plans to meet in Germany: “You know that my family were coming to Hamburg whilst I left England; you know also what my intentions have been concerning them.” His plan had been to inform his family of his “object in going to Russia”— by which he meant Poland and Russia—“and to ask them to stay at Hamburg for half a year,” evidently so that he could also see them on his way back to England. With that plan in mind, Solomon had written to his family from Amsterdam “with an enclosure of 20£ money, and a parcel of clothes which Mr. W[ay] was pleased to send for my wife and children.” 65 Although it is not clear at what point Way became aware of their existence, he knew before arriving in Berlin that Solomon had left a family behind. What surprised both missionaries was that Solomon’s father-in-law was waiting there for him. In his letter from Thorn, Solomon wrote that while in Hamburg, he had “used all the means, and made every proposal, by which as a man, a husband, and a Christian” he might convince his wife “either to associate with [him] wherever she would, or to wait some time longer.” She insisted first, however, on an “apostacy from our blessed Redeemer, “explaining that as long as he remained a Christian, she “would rather be a martyr than be joined with [him].” Solomon’s children, “those dear and innocent little ones,” had

European Judaism and British Protestantism in the Nineteenth Century


been “dreadfully prejudiced” against him, and his wife had said they could not come to him if he was “a ‫גוי‬.” He described the divorce ceremony in Altona as having taken place “a day after [they] parted [in Hamburg] in that bitterness of spirit in which a husband and wife, who are still joined in hearT, must part.” 66 The reviewer of Joseph Wolff’s missionary journal who later recalled that Solomon’s divorce “always appeared to us wrong”—despite its having been “sanctioned by eminent and excellent Christian ministers”—may have been influenced, in his negative judgment, by the (published) letter in which the convert confessed to having still been “joined in heart” to his Jewish wife shortly before the ceremony. Whether or not the imposed divorce “was very possibly the first step” that led to his departure from the London Society, as that reviewer suggested, it is noteworthy that Solomon did not remarry during the nearly three-year hiatus between his two missionary trips abroad. Perhaps the project of translating the New Testament into Yiddish kept him too busy, or perhaps he was haunted by the words of the last Hebrew prophet: “Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth” (Mal. 2:15). In any case, from the time of his arrival in England until his sudden defection in Amsterdam several years later, Solomon’s wife hung about his neck like the albatross of his contemporary Coleridge’s Ancient Mariner.

Solomon’s Beard In his final memoir, published shortly before his death in 1862, Wolff, whose only marriage was to Lady Georgiana Walpole, the sixth daughter of the seventh Earl of Orford, returned to the subject of Solomon, whom he recalled meeting in 1820, after the latter’s return to London from his extended missionary trip abroad. Wolff claimed that his fellow convert had then revealed to Way, who had returned earlier, “that he had a doubt about the Trinity.” This prompted Wolff, as he now allegedly recalled, to comment to Way’s colleague, the evangelical member of Parliament Henry Drummond (1786– 1860), “This man is not sincere; he will break out terribly one day.” He now also claimed that his fellow missionary had “suddenly [run] away, after having drawn £300 from the Society, and was never heard of afterwards.” 67 Wolff seems to have forgotten his own aforementioned letter from Gibraltar composed some four decades earlier—and published soon afterward in the first


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volume of his Missionary Journal—in which he had requested that the London Society “send . . . for twelve months, the Rev. Mr. Solomon,” there described as “a man of much solidity, and unquestioned sincerity.” 68 Curiously, Wolff’s revised opinion of Solomon did not arise immediately after the latter’s sudden disappearance but developed rather over time. As noted earlier, in 1825, after meeting a Jew who had been converted by Solomon during the latter’s missionary journey with Way, Wolff recorded in his journal, “to the honor of [his] nation,” that he knew “the reason of Mr. Solomon’s leaving the Society,” and had “strong reasons” to believe that he had “done it for good motives.” He even went as far as to assert that had he found himself in his colleague’s “situation,” he “would perhaps have done the same.” What that “situation” was, however, Wolff declined then to say, but he certainly did not mean to suggest that he too would have embezzled £300 from the London Society if he needed the money. It would appear that over time the inconvenient fact of an ordained Jewish-born missionary defecting—soon after translating the New Testament into his native tongue— from a mission to his former coreligionists became even more inconvenient, especially for those who shared his background. In July 1822 Ferdinand William Becker, who had been sent by the London Society in Solomon’s place to work with McCaul in Warsaw, where he arrived in late 1821, reported that McCaul had recently traveled to Galicia “to make inquiries about our poor friend Solomon at Lemberg and Brody,” apparently without success. In his work among Polish Jews, McCaul soon realized the value of Solomon’s New Testament translation, writing to the London Society in October 1822, “I have no doubt that the most extensive good might be done amongst the Jewish women by the distribution of Solomon’s Testament.” 69 During that same year, Solomon’s namesake, Zailick Solomon, published a polemic against the London Society entitled ‫ גלוי מזמות‬in Hebrew and subtitled An Exposure of Hypocrisy and Bigotry, and a Strenuous Vindication of the Israelites . . . This was not the first critique of the society’s activities to be published—nor the last.70 Zailick, a London Jew who clearly had been reading the Jewish Expositor with considerable care, cited the bishop of Gloucester’s praise, some five years earlier, of “the convert B.N. Solomon” that had been quoted in the society’s report for 1817, tartly adding that the bishop “may, in the sequel, discover that there is but little occasion for vaunting of an intimacy with that individual.”71 When sending his book to press, Zailick had evidently not yet read the Expositor’s report concerning the renegade mis-

European Judaism and British Protestantism in the Nineteenth Century


sionary’s return to his native Lemberg—which he presumably would have happily cited. The unconverted Solomon, however, may already have heard some of the scurrilous rumors soon to be printed in Henry Norris’ Origin, Progress, and Existing Circumstances of the London Society . . . Norris (1771–1850), a graduate of Cambridge (Peterhouse) then serving as a vicar in Hackney—as well as chaplain to the sixth Earl of Shaftesbury— was active in the antievangelical High Church group known as the Hackney Phalanx. He too had reasons to discredit Solomon—not as a fellow missionary of Jewish background, like Wolff, but as an opponent of heavily funded missionizing among the Jews, whose consequent presence in the ranks of the Anglican clergy he clearly regarded as a mixed blessing. Like Zailick, he too read the Jewish Expositor against the grain. In referring to the two colleagues with whom Way set out on his missionary journey of 1817, Norris sarcastically referred to Solomon as “the trophy for the time being of the [central] Committee’s conversional prowess, the commencement of whose history is before the reader.” Indeed, in a footnote, Norris had previously asserted that “Mr. Solomon’s Rabbinical character is said to be an assumed one, as also the motive assigned by him for coming to this country,” which was not— as the London Society’s committee had naively asserted—“to search for divine truth, but to escape from his father-in-law, whose money, to the amount of 200 ducats, he had lost at cards.”72 The Hackney vicar, in order to stress the contrast between the former missionary’s true character and the manner in which he had been presented by the London Society, presented, in his seventh appendix, the text of Solomon’s conversion narrative that had appeared in the Jewish Expositor, followed by a corrective commentary thereon that had been published by Moses Sailman, a Jewish teacher of Hebrew in Southampton, in the latter’s Mystery Unfolded, or an Exposition of the Extraordinary Means Employed to Obtain Converts by . . . the London Society . . . (1817). Sailman had claimed that Solomon was “a native of Lemberg, but not a Rabbi; as he used to travel with his brother-in-law, who was here lately, and who was also converted, and after getting a new suit of clothes, a white beaver hat, and a few pounds, off he went again to Poland.” It was from Sailman that Norris had taken his earlier assertion that Solomon had arrived in England after losing his fatherin-law’s money at cards. In his appendix he also quoted Sailman’s assertion that Solomon, after his conversion, had been “sent to the nursery of converts in Sussex,” by which was meant Lewis Way’s estate. There, it was claimed, he was given “an elegant silk robe with silver clasps,” which, together with


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his “large well grown beard,” allegedly “excited a great deal of curiousity among the country people.”73 Solomon’s beard was later to be mentioned by Wolff as well, who claimed that it had been “shaved off” by Way before having Solomon instructed in Greek and Latin. Both accounts’ authors—one a Jew and one a former Jew— seem to have found it noteworthy that even after his conversion, Solomon insisted on keeping his “large well grown beard”—until he began his training for deaconship. This was indeed unusual in England, where in 1822—as Todd Endelman has noted— even the hazan of London’s New Synagogue “ imagined that he could shave his beard without giving offense.”74 Both Sailman and Wolff, each for his own reasons, seem to have resented Solomon’s attempt to be simultaneously Jewish and Christian. But that is precisely what he managed to do, it would appear, while translating the New Testament into Yiddish. One wonders, therefore, whether Solomon’s defection in Amsterdam, on the road to Warsaw, was rooted not only in unresolved feelings for his estranged wife and children but also in the realization that he could not long continue to cultivate both his Jewish identity and his Christian faith. Which of the two he ultimately chose is still not known.

Chapter 11

When Life Imitates Art Shtetl Sociability and Conversion in Imperial Russia ellie Schainker

Contrary to alarmist reports and censuses conducted in late twentieth century America on the unprecedented rise of intermarriage and the existential crisis of Jewish continuity, Jewish assimilation in the New World is a trend that started in the Old. Scholarship on assimilation in the modern era has largely written off the large numbers of apostates in the Russian Empire as products of tsarist persecution or economic desperation, reserving the lion’s share of analysis to dynamics of conversion in Western societies where Jews encountered glass ceilings to full social integration alongside political emancipation. In other words, assimilation has long been a guiding concept for understanding modern conversions as the most extreme form of shedding Jewishness for purposes of integration and socioeconomic advancement. In this largely urban and instrumental narrative often linked to liberal politics, religious conversion is not really about religion or actual Christians but rather about status and identity change. Considering the fact that the majority of converts from Judaism in nineteenth-century Russia were voluntary, female, and living in the imperial provinces, thus outside the orbit of military coercion and considerations of career advancement, it is worth evaluating what conversions can teach us about Jewish-Christian sociability, accessibility, and intimacy in a region that does not fully fit the paradigm of instrumental conversions for social and political inclusion.1 The history of converts in the


Ellie Schainker

imperial Russian provinces sheds new light on conversion not just as an impersonal, strategic move but as a form of cultural mobility fostered by personal encounters. The story of conversion and intermarriage in the Rus sian Empire reflects both urban and provincial forms of assimilation in the modern age, and it is a story that in its own day both fascinated and alarmed the contemporary East European Jewish community. While in absolute numbers the statistics on Jewish conversion in the East overshadow the incidence of baptism in the West, in terms of population, the percentages in the East until the early Soviet period remained low.2 Despite this fact, conversions—real and threatened—left an outsize cultural imprint on the self-understanding and broad experience of Russian Jews of various political persuasions, socioeconomic origins, and regional backgrounds. Converts served as proxies for thinking through the boundaries of the Jewish community and emerging conceptions of a modern Jewish nation. The most prominent Russian Jewish discourse on conversion in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries focused on careerist conversions. After the Russian state exited the Jewish conversion business in 1856 with the elimination of the cantonist training units in the imperial army and their coercive missionary practices, conversions from Judaism were increasingly recognized as a voluntary, civilian affair. This stood in contrast to other indigenous religious groups in the western imperial provinces who were subjected to irregular state missions even after the Reform Era— especially Uniates, or Greek Catholics, who were forced to join the Orthodox Church in 1839 and again in 1875, and Catholic peasants, who were the target of mass baptisms in the wake of the second Polish insurrection of 1863.3 Jewish nationalists of various stripes were alarmed by the apparent breakdown in Jewish nationalist sentiment, as manifested in voluntary conversions, and at the same time often went to lengths to emphasize the instrumental nature of such conversions and the ongoing Jewish commitments—emotional, social, and religious—of many apostates. While much of this conversation took place openly in the public press, the counterdiscourse of conversion born out of interfaith romance and intimate Jewish-Christian daily encounters in small-town and village life was a source of Jewish shame and thus channeled into quiet rumor and the later cultural reconstruction of ethnographers and memoirists. This provincial variety of Jewish conversion in the East can also be reconstructed from literature and reports in the Russian popular press.

When Life Imitates Art


In this chapter, I will analyze several journalistic narratives of Jewish, mostly female conversions from the 1860s to the 1880s, born out of intimate Jewish-Christian relations, and use this as a means of rethinking the practice of conversion in nineteenth-century Russia and the possibilities of interconfessional mixing in an autocratic empire. Although imperial Russia was an ancien régime in many respects, it still witnessed the modern phenomenon of rising rates of conversion, owing both to socioeconomic pressures in a modernizing empire and to everyday sociability in an ethnically and religiously diverse imperial borderland. This chapter will explore the interplay of modern assimilation and conversion (here, assimilation without emancipation and bourgeois urbanity) and what literature and journalism can teach us about the practice and social mechanisms of conversion. For many Jewish nationalists, diasporist and Zionist alike, conversion to “pass” in a Christian society did not necessarily undermine the bonds of community, but there were forms of conversion (romantic, erotic) and individual choices at odds with family and communal desire that could render one beyond the pale of the emerging nation. By studying conversion practices in the absence of the emancipation bargain of shedding Jewishness for national and social inclusion, we have the opportunity to take a more personal than structural approach to modern Jewish conversion. Rather than focusing on motivation alone, the Russian case affords a more individual-centered approach attuned to the social and cultural encounters of Jews and their neighbors that at times fostered and enabled the crossing of ethnoconfessional borders. Archival and published sources abound on this topic because of the political implications of religious status changes in the Russian Empire and the public interest factor in conversion and apostasy. In the past, scholars used archival conversion records to assess motivation and focus on why Jews converted and what was to be gained.4 Yet conversion narratives can be analyzed further. As in the British Empire, as analyzed by Sarah Gracombe in this volume, conversion narratives in the Russian Empire provided a framework for thinking about identity and constructing the body politic. In contrast to British imperialism, which was tied to proselytizing and predicated on the assimilation of cultural Britishness, the Russian Empire harbored both supraethnic, culturally diverse imperial visions and nation-state pretentions that uneasily coexisted in thought and practice until the breakup of the empire in 1917.5 Thus, conversion narratives in the Russian context


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are more a gauge of the tides of religious toleration and forms of difference rather than of the efficacy and possibility of Jews turning Russian. Here, I compare modern Jewish literary depictions of provincial conversions with conversion stories in the popular press, with an eye to how Jewish and Russian writers constructed communal and national boundaries through conversion narratives and depicted the possibility of interfaith encounters. Thus, in probing the borders of community, conversion narratives can also give us insight into the social aspects of conversion and the personal encounters that facilitated them.

Jewish Conversion in the East Historical indicators of the increased occurrence of conversion to a variety of Christian confessions in the late Russian Empire abound.6 In an 1867 file of the Ministry of the Interior, Tsar Alexander II stated his readiness to fund a Russian Orthodox missionary agent for Jews because of rising rates of Jewish conversion not just in Germany but also in imperial Russia.7 In the 1890s the Society for the Promotion of Enlightenment Among Jews (OPE), created by Jewish notables in Saint Petersburg in 1863, revisited the need to create a modern rabbinate, in part to stem the tide of Jewish conversions.8 In his work on Jews in the Russian revolutionary movement in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Erich Haberer has noted the increased incidence of intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews in the tight-knit social circles of the radical Left.9 The respected Russian Jewish lawyer Genrikh Sliozberg lamented in his memoirs about the pronounced rise in adolescent Jewish conversions in the 1880s.10 The Russian Jewish journal Voskhod (Sunrise) regularly commented on this rising phenomenon, generally castigating even careerist apostates as national traitors.11 In a similar vein, the 1910 Brenner Affair, which erupted in the pages of the Russian Jewish press ostensibly over the limits of free speech in the public sphere, originated from a comment made by Yosef Hayim Brenner in a moderate, left-of-center Zionist paper in the new Yishuv, the Jewish nationalist settlement in Palestine, in which he downplayed the significance of rising rates of intermarriage and conversion insofar as they related to the Zionist project and building of a Jewish state. According to Brenner, a Russian Zionist and avowed secularist, “a person of Israel can be a good Jew, dedicated to the [Jewish] nation with all of his heart and soul, without having to fear from this legend [of Jesus’

When Life Imitates Art


messiahship and divinity] like from some impurity [treifah].”12 Since religious practice and belief were not the defining features of Jewishness for Brenner, the religious rite of baptism in no way undermined national Jewishness or a commitment to Hebrew culture. Most East European Zionists at the time condemned Brenner’s remarks as beyond the pale of acceptable speech and acceptable notions of who was a Jew. Brenner’s irreverent remarks led members of the Jewish nationalist group Ḥovevei Tsion (Lovers of Zion), who underwrote the Yishuv publication Ha-po’el Ha-tsa’ir (The young worker), to withhold funding from the journal until it brought in more responsible editorial leadership.13 In 1912, reacting to such heightened attention in the nationalist presses to a conversion epidemic, Mendel Goldshtein advocated national soul-searching for the root causes of such increased disaffection, and he recommended more intensive Jewish nationalist education so that youths would view apostasy as a form of “national suicide.”14 These historical indicators suggest that among a certain cohort of secularly educated youths and Jewish intelligentsia in the late imperial period, conversion was a real and palpable trend that challenged Russian Jewish leadership at the level of the OPE and even threatened to compromise the Jewish tenor of the cultural Zionist program still very much programmatically directed and demographically informed by Jewish nationalists in eastern Eu rope. It is this urban, intellectual phenomenon of conversion that the fin-de-siècle Russian Jewish memoirist Pauline Wengeroff identified when she blamed the East European Haskalah for ideologically enabling and propelling Russian Jewish youths to pursue secular education and professional opportunities, leading to the conversion of several members of her own family.15 Wengeroff’s insider perspective on Russian Jewish conversion from her narrative perch in Saint Petersburg reinforces the urban setting of modern Jewish assimilation. Discussions of converts in the capital and other Russian cities in the late imperial period dot the voluminous memoir literature produced by a variety of East European Jewish intellectuals in the first half of the twentieth century. In his memoirs, the Hebrew publicist Ben-Zion Katz (1875–1958) recalls his occasional sojourns in Saint Petersburg and his initial surprise at the number of converts from Judaism and their ongoing presence and functioning in Jewish society.16 He recounts visits with the high-profile Jewish convert Daniel Chwolson, who had famously quipped about the sincerity of his conversion to Russian Orthodoxy that he sincerely felt it was better to be a professor in Saint Petersburg than a melamed (Jewish teacher) in Eyshishok (a small


Ellie Schainker

town near Vilna).17 Surprised at the poor spoken Russian of this renowned professor of Oriental studies at the University of Saint Petersburg and Chwolson’s insistence that the OPE help support Kol Mevaser (The herald), a Yiddish newspaper published in Odessa, Katz admitted his surprise that “an apostate Jew was so interested in Jewish questions.”18 While Katz expressed dismay at Chwolson’s linguistic and cultural Jewishness, it was no secret that Chwolson had been actively engaged as a convert in disputing the blood libel and defending the Talmud. Thus, Katz’s surprise over Chwolson’s “Jewishness” and that of other converts is less genuine surprise and more of a discursive rumination on the function and place of apostates in Jewish communal life and the imagining of nationhood. While in Petersburg, Katz met the convert Yisrael Landau, government censor for the Hebrew periodical Ha-melits (The advocate), who still spoke Yiddish and was considered an ardent Hasid.19 Katz also learned about the only son of Sholem Yankev Abramovich (Mendele Mokher Sforim), who had converted in order to marry a non-Jew he fell in love with and impregnated.20 Katz writes that in elite Russian Jewish intellectual circles of the time, everyone knew about the interconfessional romances and conversions among the children of three of the most distinguished Jewish leaders of the time—Simon Dubnow, Ahad Ha-am, and Mordechai ben Hillel ha-Cohen. Though Dubnow refused to assist his daughter or accede to her lover’s conversion from Russian Orthodoxy to Calvinism in order to be able to legally marry a Jewish woman, Katz and Dubnow’s wife secretly aided the single, struggling mother of twins.21 Aside from his focus on the imperial capital as a central site of modern Jewish conversion, Katz notes the conversion and intermarriage of the daughter of the late Vilna maskil Shmu’el Yosef Fin.22 While situated in the Pale of Jewish Settlement, Vilna as an urban intellectual center, Vilna fits into the landscape of late imperial Jewish conversion nourished by access to higher education, radical politics, and increased urban social encounters with non-Jews. According to the memoirs of Shmarya (Shemaryahu) Levin (1867–1935), a Zionist leader, Hebrew publicist, and Russian state-appointed rabbi, the southern New Russian city of “Ekaterinoslav was blessed with an abundance of apostates . . . especially in the higher echelons of society; among lawyers there were then about 12 apostates.” Levin mockingly notes that “as a matter of fact, [these converts] remained and kept to their nature even after their conversion: their Judaism did not diminish and their Christianity did not

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improve.”23 Russian Jewish folklorist and writer S. An-sky picks up on this theme of urban, instrumental conversions in his 1912 story “Go Talk to a Goy!,” where he both mocks and acknowledges the veritable conversion industry that had sprung up among Jews in the empire’s capital. In this story, a pair of young revolutionaries enter Saint Petersburg with fake passports; the male Jew with a Russian passport and the female Christian with a Jewish one. Since she is constantly trailed by police who monitor her residency privileges, the Jewish comrade cleverly suggests that the female should “convert” to Christianity. The native Christian refuses to convert insincerely, at which point the boy throws up his hands at her belligerent, “goyish” mode of thinking.24 An-sky both taunts the non-Jewish inability to understand the deep legal structures forcing Jews into such instrumental conversions and exposes the extent to which Jews have traded on the rite of religious conversion as if it were a form of currency or long-term business investment. The urban setting of the story, together with its revolutionary protagonists, underscores the extent to which conversion, as classically linked to urbanity and assimilation, was a noteworthy trend among certain upwardly mobile and secularly educated Jews in late imperial Russia. My interest, though, is not in conversion in its rarefied urban, bourgeois context—connected to educational advancement and urban, political activism—but in trying to understand how conversion also sprang from provincial contexts, from the very shtetls of eastern Europe that have long been portrayed, in both fictional literature and historical scholarship, as the outposts of traditional Judaism and the very antithesis of the trends of modern assimilation so pronounced in the great cities of modern Europe. Without taking this side of the story into account, we cannot fully understand the imperial Rus sian conversion phenomenon that was demographically and legally rooted in the Pale of Jewish Settlement, wherein the Jewish experience was characterized by small-town and village living. Legally, conversions had to preempt residential moves beyond the Pale of Jewish Settlement, save for select classes of Jews deemed useful by the state, which were granted unrestricted residency rights beginning in the 1860s.25 Also, by identifying the city or the university as the sole breeding ground of close Jewish-Christian social and romantic encounters, we ignore a wide array of historical evidence— fictional, memoir, and journalistic—of interfaith ties forged in the tightknit, neighborly spaces of small-town and village life in the Pale of Jewish Settlement.


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Several accounts of provincial paths to conversion can be found in Russian Jewish memoir literature. In his autobiography, Kniga zhizni (Book of life, 1934–40), Russian Jewish historian Simon Dubnow narrates his religious and intellectual coming of age as an obsession with reading, especially the new Hebrew literature of the Jewish Enlightenment, which he clandestinely stowed in the folios of his Talmud or read alone late at night to escape the gaze of his traditional grandfather. A critical feeder of his bibliomania was a factory landlord on the outskirts of his town of Mstislavl who maintained an underground modern Hebrew library. This man, Leibe Mashes, lived on the fringes of the Jewish community both residentially and culturally in that he was intellectually enlightened and alienated from the community because of a brother who had converted to Christianity. According to Dubnow’s anecdote, Mashes’ brother Leizer converted years prior to Russian Orthodoxy and entered a nearby monastery in the village of Pustynki. This one local conversion became a paradigm for the local Jews, who were known to threaten hostile family members or employers with the ever-present option to run away to “Pustynki to be baptized.” “Leizer Meshumed” (Leizer the Apostate) ended up materially enriching the local Jews when, in response to a prophetic dream, he initiated a yearly religious procession of a “miraculous” icon that traveled through Mstislavl. The annual procession attracted large crowds that bolstered the coffers of local Jewish traders and shop owners. “Perhaps because of this the local Jews spoke of Leizer without any ill will: they forgave his apostasy for the sake of the advantage brought to the city.”26 Dubnow’s brief reference serves as a reminder of the marginal yet palpable specter of apostasy in the provincial heartland of East European Jewry, and the ways in which individual converts dotted the landscape of communal life and lore. In his memoirs, the Yiddishist and Diaspora Jewish nationalist Chaim Zhitlovskii recounts a story of the Jewish family M——n in a village on the outskirts of Efremov (Tula Province, south of Moscow), who had two young children and an adolescent daughter. In 1885 this family suffered a “tragedy.” A local gentile man fell in love with the daughter, and she converted in order to marry him. “Remarkably,” comments Zhitlovskii, “the family’s personal relationships with the converted daughter were not torn apart.”27 Out of the parents’ great love for their child, or perhaps because of their liberalism, they did not excise the daughter from the family, and she regularly visited home. Zhitlovskii concludes from this that, despite the daughter’s lack of a Jewish education, she was still deeply committed to Judaism, and that

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her simple Jewish soul (pintele yid) still burned within her even though she had converted. Hirsz Abramowicz (1881–1960), a teacher, writer, and journalist, includes in his memoirs an earlier anthropological study of rural Jewish occupations in Lithuania in which he discusses the intimate relationship between Jews and Christians in imperial Russian villages, especially as evidenced by intermarriages.28 To compound this intimate encounter, the converted, intermarried couple might end up settling not far from the bride’s Jewish community, testimony of the local origins of the affair. Given the fact that provincial forms of assimilation typically involved illiterate historical actors who did not other wise leave a historical record, it is understandable that evidence of these conversions surfaced in memoir literature and ethnographic works seeking to remember and reconstruct the everyday life of East European Jewry. In the Hebrew writer and Zionist leader Alter Druyanov’s (1870–1938) 1935–38 three-volume collection of Jewish humor and witticisms, a signature achievement of his ethnographic research on East European Jewry, humor about Jewish converts occupies an entire chapter.29 In the Yiddish ethnographer Shmu’el Hurwitz’s Yudishe neshomes, a six-volume work of East European Jewish folklore collected by him over ten years of travel in Lithuania, Galicia, and Poland, from 1905 to 1914, he records an incident of conversion in a Hasidic rebbe’s kloyz (private house of study) in Chortkov, eastern Galicia. The rebbe’s kloyz was thrown into a panic that lasted for several days when anonymous notes were found with a picture of a cross and the message, “Messiah the son of Joseph = Jesus; Messiah the son of David = the Rebbe.” The culprit was found to be a prominent teenage boy in the kloyz, the son of a rabbi, who was respected as a serious student. The boy was assailed as a meshumed and missionary, and within one week, he disappeared. Rumor circulated that he left to formally convert.30 Hurwitz’s story suggests that the missionary threat or fear of Jewish apostasy existed even in the most insular and remote spaces of East European Jewish life. Memoir and folklore literature draw our attention to the nonurban varieties of conversion in eastern Europe and suggest that the historiographical argument that urbanization fueled conversion was just one cause among many and does not account for more popular forms of conversion. These anecdotal sources, though, do not provide sufficient cultural clues and contextual information to help flesh out the dynamics of conversion in places far from the urban metropolises and educational outposts of Saint Petersburg and Vilna. It is here that modern Jewish literature, in its imaginings of close


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Jewish-Christian encounters in the intimate living spaces of town and village, moves us toward a more holistic picture of the social contexts and practices of modern conversion.

The Art of Attraction In addition to fictional literature that underscores the careerist strain of late imperial conversions, there is a notable array of Yiddish and Hebrew stories from the early twentieth century, set in the mythic shtetl, that center on the theme of the erotic attraction between Jews and non-Jews, usually leading to conversion in order to marry.31 The spatial intimacy of Jews and nonJews, especially in rural areas, and the existence of interconfessional relationships in general, also captured the imaginations of many twentiethcentury nonfiction writers, who wrote popular biographies or sketches of converts in eastern Europe. Though modern Jewish literature created in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century eastern Europe tended to “Judaize” small-town life (and is responsible in large part for our shtetl-based understanding of Jewish eastern Europe), there are a few Yiddish and Hebrew works that explore the possibilities for interconfessional romance and conversion in intimate provincial settings. Israel Bartal has suggested that Jewish literary writers constructed a map of eastern Europe where Jews lived in towns and non-Jews lived in villages, thus creating a literary space for framing Jewish-Christian relations as distinctly “village” encounters and reinforcing the purely Jewish image of the town.32 While this spatial mapping ignores the realities of shtetls as interreligious zones, the literary rendering of the village interconfessional romance provides a template for generalizing about Jewish-Christian intimacy in nonurban settings characterized by face-to-face community, concrete neighborly ties, and interconfessional networks.33 In Sholem Aleichem’s short story cycle Tevye the Dairyman (later adapted to the American stage as Fiddler on the Roof ), Tevye’s daughter Chava converts to Russian Orthodoxy to marry her local lover, Fedka the village clerk (“Chava,” 1906).34 Hayim Nahman Bialik sets his story of erotic interfaith attraction between a Jewish boy and Christian girl, Behind the Fence (1909), in a rural backwater where Jew and Christian live as neighbors separated by a fence. Despite the fence and the inveterate hatred between the boy’s Jew-

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ish parents and the girl’s Christian grandmother, the young neighbors are attracted to each other and find ways to furrow underground tunnels to make contact and consummate their love.35 Sholem Asch’s Der tehilim yid (Salvation; 1934) is set in a Russian shtetl in the early nineteenth century. Reyzele, an adolescent Jewish girl, falls in love with Stefan Dombrowski, a Polish Catholic man, whom she desires to marry even though it entails conversion and the loss of her Jewish community. On her wedding night to a young Jewish scholar, Reyzele is whisked away by Stefan to a nearby convent, where she prepares for conversion. The shtetl, which until now has had a local, integrated character depicted in recurring scenes of Jewish-Christian interaction in the tavern and joint spiritual support found in the saintly Psalms reader Reb Yehiel, devolves into religious violence—Catholics versus Jews fighting over Reyzele. Conversion and its reification of religious boundaries threaten to bring divisiveness and confusion into a world that has heretofore defied absolute religious and cultural separation.36 All of these narratives plot JewishChristian intimacy in distinctly nonurban settings where erotic attachments born of mundane familiarity threaten to undermine the controlling institutions of family and tradition that try to impose social and ideational borders on the physically intertwined, provincial spaces of Jewish and Christian life. Though Aleichem’s fictional Tevye wanted to act as if his converted daughter Chava never existed, it is interesting to note how the convert figured largely on the contemporary cultural map of eastern Europe. Rather than erasing the memory of converts as the act of ritual mourning would suggest, literary treatments of apostates reveal an abiding public fascination with apostasy and the sociocultural factors that facilitated conversion in Jewish eastern Europe. In the early twentieth century, there was a flurry of Jewish scholarly interest in the biographies of Jewish apostates. Sha’ul Ginzburg, Shmu’el Leib Tsitron, and Azri’el Frenk all wrote anecdotal sketches of meshumodim (apostates), personalizing a theme in Jewish history often marginalized or silenced.37 Their publications, anticipated audiences, and publishing houses, together with serialized publications in the early twentiethcentury Yiddish press on the theme of apostasy, suggest that there was remarkable interest in the subject of Jewish conversion, and that it was not a taboo or necessarily negative topic of conversation.38 By humanizing convert experiences and showing the diversity of convert interactions with Jews and Judaism, these writers suggested that conversion did not necessarily negate


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Jewish nationalist sentiment or undermine the collectivist ethos of Jewish survival in the Diaspora. In these works, conversion is not a final step in “drift and defection” from Jewish communal life but rather originates from social dynamics within East European Jewish life.39 In the realm of Hebrew publishing, Isaac Remba (1907–69), Zionist leader and longtime assistant to Vladimir Jabotinsky, wrote a probing sketch of influential Russian Jewish leaders who dealt with conversion in their personal lives. Similar to treatments of the theme in Yiddish, Remba’s writing reflects an abiding fascination with the ways in which apostasy springs from within the depths of Russian Jewish society and culture, and how such a radical act, when viewed close up, reveals continuities in the lives of Jewish families and communities rather than just rupture. Remba notes that Mendele’s ongoing relations with his son Me’ir, who converted for marriage, caused a stir among Hebrew nationalists and almost prevented the writer’s honorary membership in the Society for the Lovers of the Hebrew Language. Menachem Ussishkin was incensed that Mendele did not sever ties with his son, while other leaders were appalled that Mendele did not ritually mourn for his converted son.40 In Remba’s analysis of Olga Dubnow’s interfaith love affair, he notes with fascination that although Simon Dubnow was a “complete religious heretic,” he was a staunch Jewish nationalist who resolutely condemned converts as traitors to the nation. Though many Jewish leaders condemned conversions, there was a tacit understanding that many baptisms were motivated by material and professional need rather than purposeful national abandonment. For this reason, Remba surmises, Olga’s romantic conversion was all the more unsettling and revolting to Dubnow as it was entirely voluntary, unconnected to deep legal and social structures that impelled some Jews to convert for material survival.41 If Dubnow’s shame is indicative, the model of romantic, socially generated conversion imagined in Jewish literature actually provides an entirely new and different window onto the problem of Jewish assimilation in the modern age. While careerist conversions were often viewed as a necessary evil or the underbelly of the emancipation bargain, interconfessional romances nurtured by nothing other than love and social attachment undercut the very notions of Jewish separateness and ethnic cohesion that had long served as the foundation of traditional Jewish culture and community. Thus, it is in the provinces of eastern Europe, partially removed from the socioeconomic processes of urban, professional assimilation, that we find

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some of the most radical forms of Jewish abandonment, born of individual desire and romantic attachment rather than just impersonal, socioeconomic structures.

When Art Comes to Life Although the history of East European Jewry has been idealized in part by the uncritical use of novels and anecdotal literature as unmediated historical sources, it is fascinating to note the ways in which secular and church presses in late nineteenth-century Russia reported cases of Jewish conversion that read much like fiction—full of interconfessional fraternizing and intimacy and, ultimately, the drama and religious tensions attendant on conversion. The cultural imaginary of local Jewish-Christian intimacy came to life for Russian-reading audiences in May 1866 when Pravoslavnoe obozrenie (The Russian Orthodox review) reported the conversion of the sixteen-year-old Jewess Rachel-Leah Goldferbova to Russian Orthodoxy in the environs of Brest-Litovsk, in the northwest part of the Pale of Jewish Settlement. As an orphan, she lived with her grandmother, who ran a local tavern that was frequented by clerks from the Pskov regiment stationed nearby. Vaguely aware that one of her brothers had converted while fulfilling his military ser vice in the imperial army, Goldferbova was intrigued by discussions she had about conversion with army personnel. Despite her grandmother’s attempt to thwart her baptism, and the local Jewish community’s attempted abduction of her, Goldferbova converted with the assistance of military personnel and resettled in Nizhnii Novgorod.42 In March 1882 a Russian Orthodox priest from the Uman region of Kiev Province explicitly pointed to the possibilities for interconfessional sociability in rural areas as a principal factor in Jewish conversions. He wrote an article in the Kiev diocesan press to publicize the January 1882 conversion of a seventeen-year-old Jewish boy in the parish church of the village of Nerubaiki (Uman region), who was following the example of his older sister, Anna, who had previously converted to Russian Orthodoxy. The siblings were children of a local Jewish wine merchant. In the priest’s polemical analysis, “Such an inclination for the Christian religion on the part of a Jewish family may not be the one and only in a village parish. The proximity of Jewish children to the surrounding Christian population in the villages, especially


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to children, the public use by the population of signs of the cross, short Christian prayers, visual ceremonies of burial of the dead, and other visible peculiarities of Christian worship, strike a child’s impressionable mind to the point of renouncing their families, relatives, dead Judaism.” 43 In the priest’s reading of the case, the combination of sustained Jewish contact with nonJews in intimate rural spaces and the routine public display of Christian religious rituals that Jews imbibed in these shared confessional spaces created circumstances ripe for Jewish conversion. At times, this Jewish contact with Christian culture was not just circumstantial or passive; there is evidence of Jewish children attending rural parish schools.44 In a 1907 publication on “Jewish Christians” in Russia, author I. K. Antoshevskii noted that the Jewish population in imperial Russia had long been in close “contact” (soprikosnovenie) with Christians, leading over time to conversions and intermarriages with the native population.45 The Russian Jewish periodical Nedel’naia khronika voskhoda (Weekly chronicle of the sunrise) reported in 1882 on the conversionary activities of the Saint Vladimir Brotherhood in Kiev. Basing its report on a Kiev church journal, the Jewish weekly noted that thirty-nine Jews, twenty-four of them female, had been converted by the brotherhood between August 1881 and August 1882. Most of the converts were described as lower class, mostly artisans; the women mainly hailed from villages and intended to join peasant life following baptism.46 Presumably, these women intended to marry Christian peasants in order to do so. The Yiddish press Kol Mevaser corroborated this trend in reports of rural Jewish girls who ran away from home to marry their peasant lovers.47 In a first-person female convert narrative published in the Kiev diocesan newspaper (Kievskiia eparkhial’nyia vedomosti) in 1879, Maria Leshchinskaia from the village of Osechkii (Kherson Province) described her initial disinterest in conversion as stemming in part from rumors she heard that Jewish converts married peasants.48 Even more than her understanding of conversion as being predicated on interreligious romance, Leshchinskaia’s real-life sociability with non-Jewish children in her youth demonstrates how interconfessional sociability was a catalyst of conversion in the late imperial period. Leshchinskaia’s strong Russian skills and love for reading drew her to non-Jewish girls her age who could read Russian and enjoyed discussing literature and poetry. These social encounters played a large role in acquainting her with Christianity and making the unfamiliar and taboo seem attractive.

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Though commentators of the period tried to normalize the crossing of social and religious boundaries and ground it in the everyday realities of coexistence, the emotional and violent reactions of Jewish family and community members to local conversions, as recorded in the press, rehash much of the human pathos and drama surrounding romantic conversions in the literature of Sholem Aleichem, Sholem Asch, and H. N. Bialik. While statistical evidence clearly shows that conversions were a minority phenomenon among Jews in imperial Russia, testifying to the general success of Jewish families and communities in creating confessional borders and maintaining neighborly distance, the cases of provincial conversion remind us that everyday Jewish-Christian life in the imperial western provinces was interconnected and well poised for trespassing boundaries. From these journalistic stories of secret romance and violent religious retribution for apostasy, we can garner a full sense of the provincial social realities fostering conversion. In 1886 the Volynian provincial diocesan press reported the mysterious murder in the environs of Vilna of a Jewish girl with a “Protestant character,” possibly suggesting that she was educated. According to the article, the girl told her family that she did not want to marry a Jew but rather desired a Christian man. Rather than accept apostasy, the family decided to “sacrifice” the daughter as a worshiper of other gods. The paper spared the reading public details of the corpse, drawing on its familiarity with contemporary press coverage of a similar instance of religious murder by Jews, the case of Maria Drich.49 While similar stories of Jewish violence against converts can be found in the premodern period as well, conservative publicists in late imperial Russia used such cases to portray Jews as social fanatics who were undeserving of imperial toleration and inclusion in Russia’s multiconfessional establishment. The criminal case in the Drich affair began in November 1883 when a Jewish merchant, Zimel Abramov Lotsov, from Vitebsk Province, informed police that his Christian domestic servant had disappeared from his house by night after stealing from him and escaping with the help of a wagon that left tracks in the snow. Police searched for the young woman in the Liutsin environs, but she was not found. Then, in March 1884, a local fisherman found a woman’s corpse in the river. Medical examiners confirmed that the victim was murdered by strangulation, then bound hand and foot to stakes and carried to the river, where her body was tied to bricks and thrown into


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the water. Coroners identified the body as the missing domestic servant, Maria Drich. Authorities apprehended Zimel and his wife, Ester, together with two Jews—Shmuil Leib Getselov Gurevich and Musa Khaimova Maikh—who were at the Lotsov home the night of Drich’s disappearance. The Jews were charged with premeditated murder, strangulation, and collaboration to cover up the crime. The initial police investigation found several Christian female acquaintances of Drich who reported that Zimel’s eldest son, Yankel, was in love with Drich and intended to convert to Catholicism to marry her. Immediately after Drich’s disappearance, the Lotsov family spread rumors that she had resurfaced in a distant village jail with an illegitimate baby in tow. The public prosecutor argued that these rumors, together with Zimel’s story to the police about a conspiratorial theft, were just ruses by Liutsin Jews to deflect attention from the fact that Zimel, with the assistance of his wife and other Jews, murdered Drich to prevent their son’s marriage to a Christian woman.50 Because of various procedural disagreements between the trial lawyers, the case went before the Senate court of cassation, which ordered a retrial. At the second trial, Zimel and Ester Lotsov were found guilty of murder and the other two Jews were acquitted.51 Jewish papers reported a rumor that the defense intended to appeal the case because the attorney objected to the prosecution’s portrayal of all Jews as potential murderers in the face of apostasy, and to the use of that blanket characterization as legal evidence of the Liutsin Jews’ violent motive.52 The defense suggested that Christian stereotypes of fanatic Jews had intruded on the case and served as incriminating evidence to pin the murder on Zimel Lotsov and his wife. The late imperial Russian press occasionally reported on similar acts of alleged Jewish violence in reaction to apostasy and intermarriage.53 Six years after her conversion and marriage to a Christian, a female convert from Podolia was kidnapped by her Jewish relatives.54 In 1876 a fifteen-year-old female convert from Kiev Province was found dead shortly before her marriage to a peasant.55 In 1878, a year after Khaika Prizent’s conversion in order to marry her peasant lover, the girl’s corpse was found by the charred remains of a local inn, and coroners identified the cause of death as strangulation before asphyxiation and noted that she was five months pregnant. The father was accused of arson and murder; the court acquitted him but surmised that the crime was committed by other Jews seeking revenge.56 It was in response to such publicized acts of Jewish “fanaticism” that Kievlianin in 1884 called

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for more legal protections for married Jewish women who converted and whose Jewish husbands refused to grant them divorces in order to free them to marry Christian men. Though imperial law clearly stated that in these cases, any children born to the couple would be considered Christian and raised as such, the press contended that Jewish men did not fear such a scenario since they often refused divorce in order to seek religious vengeance through murder.57 Despite the focus on female Jewish conversions in this legal appeal, the press aired stories of violence against male converts as well.58 For example, Kievlianin reported that fourteen years after Frants Platovskii’s conversion and marriage to a peasant woman, his Jewish uncle spotted him in the village of Dlugosedlo (Ostrovskii uezd, Lomzhyn Province) begging for alms, at which point the uncle suggested they find Frants’s father, ostensibly to seek out material aid. After leading Frants to a remote part of the village, the uncle and a helper savagely beat him, leaving him to slowly die, until he was discovered the next day by passing villagers. Though the Jewish community had hoped to ship off the responsible parties to America to escape judgment, the said parties were swiftly apprehended by local officials, tried in a circuit court, found guilty of intended murder, and sentenced to hard labor in exile.59 In contrast to the negative portrayal of Jewish religious aggression in the Russian press, some Jewish periodicals celebrated the unwavering Jewish national fervor and self-defense displayed in such acts of returning converts to Jewish society. When the politically conservative Zemshchina reported with dismay on the murder in Mogilev Province of a Jewish convert to Christianity by his father on the day of the son’s marriage to his Christian lover, Razsvet defended the father’s act: “Can you really deny that the son, who stepped over to the enemy’s side, insulted his own father and prompted the murder? This is how any Christian, any Russian would have reacted if their own would have transferred to the enemy’s side.” 60 Though these journalistic portrayals of violent Jewish reactions to conversion and intermarriage are steeped in layers of vitriol and ethnoconfessional tensions and cannot always be taken at face value, their aggressive and belligerent language belies the flipside of interconfessional sociability and intimacy structuring the conversions and intermarriages under scrutiny. Beyond the polemical function of the press coverage, the sensational stories at their core offer a fascinating glimpse of how close Jewish-Christian living in the small towns and villages of the Pale provided a setting of conversion and interfaith sociability that was an alternative to the urban university and


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activist circles that often typify the point of interfaith contact in the modern period. The provincial story of converts from Judaism reminds us that the cultural contact fostering conversions could stem from everyday cultural entanglements, and the rhetorical or physical violence that ensued was yet another expression of everyday neighborly relations that underlay and complicated these cultural and social intimacies of empire.

Conclusion These stories, both journalistic and literary, suggest that provincial interfaith sociability served as a powerful platform for conversion. In contrast to urban models of assimilation that highlight cities, universities, the bourgeois home, or revolutionary activism as sites of interconfessional mixing and assimilation, the provincial model posits that men and women left the confines of traditional Jewish life through their routine economic and social encounters with non-Jews in the religiously mixed spaces of town and village life.61 Many Jews, women in par ticu lar, converted in order to marry Christians, or they encountered Christianity through friendship and close relations with local peasant families. Evidence of provincial sociability as fostering intermarriage and female conversion has been analyzed for late nineteenth-century Galicia, where young women in the rural environs of Kraków converted to marry local peasant lovers and to escape arranged marriages with uncultured young Jewish men.62 In general, though, scant attention has been paid to the ways in which small-town and village life in imperial Russia fostered cultural exchange and intimate knowledge of the lifestyles, rituals, and personal affairs of neighbors and cultivated interconfessional social networks. Sensational stories of intermarriage and conversion help draw our attention to nonurban forms of interconfessional sociability and the ways in which Jewish-Christian relations were formed not only in “neutral spaces” but often in the very heart of confessional communities and confessional life. Moreover, irrespective of motivation and the modern quest for social and national inclusion, all conversions can be studied not just for why but also how they happened. Beyond Jewish disabilities and the stigma of Jewishness, converts and their narratives can teach us about interfaith encounters and the identity politics of empire. For Jewish nationalists of various ideological and linguistic commitments in the late imperial period, converts from Judaism tested the boundaries of

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the emerging Jewish nation and the role that Judaism would play in defining the national collective. For some Diaspora nationalists and Zionists alike, such as Dubnow and members of Hovevei Tsion, converts overstepped the boundaries of peoplehood and thus marked religious identity as a key resource for national community. For other nationalists of both statist and nonstatist va rieties, Hebraists like Brenner and Yiddishists like Zhitlovskii, converts tested the bounds of nationhood, but ongoing family ties and communal sympathies highlighted the ways in which nationhood could surpass a formal commitment to Judaism and the resources of religion. For all nationalists, the convert from Judaism proved important in thinking about peoplehood, national difference, and cultural separation and revealed to what extent the Jewish family could adapt to or contest everyday interfaith encounters. Rather than just an urban story of minority assimilation, conversions from Judaism in nineteenth-century imperial Russia were overwhelmingly provincial and undertaken in the thick of Jewish life, where converts were subjected to the disciplining gaze of family and community. It was this tension between individual and communal will—the individual desire to convert rather than just the forces of sociological structures—that both complicated and conditioned the process whereby Jews imagined and articulated the boundaries of an emerging Jewish nation.

Chapter 12

Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity Toward a History of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s Policies on Conversion to Judaism n e Ta n e l f iS h e r

Introduction Recent years have witnessed an increasing preoccupation with the issue of conversion to Judaism. Different researchers have attempted to show how understandings of conversion have evolved in accordance with demographic and cultural changes that Jewish society has undergone in modern times.1 This essay attempts to focus on the way in which the State of Israel has influenced these understandings, with an emphasis on the Orthodox perspective. My main claim is that the establishment of the state has given rise to the development of new interpretations of conversion to Judaism, both theoretical and practical, although no consensus regarding these interpretations has been reached. In order to establish this claim, this essay focuses on the conversion policies of Israel’s chief rabbinate. Since the chief rabbinate is the State of Israel’s religious agent, it is responsible, inter alia, for conversion in Israel. This focus allows us to examine conversion in Israel at the point of contact between state and religion and to discover how state considerations have reshaped the concept of conversion to Judaism. This essay does not aim to review the many conversion cases with which the chief rabbinate has dealt between the establishment of the state and the

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first decade of the twenty-first century.2 Instead, I have chosen to extract from sixty years of conversion in Israel three conversion policy models, which I have termed as follows: opposition, integration, and ambiguity. My claim is that these models represent three different responses to the challenge of how to match the concept and practice of conversion to the historically new situation created by the establishment of the state. These policies, I will suggest, stem from a combination of religious and ideological considerations, together with political and public pressures. The explication of these models constitutes this essay’s unique contribution to the field, since the history of Israel’s conversion policy has not yet been written. Most of the studies in this field until now have based their conclusions mainly on the halakhic writings published by the rabbinic leadership. However, the present study strives to examine how halakhic and ideological ideas have been translated into practice. Therefore, it is based not only on an analysis of halakhic responsa by the chief rabbis but also on newly revealed archival material, including protocols, correspondence, and other documents of the chief rabbinate, as well as the secular establishment. With all its innovation, Israeli conversion policy is based on the conversion discourse developed in the Diaspora from the nineteenth century onward in the face of challenges arising from modernity. Therefore, this essay begins with a short review of the evolution of conversion as a concept in the era preceding the establishment of the State of Israel. Based on a halakhichistoric review of these approaches as they developed, I will discuss the significance of the establishment of the chief rabbinate as part of the establishment of the state and the new questions concerning conversion that the chief rabbinate had to face.

Conversion to Judaism in the Face of Challenges Arising from Modernity In Judaism, conversion is the procedure of entrance into the Jewish nation and religion. The basic requirements of conversion, including immersion in a ritual bath (tevilah), ritual circumcision for males (berit milah), and acceptance of the Torah commandments (mitsvot), were formulated in Talmudic times. However, these requirements— and especially the last—remained vague for centuries. The few candidates for conversion to Judaism in the Middle Ages clearly knew the meaning of the process they faced: joining a


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Jewish community centered on religious commitment. However, that meaning had changed with the loosening of the boundaries of the traditional community setting that occurred in the modern era. For the first time in some two millennia, Jews began marrying non-Jews without considering this act to be an abandonment of Judaism. On the contrary, some of them wished to continue being members of the Jewish community and therefore turned to rabbis, asking them to convert their non-Jewish spouses.3 This request should seemingly have been rejected. The fact that these conversions were primarily motivated by social factors rather than religious commitment cast doubt on their sincerity and on the possibility of the converts becoming observant Jews, as Halakhah prescribed. Indeed, some rabbis used this reasoning to justify their refusal to convert such candidates. Others, however, claimed that conversion may be used as a means of social integration. These lenient rabbis determined that it was permissible to convert the spouses and non-Jewish offspring of intermarried Jews in order to preserve the Jewish community’s unity. This controversy stemmed from opposing metahalakhic interpretations of the significance of conversion. The more conservative rabbis considered conversion to be a process of religious transformation, which could not be realized as long as religious motivation was lacking. The lenient rabbis claimed, albeit not always explicitly, that conversion was also, or perhaps mainly, a means of identifying with and joining the Jewish nation. Therefore, even if the converts did not become fully observant Jews, their mere desire to become part of the Jewish nation through conversion constituted a central consideration in favor of accepting them. This controversy reflected varying approaches to drawing the boundaries of the Jewish collective in an era characterized by the loss of traditional definitions of identity. Advocates of the conservative approach preferred to lose some community members rather than to grant legitimacy to a Jewish way of life uncommitted to tradition. From this point of view, raising the bar for conversion would facilitate preservation of the community’s traditional boundaries. Members of the lenient party, on the other hand, felt obliged to care for Jews who wished to remain within the broad framework of Judaism, although their way of life constituted a violation of religious norms. Conversion in this view served as a bridge, shaky though it may be, for the preservation of Jewish unity based on the Jewish religious tradition. This dispute went on for many years in the Diaspora, but in the absence of a central Jewish rabbinic authority, the more conservative rabbis could not

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act in any way against those who left their communities and found other rabbis who subscribed to the more lenient approach. The establishment of the State of Israel and the founding of the chief rabbinate placed chief rabbis in a unique and unprecedented position of central authority. However, this state of affairs also presented them with new challenges.

The Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Israeli Conversion Dilemma What would become Israel’s chief rabbinate was established in the 1920s as the result of a joint initiative of the administration of the British mandate and the Religious Zionist leadership headed by Rabbi A. Y. H. Kook. Rabbi Kook, who was appointed as the first Ashkenazic chief rabbi, had a Zionist vision of the rabbinate as the foundation of a religious-spiritual leadership for the Jewish Yishuv (the Jewish community in pre-state Palestine) in Israel.4 Realizing this vision was not easy. Trying to link religious tradition with the secular character of the Zionist revolution posed complex challenges for the chief rabbinate’s leadership. As Halakhah developed within the framework of religious communities in the Diaspora, it was not clear whether it should be adjusted to fit a Jewish nation-state that would not subordinate itself to religion and even rejected it to some extent. Consequently, questions arose concerning issues such as the possibility of integrating Halakhah into the legal system and women’s roles in government.5 This discussion mostly took place among members of a minority group who wished to integrate religion and Zionist ideology. However, most of the Jewish public in Israel did not concern itself with these questions. As a matter of principle, the nonreligious sector did not recognize the chief rabbinate to be a central spiritual entity in the leadership of the Yishuv that later became the State of Israel. At the same time, Haredi society repudiated the chief rabbinate for its identification with the Zionist endeavor, as well as out of concern that its connection with the state would bring about the subordination of the rabbinate to politicians instead of Halakhah. However, despite the limited public recognition given to the chief rabbinate, it was in fact authorized to determine many aspects of religious life for all Jews in Israel. It was given responsibility for matters of personal status (marriage and divorce), the appointment of rabbis and dayanim (religious judges), kashrut, and the provision of many religious ser vices.


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The issue of conversion, too, was turned over to the authority of the chief rabbinate. Although the law did not authorize the chief rabbinate to actually manage conversions, in the days of the British mandate it was already determined that the chief rabbis, as heads of the religious community, were the only ones authorized to recognize the validity of conversions to Judaism in Israel.6 This meant that the chief rabbinate was granted the authority to decide who could carry out conversions and in which cases it would be advisable to allow or deny conversion. Indeed, private Haredi communities could continue to embrace their own independent conversion policies, but the chief rabbinate, as the central agent possessing the power to institute obligatory regulations, had a far-reaching influence on all cases of individuals requesting that their conversions be recognized by the state. The fact that the State of Israel granted Orthodoxy an exclusive status and did not recognize any other Jewish religious movement for many years also gave the chief rabbinate greater power in relation to other Jewish alternatives. Nevertheless, the tight connection between the chief rabbinate and the state exposed the former to heavy political pressures, especially demands by the political leadership that the chief rabbinate broaden conversion activities. Indeed, as mixed families arrived in Israel, the chief rabbinate had to make the difficult decision regarding whether conversion could be used as a legitimate means of integrating outsiders into Jewish society. As previously mentioned, as far back as the nineteenth century, rabbis’ opinions diverged regarding the question of whether someone interested in conversion out of “impure” motives should be converted. In the Israeli case, the question became even more difficult. On one hand, one’s aliyah (immigration) to Israel and desire to become absorbed in the state served as the ultimate proof that the prospective convert wished to become part of the Jewish nation. On the other hand, it was difficult to assume that the potential convert would join the Orthodox minority in the future, considering that the public atmosphere was dominantly secular. Furthermore, while rabbis in the Diaspora were divided as to whether it was more important to protect the Orthodox community, even at the price of shrinking it, or to preserve the unity of the Jewish community, the responsibility of the chief rabbinate inherently encompassed all the Jewish citizens of Israel, including the secular sector. Though at certain periods of time it was important to the leaders of this sector, too, to encourage conversions in order to preserve the bond to tradition, they were certainly not

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interested in the converts becoming observant, as Halakhah requires. The chief rabbinate therefore faced a dilemma, which Menachem Friedman describes as “unsolvable.”7 This was a conflict between a perception of the chief rabbinate as the leadership of Jewish society as a whole and the fact that this leadership is based on religious principles that most Israelis do not endorse. In what follows, I seek to examine how the chief rabbinate tackled this complex situation and consider whether it was able to solve it. The key question is whether the chief rabbinate’s leaders developed new concepts for dealing with the unprecedented situation they faced. The heart of this essay will be the claim that the establishment of the state did indeed motivate the rabbinate to adopt new conversion policies, but not necessarily more lenient ones. Three different approaches were developed to deal with the conversion challenge throughout the years, reflecting a variety of ways to combine religious tradition with the Zionist idea and the State of Israel.

The Rabbinate’s Conversion Conflict in the Early 1950s The question of conversion “made aliyah” to Israel in the early 1950s. Hundreds of mixed families, mostly from central Europe, entered Israel with the encouragement of the government, which supported the immigration of people who wished to tie their fate with that of the newly born state.8 Some of the non-Jewish immigrants expressed their will to convert, but a heated debate broke out within the rabbinic establishment as to whether their wish should be granted. The heart of the debate was the question of whether the new Israeli reality demanded a new conversion policy. At a rabbinic convention held in October 1953, Tel Aviv’s Sephardic chief rabbi, Ya’akov Moshe Toledano (1880–1960), presented the lenient conversion policy that prevailed at the time. He declared, “ There are many couples who come to the Beit Din [religious court] because they want an endorsement of . . . their marriage, and then it turns out that one of them is not Jewish, and he or she applies for conversion, and after checking with the police that there is no hindrance from the political [i.e., security] aspect, he or she is converted.”9 Despite his serious reservations about the rise in the rate of intermarriage among the new immigrants, Rabbi Toledano favored this lenient opinion. To his mind, one should be lenient in the conversion of mixed couples


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who had been married in civil marriages, and of their children, even if a nonJewish mother did not convert with them, “as the children were already registered in their identity cards as Jews, and with time would of course marry Jews.”10 Rabbi Reuven Katz, the chief rabbi of Petah Tikva, sided with Rabbi Toledano on this issue. Though he did explain that ab initio he would not have been comfortable with such conversions, in practice he claimed that “where it is possible—one should be lenient,” and therefore “we should tell him [i.e., the prospective convert] to study for one month the main principles of Judaism and its laws, and we cannot be stringent.”11 The implicit claim these rabbis relied on was a new one in halakhic discourse. They claimed that in Israel—as opposed to the Diaspora—local society is mostly Jewish, and non-Jews might blend into it through “sociological conversion,” as Asher Cohen would later term it.12 According to this idea, non-Jewish immigrants do not require religious conversion to become part of Jewish society. They, and especially the younger ones, would adopt the social patterns prevailing in their environment, rendering it increasingly difficult to distinguish them from the Israeli Jews around them. To avoid such a situation, these rabbis posited, one must be lenient regarding conversions performed in Israel so as to prevent future intermarriages. The more conservative rabbis also understood that they were facing a new social situation, but they came to the opposite conclusion. One of the leaders of this approach was Rabbi Toledano’s colleague in the Tel Aviv Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Issar Yehuda Unterman (1886–1976), who was later appointed as Israel’s Ashkenazic chief rabbi (1964–72(. At the rabbinic convention discussed earlier, Rabbi Unterman claimed that the potential convert “feels like a stranger among the people and therefore yearns to convert . . .  but has no intention of accepting our holy religion and its commandments.” Therefore, in secular Israel, as opposed to the Diaspora, one must be more stringent in conversion matters: “In the Diaspora, the convert would live between Jews, and most of them observed the Torah; and he would be absorbed in this environment and act in a Jewish manner. But here [the convert] resides among Jews who act differently and not according to the religion, and the conversion does not force them to observe even a minimum. . . . Intermarriage poses a great danger to the Jewish home, and this includes the converts who converted out of ulterior motives.” Rabbi Unterman complained about many rabbis who became “soft-hearted,” and suggested that the rabbis should push conversion candidates off “from one court to the next in order to clarify their real intentions.”13

Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity


Rabbi Unterman’s approach was shared by a senior rabbinic figure, the chief Ashkenazic rabbi Rabbi Yitzhak HaLevi (Isaac) Herzog (1888–1959). In some of his halakhic responsa, Rabbi Herzog tends to be lenient about the conversion of those wishing to immigrate to Israel,14 but in the internal discussions in the chief rabbinate, he presented quite a rigid stance. For example, during a discussion carried out in 1952, he recounted the story of a female convert who was not required to observe the Sabbath and did not know the meaning of the term kosher. He described the strict conversion policy held in England, which lowered the rate of intermarriages there, but said that in Israel, he had “begun studying the subject and found an unprotected zone.”15 As did Rabbi Unterman, Rabbi Herzog linked the need for stringency in Israel to its secular atmosphere. If the leaders of the nation are secular Jews, why should the potential converts believe they must adopt a different lifestyle? It should be noted that this dispute was not between Zionist and nonZionist rabbis. All the rabbis mentioned here were known to be Zionists, but they presented opposing approaches to conversion. One approach was lenient, aiming to protect the Jewish majority from the non-Jewish minority that might merge with it. This lenient approach was based on the idea that conversion could serve as a means for the integration of non-Jews into Jewish society. The opposing approach examined the issue from a narrower perspective, focusing on the level of observance that could be expected of each individual conversion candidate. It was stringent, as the Jewish majority that the convert was to join would be pronouncedly secular.

The Late 1950s: Shaping a Stringent Conversion Policy In the early 1950s two approaches toward conversion coexisted. Stringent rabbis’ criticism of their more lenient colleagues proves the popularity of these lenient conversions. This pluralism reflected the culture of halakhic ruling that prevailed for centuries. In the absence of a central religious establishment, each rabbi determined his own conversion policy. The establishment of the chief rabbinate, as I have already mentioned, gradually reversed this situation. The first change appeared in 1943, when the chief rabbinate disqualified individual rabbis from performing conversions. In the 1943 regulations, it was stated that conversions could only be performed by regional courts


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acting under the auspices of the chief rabbinate. These courts usually dealt with matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce, and from now on they would be the only bodies authorized to carry out conversions. According to the regulations, when the court “sees there is no hindrance to fulfilling the request, it performs the conversion in accordance with Jewish Law.”16 These regulations indicated the beginning of the process of centralizing conversion, but their vague wording still allowed for each court to determine its own policy as it saw fit. This relative pluralism changed in the late 1950s, when the chief rabbinate issued new conversion regulations.17 The regulations used administrative means to reject conversion requests and determined that from that point on, conversion proceedings were subject to an arbitrary waiting period: only one year after the request for conversion could the first hearing be held. After a year’s wait, if the court decided “that the candidate should be accepted to convert to Judaism,” the process of studying for conversion (which takes at least three months) could begin. However, for potential converts from mixed families, an opening for possible leniency was made, and the court was allowed to shorten the waiting period, although many courts did not utilize this option.18 These regulations reflected a negative attitude toward conversion in Israel, in the spirit of Rabbis Herzog and Unterman. To the best of my knowledge, nowhere in the world (not even in Israel itself before the establishment of the state) was such an arbitrary regulation, aimed at implementing the chief rabbinate’s stringent policy regarding conversion, instituted.

The Criticism of the Chief Rabbinate’s Policy and the Creation of “Bypass” Solutions The disapproving policy regarding conversions was reflected also in conversion data. According to the data published by the Ministry of Religious Affairs in the late 1960s, out of 4,010 conversion applications submitted before 1968, only about half (57 percent) were accepted (2,288).19 Some claimed that the number of rejections was actually higher, since in many cases the conversion file was not even opened.20 This policy was reflected at the time also in the press, which was full of examples of rabbinic courts that adopted a policy of delay in order to discourage conversion candidates.21

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This situation brought about poignant criticism of the chief rabbinate. Public figures, politicians, and journalists claimed the chief rabbinate was hindering the absorption of mixed families and failing to acknowledge that in Israel “every thing is Jewish,” a fact that should have lowered the level of religious requirements for converts.22 It should be noted that this criticism came, for the most part, from people who sympathized with Jewish religion and tradition. One of the most prominent among them was Israel’s president Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, who complained in a letter to the deputy minister of religious affairs about the long waiting period: “What is the point in instituting such a long waiting period spanning over a year in our day when there is airmail that can transfer messages within a few days?”23 The criticism sounded in the corridors of the chief rabbinate as well. Back in the 1950s, some rabbis had already claimed that state tools must be employed to deal with the challenge of non-Jewish immigration. These suggestions did not necessarily call for leniency in conversion, but rather for an organized conversion system to concentrate assistance for candidates under a single rabbinic authority.24 The rabbinic establishment rejected these suggestions outright in the 1950s and 1960s. So, for example, Rabbi Unterman, in a press interview in 1959, defended the conservative conversion policy, claiming that one must not hasten to apply for conversion in cases of intermarriage: “The couple has already been living together for years. They are not requested to divorce. Conversion does not always solve all these couples’ problems, and it is easier for them to part if there is no conversion.”25 The idea of founding a special conversion authority was not accepted either. The chief rabbis claimed that conversion was no different from any other religious issue falling under the authority of the regular religious courts. Many letters written to the chief rabbinate containing questions concerning conversion were uniformly answered: “Conversion matters are under the responsibility of the rabbinical courts in Israel and they are the only authority to be approached on this subject.”26 Despite this formal policy, practical solutions were found for at least some of the converts. Some of the courts adopted a rather lenient independent conversion policy. This approach was clearly expressed in the testimony of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (b. 1920), who later became chief rabbi of Israel (1972–83). He recounts that in the years of his ser vice as rabbinic judge, he “dealt with many cases that various courts were not able to solve.” He continues, “Urgent


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cases I always solved, within a few days. . . . In such cases I said: Come to me and I will get it done in a jiffy.”27 However, Rabbi Yosef added that this policy was practiced without publicity, in order to avoid criticism. Meanwhile, many converts continued to be rejected in other courts. Another solution for some of the candidates was conversion through the army. Rabbi Shlomo Goren (1918–94), serving at the time as the chief rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces, established a unique conversion course to enable non-Jewish soldiers to complete their conversions within the army framework. The military conversion, according to all the testimonies, was much more welcoming and pleasant than the civilian conversion course.28 The Jewish Agency’s Aliya Department, in charge of immigration to Israel, came up with another creative solution. The department staff understood that refusing to convert non-Jewish family members might result in the whole family’s avoidance of making aliyah. The heads of the department, who were mostly religious, had already suggested in the late 1950s that the subject be reexamined, as Yehuda Dominitz wrote: “In our generation we had encountered conversion questions of an individual-personal nature, while today it is becoming a question of national character.”29 However, since the chief rabbinate refused to accept these suggestions, the Aliya Department took an unusual step. Instead of bringing the non-Jewish immigrants to Israel and waiting—to no avail—for their conversions, the department acted to convert them on their way to Israel. Abroad, a few local rabbis agreed to convert future immigrants in specific places where they were concentrated, usually with the acquiescence of the heads of the chief rabbinate, who would later recognize these conversions.30 In this way a “silent pathway” was paved, allowing immigrants to convert without the Israeli chief rabbinate being directly involved in the act.

Opposition: The Chief Rabbinate’s Conformist Policy During the 1950s and 1960s The chief rabbinate’s stringent conversion policy was a continuation of the same approach already formed back in the nineteenth century as a reaction to the changes brought by modernity. However, new elements were added with the establishment of the state. First, as a result of the rabbinic disapproval of the national-secular Jewish majority, the chief rabbinate adopted a conversion policy that was even more stringent than that customary in the

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Diaspora. Second, the chief rabbinate used its centralized power, given by the state, to enforce its policy. However, the chief rabbinate did not practice absolute centralism but rather allowed other approaches to exist on the periphery. This relative flexibility was one of the reasons for the formal conservative policy’s existence until the late 1960s despite the criticism it received. Other reasons included the low number of non-Jewish immigrants and the fact that top Israeli leaders mostly believed that conversion was not the government’s responsibility and therefore did not intervene in it.31 This changed in the 1970s, bringing about a revolution in Israel’s conversion policy.

The 1970s and the Demand for Lenient Conversions The revolution in conversion policy stemmed first and foremost from demographic changes in immigration to Israel after the Six-Day War (1967). When the iron curtain began opening, thousands of Jews from the Soviet Union started arriving in Israel. Many more were expected to come, including a significant percentage of mixed families. Public and political pressure on the chief rabbinate ensued, creating a demand to ease conversion regulations so as to facilitate improved absorption of Russian Jewry. The kibbutz movement and its supporters in the political arena added their own pressure as well. At that time, tens of thousands of young non-Jews arrived to volunteer in the kibbutzim, spurred by the wave of world sympathy for Israel. Some of them— mainly women—fostered connections with young men from the kibbutzim and wished to marry them, but most rabbis rejected their requests, claiming it was not possible to convert people who planned to live on secular kibbutzim, which did not allow for a religious way of life. The situation was further complicated by the amendment of the Aliya Law (Law of Return) in 1970, which stated that conversion was the only process Israel would recognize for a non-Jew to become Jewish. Suddenly, conversion became a burning public and political issue. “We need rabbis who will search in the Books and not immediately say ‘no,’ ”32 exclaimed Prime Minister Golda Meir following a meeting with kibbutz members whose applications for conversion had been rejected. She even warned that holding up conversions could have a harsh effect on the status of religion in Israel: “If someone will bring on the institution of civil marriage in Israel— it will be the rabbis, through their way of dealing with these matters.”33


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The chief rabbinate, for its part, was aware of the situation. Its leading officials announced their willingness to establish special conversion courses, contrary to their previous policy. So, for instance, the chief rabbinate put out a notice in the press in 1970 stating, “Mixed couples will encounter no difficulties in joining the Jewish Nation.”34 The rabbi leading the new trend was none other than Chief Rabbi Unterman.

The Change in Rabbi Unterman’s Policy: From Stringency to Leniency In the early 1970s, Rabbi Unterman changed his position, claiming that the conversion of non-Jewish immigrants should be encouraged in Israel. Though in the 1950s he had declared that the converts should be rejected because they were not going to be religious, in the 1970s he clearly stated that the Russian immigrants must be embraced and that one should not burden them with “difficult questions” regarding their obligation to be observant.35 In my opinion, several factors led to the change in Rabbi Unterman’s approach. At one discussion in 1970, he explicitly attributed his change in approach to halakhic principles: “I myself have not encouraged the acceptance of converts all these years, but . . . in Russia the children were not educated to have any sense of Godliness . . . and if such a convert takes upon himself to accept the Torah, we can believe him.”36 Moreover, it can be assumed that he was also influenced by the heavy political pressure. For example, in 1968 Rabbi Unterman noted in an internal discussion in the chief rabbinate, “The Minister of Justice is demanding to quicken conversion in general.”37 But in addition to these two specific arguments, it seems that the main reason for his change was the adoption of a new perspective on conversion in the State of Israel. In the 1950s, his argument had focused on the individual wishing to convert, whereas in the 1970s he changed his perspective to focus on the broad national and social interests of the State of Israel. As a Religious Zionist rabbi, he understood that the dramatic increase in non-Jewish immigration was a threat to the Jewish character of the state, and that therefore the argument should be shifted from the individual to the communal realm. Based on this understanding, he emphasized the connection between conversion and immigration as a national concern of primary importance.

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As he pointed out, “We are expecting an immense movement of Jewish immigration to Israel,” and it is therefore “obligatory to prepare for the great task.”38 This change of perception also influenced the way he treated nonJewish conversion candidates. In the 1950s he had viewed their motives with suspicion, whereas in the 1970s he called for them to be embraced, since they were fellow-sufferers with the Russian Jews, and also since some of them had a Jewish identity, as reflected in their registration as Jews in all their certificates. However, in spite of the positive public declarations by Rabbi Unterman and his colleagues, he was unable to implement his policy. Within the leadership of the chief rabbinate, there was fierce opposition to any attempt at leniency in conversion matters. Besides personal struggles between the two chief rabbis, the conservative rabbis claimed that leniency in conversion had no religious value. They also claimed that a special conversion course would hurt the prestige and credibility of the religious courts traditionally responsible for national conversions. This conflict exposed the chief rabbinate’s character as a bureaucratic system in which there is a gap between ideological decisions and their actual implementation. This state of affairs prevented any policy change, and its publication in the media depicted the chief rabbinate as unable to meet the pressing demands of the conversion crisis.

Rabbi Goren and the Foundation of the Conversion Establishment Against this backdrop, the elections for the chief rabbinate took place in 1972. Rabbi Goren, chosen as Ashkenazic chief rabbi (1972–83) in part because of his promise to bring about a revolution in conversion policy, began a new epoch in the history of conversions in Israel. Before he introduced his initiative, the conversion process was solely the responsibility of the prospective convert. In the new system that Rabbi Goren founded, the rabbi took responsibility to supply converts with all the preparations needed for conversion. Training courses were given free of charge, at the state’s expense, throughout Israel. At the same time, special courts were established and all new converts were referred to them and not to the regular religious courts, which generally were not in favor of conversion. The rabbis


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serving in these courts were appointed by Rabbi Goren because of their tolerant attitude toward conversion. Rabbi Goren stood at the front line of the new establishment, devoting to it a significant part of his time as the chief rabbi. He interviewed candidates, visited classrooms, and even personally coordinated the fund-raising from the government offices (Religious Affairs, Education, Absorption, and the Jewish Agency) that financed the undertaking. Rabbi Goren established the new conversion system although he was warned of Haredi criticism. Even his Sephardic counterpart in the chief rabbinate, Rabbi Yosef, repeated these warnings. As previously mentioned, Rabbi Yosef had a lenient approach on the issue but preferred to exercise it discreetly. As Rabbi Goren established the new conversion system, Rabbi Yosef claimed that, in order to avoid conflicts, the discreet mode he and his colleagues employed in previous years must be continued.39 Rabbi Goren rejected this idea entirely. As a state rabbi, he opposed “under the table” policies, as he said: “I do not believe the State of Israel should act . . . outside of the formal framework and not through state measures.” 40 Many of the ideas for systematic state conversion had been heard in the corridors of the chief rabbinate since the 1950s, but Rabbi Goren was the first to succeed in implementing them, thanks to his practical abilities, his charisma, and his lack of fear of his opponents. Beyond these personal elements, however, there also stood an innovative ideological theory regarding conversion in the State of Israel.

The Integrative Attitude: Conversion in Israel According to Rabbi Shlomo Goren In various articles pertaining to the conversion issue, Rabbi Goren claimed that the essence of conversion is not religious transformation but rather entrance into the Jewish nation. The religious process is a vital prerequisite, but it is not “conversion itself.” 41 The practical meaning of this was that the potential convert’s willingness to join the Jewish nation and take part in the Zionist enterprise should be a central consideration in his or her acceptance. Moreover, based on various halakhic and historic cases, Rabbi Goren claimed that a lenient conversion policy must be adopted in Israel. As he put it, outside Israel, the converts “continue living in a non-Jewish atmosphere and

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there is no assurance that they and their children will be educated as Jews and live as such; [and therefore] conversion must be regarded negatively. But in the Land of Israel it is clear that they and their children will live as Jews in every respect.” 42 Rabbi Goren thus identified a new distinction: in Israel one must be lenient in conversion matters, since the public sphere that the convert will be joining is Jewish. As opposed to his predecessors in the 1950s, who claimed that since this sphere is secular, conversion must be prevented, for Rabbi Goren, as a Religious Zionist rabbi, the very joining of the Jewish collectivity and nationality should remain an integral part of the conversion process. This view was poignantly articulated in his speech to his conversion associates in the kibbutz movement on August 21, 1980: “I can say that I convert the people of the kibbutz movement with greater peace of mind. . . .  The people in the kibbutz are generally in good hands Jewishly speaking. They are rooted in the land and will remain in it. Their children will already be Israeli Jews in every way and they will have a solid foundation.” 43 As a result, Rabbi Goren became the first chief rabbi who was willing to formally convert candidates from the kibbutz movement, and he even established a unique conversion course for them. He did not, of course, convert anyone who did not go through the study process or refused to accept the commandments of the Torah. He even demanded that the kibbutz fulfill the converts’ religious needs. However, there is no doubt that he knew that the converts would not become observant Jews. Still, as mentioned earlier, he regarded the candidates’ having joined the kibbutz movement, which in those years was considered to be the pioneering movement in terms of contributing to the state, as a substantial consideration in favor of his or her conversion. The new approach toward conversion was reflected also in the change of the prerequisites for acceptance into the conversion course. Unlike the former policy, which demanded a year’s wait to clarify the candidate’s religious sincerity, Rabbi Goren demanded a year’s stay in Israel to ensure that the convert was indeed intent on tying his or her future with that of the State of Israel. He even stopped all conversion processes abroad and added an unprecedented note in all the conversion certificates he issued: “ These certificates are valid in Israel only.” Rabbi Goren’s approach, like that of his predecessor Rabbi Unterman, stemmed from a deep Religious Zionist sentiment that regarded conversion not only as an individual act but also as an integral part of a wider social


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context. This approach continued the lenient halakhic ruling but added new national elements to it— especially the linkage to the Land of Israel— discussed in classic halakhic ruling literature of the last two centuries. The original thinking he developed on this subject, as well as his personal and political power, which stood to his credit, enabled him to realize these ideas and bring about a revolution in Israeli conversion policy.

The Ambiguous Policy of Conversion from the 1980s to the Present The “Golden Era” of conversion in Israel ended in the early 1980s, following the termination of Rabbi Goren’s ser vice as chief rabbi. The conversion policy of the chief rabbis who came after him (1983–93), Avraham Elkanah Kahana Shapira and Mordechai Eliyahu, was vague. So, for example, while Rabbi Goren developed a detailed approach to conversion, the chief rabbis who held office after him wrote little on the subject and, in the few documents they did issue, some of them even expressed disapproval of leniency in matters of conversion. Nevertheless, they left the conversion system established by Rabbi Goren intact. They did not cancel the training programs, nor did they return conversion to the regular religious courts, in spite of heavy pressure from the Haredi sector. While in the 1950s and 1960s the controversy surrounding conversion had existed among Religious Zionist rabbis themselves, from the 1980s on, most of the rabbis dealing with conversion were from the Religious Zionist milieu, while their opponents—at least the more vocal ones—belonged to the Haredi sector. The Haredi press presented the conversions performed by the chief rabbinate as “fictitious.” Haredi rabbis published articles and proclamations against the chief rabbinate’s conversions and even took an unprecedented step by determining that their validity should be doubted, even though they were carried out by Orthodox rabbis.44 The Haredim achieved their goals to a certain extent. Although the chief rabbis refused to cancel the conversion programs, they began distancing themselves from conversion and did not stand on the front line of this activity, as had Rabbi Goren. Every few years, the chief rabbinate even suspended all conversion activity for certain periods to “examine the system.” The chief rabbis stopped signing conversion certificates and transferred the right of

Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity


signing to a lower authority. This lack of direct support caused some of the judges to withdraw from conversion activity in response to pressures put on them. One of the Haredi journalists who were active in trying to stop state conversions boasted during an interview in 1993), “Almost every time we publicize the opening of a new class for Russians, it quickly closes. Rabbis have called me and promised that they’ll stop teaching Russians, if I only won’t publicize their names in the paper.” 45 And so, from the 1980s on, a new conversion policy was developed in the chief rabbinate: an ambiguous policy primarily intended to facilitate conversion within certain limits in a way that will satisfy both supporters and opponents. This approach was explicitly expressed in a report written at the request of Chief Rabbi Shapira in the early 1980s.46 Its author, apparently Rabbi Sternberg from Kiryat Yam, began his letter with a glum description of the extant conversion activities. He wrote that, as only a few converts “remained proper loyal Jews,” “the conversion courses should be liquidated and closed down.” Based on the historic precedent of the conversions performed in the days of Kings David and Solomon, however, Rabbi Sternberg explained that this should be prevented. According to Maimonides,47 in those days intermarriage was common, but the performers of conversion were laymen (hedyotot) and not rabbis. Rabbi Sternberg claimed that this unusual policy stemmed from the general public’s pressure on the chief rabbinate to carry out mass conversions in order to avoid intermarriages. However, since the motivation for conversion was not religiously sincere, the rabbis at that time did not perform the conversions themselves but rather hinted to others that they would not oppose their doing so. The author of the report claimed that the chief rabbinate now faced “a similar quandary.” On the one hand, the contemporary policy could not continue—but neither could it be terminated, since public opinion would not allow this, as it would increase intermarriage. Therefore, the author recommended that the method of the rabbis in the days of David and Solomon be adopted—that is, “not to reject” converts but to perform conversions on the condition that a few steps be taken to strengthen the religious nature of the process. Rabbi Shapira’s answer to this document is unknown. However, the letter reflects the chief rabbinate’s ambiguous conversion policy from the 1980s until 2008. The chief rabbis supported the continuation of the conversion project while personally remaining distant from it. From the 1980s on, the


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weight of responsibility for conversion was delegated to Religious Zionist rabbis, who were ready to stand up to the challenge in the spirit of the religious national ideology.

Chief Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and the Reestablishment of the Conversion Authority in the Mid-1990s The chief rabbinate’s ambiguous policy continued into the early 1990s. The chief rabbinate did not take any significant action to advance the conversion of the non-Jewish third of the one million immigrants who arrived from the Soviet Union at the time. On the contrary, despite public pressure to solve the problem, the number of rabbis dealing with conversion dwindled gradually, many conversion courses closed down, and the budgets for this purpose decreased. A change came about in 1993, however, when two new chief rabbis were elected (1993–2003): Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron and Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. After a long period of hesitation, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron decided to rearrange the conversion system in 1995. He publicly claimed, clearly referencing his predecessors’ behav ior, that his responsibility obliged him not to “bury his head in the sand.” 48 In press interviews he explained that, without an appropriate response to the conversion challenge, the Jewish religious nature of the state would become unrecognizable. And, indeed, the conversion courts that he reestablished were fairly lenient, at least according to his Haredi opponents, who continued putting pressure on him— unsuccessfully—to discontinue his activity. He even explicitly compared himself to Rabbi Goren, saying, “I see myself as a Zionist to the exact same extent as Rabbi Goren.” 49 Notwithstanding the comparison to Rabbi Goren, the conversion system Rabbi Bakshi-Doron established reflected a different model for coping with the conversion challenge in Israel. While Rabbi Goren wrote extensively about conversion from a distinctly Religious Zionist point of view, Rabbi Bakshi-Doron rarely remarked on the subject, and his few writings on it actually reveal quite a stringent position.50 Unlike Rabbi Goren, who stood at the front line of conversion—publicly, organizationally, and halakhically—Rabbi Bakshi-Doron distanced himself from it and passed on the responsibility to an external nonprofit organization named Tsomet, which was to run the conversion administration on his behalf. Rabbi Bakshi-Doron’s

Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity


policy was an enabling policy—that is, any immigrant who met certain standards could convert in Israel. However, this was not an enterprising, creative policy backed by a firm ideology, as in Rabbi Goren’s era. In this respect, and despite the relatively active position taken by Rabbi Bakshi-Doron compared with those of his predecessors, it was not clear to what extent he supported conversion and was interested in advancing it. One of the results of this position was a failure to meet stated objectives. Only 5  percent of all non-Jewish immigrants have converted in Israel since the beginning of the twenty-first century. Rabbi Bakshi-Doron attributed this to the permissive and secular nature of the Russian immigrants, saying, “Even the lenient rabbis of earlier generations would not have been able to convert today’s candidates.”51 It is difficult to imagine that these claims would have been heard from Rabbi Goren, who agreed to convert kibbutz residents, considered the most secular group in Israel in the 1970s and 1980s. This hesitant policy caused a never-ending sequence of public and political scandals that accompanied conversion throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. The climax of these scandals was the institution of the chief rabbinate’s policy on conversion annulments in 2008.

Conversion Cancellations and the Peak of Rabbinic Perplexity in the Early 2000s With indirect backing from the chief rabbinate, the special conversion courts continued their work in the first years of the twenty-first century as well, converting around a thousand non-Jewish immigrants every year. As noted, their liberal critics claimed this was a relatively small number, but the Haredi sector continually attacked these conversions, claiming they were done too leniently. This criticism reached a peak in 2008, when the Supreme Rabbinic Court ruled that the thousands of conversions performed through the state conversion authority should be annulled. It should be emphasized that this rabbinic court, just like the conversion courts, is part of the Israeli religious establishment system subject to the chief rabbis. This ruling constituted a precedent. Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who wrote the verdict, claimed that all the conversions performed by the special conversion courts were invalid. Although, according to Halakhah, conversion cannot be annulled as a matter of principle, the innovative claim contained in this ruling was that the conversions were not valid as the rabbis


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who performed them were not qualified to serve as conversion rabbis because they were offenders (avaryanim). According to Rabbi Sherman, the severe offense committed by these rabbis was their adoption of the conversion concept of Rabbis Unterman and Goren (whom he does not mention by name), according to which conversion must be viewed in light of national parameters and not only religious concerns. Rabbi Sherman disputed this, saying, “We must not consider the national or social goals which are not backed by any genuine change, such as coming closer to God and His Torah and commandments, since in real ity the vast majority of these converts . . . see themselves as belonging to the Jewish nation only in the national-social aspect, with no inner religious connection to the Jewish people.”52 Rabbi Sherman’s claims are essentially similar to those of the rabbis in the 1950s and 1960s who disapproved of conversions lacking religious motivation. Still, despite the relative similarity, there was a significant difference that reflected the radical step Rabbi Sherman had taken: contrary to the stances of earlier rabbis who had allowed—albeit by turning a blind eye—the existence of “bypass conversion tracks,” Rabbi Sherman posited that the conversions of anyone who did not hold his strict attitude lacked validity. This ruling had far-reaching consequences. Many rabbis within the rabbinic establishment began following Rabbi Sherman and doubting the validity of the conversions performed by the conversion courts. An absurd situation had arisen in the Israel of the new millennium, where a few rabbis were performing conversions on behalf of the chief rabbinate and the state, while other rabbis—also employees of the state service—did not recognize these conversions. The idea on which the chief rabbinate’s establishment was based—that is, that a uniform halakhic policy needed to be formed to accommodate itself to the majority of Jewish society in Israel—was about to crumble. How did the chief rabbis react to this dramatic move? The reaction of Israel’s chief rabbi Shlomo Amar aligned with the approach developed in the 1980s, according to which the chief rabbinate did not intervene in conversion but rather managed it “from a distance.” Rabbi Amar (elected to his position in 2003) expressed his reservations about these conversion annulments. He set rules that would make it difficult to repeat such annulments and even made efforts to revalidate the annulled conversions. On the other hand, he did not speak out publicly against the idea of conversion annulments, nor did he act against the rabbis who held this policy.53 The chief rabbinate became a weak, reactive, and “mediating” entity. It tried

Opposition, Integration, and Ambiguity


to appease its opponents from right and left but was unable to be proactive and initiate a conversion policy of its own—be it lenient or strict.

Summary: How Has the State of Israel Influenced Understandings of, and Procedures for, Conversion to Judaism? The establishment of the State of Israel had a crucial influence on the evolution of understandings of conversion to Judaism. The return to the Land of Israel, based on the national idea, led the chief rabbinate to develop three different models for dealing with conversion. These models were based on the assumption that in Israel a new historic reality had come to exist in which non-Jews blended into the Jewish majority, and the question of their conversion had implications for the character of the Jewish State. The heads of the chief rabbinate were divided on the question of to what extent these national Jewish considerations were legitimate in conversion discourse, as well as whether the will to blend into the general society, which is secular in nature, is a first step toward joining the Jewish nation or rather, on the contrary, a regression from the pure religious idea underlying conversion. The chief rabbinate’s conversion model in the 1950s and 1960s was based on the interpretation of conversion from a religious perspective only, and it therefore formulated stricter rules than those accepted in the Jewish world up until that time. In the 1970s, however, Rabbis Unterman and Goren developed a new model, based on the idea that conversion is a national and social procedure. They claimed that those interested in tying their future with that of the Jewish nation in the Land of Israel must be embraced. The distinction between these approaches was not only halakhic but also metahalakhic, as can be learned from the change in Rabbi Unterman’s approach. In the 1950s, Rabbi Unterman comprehended conversion as an individual religious act and was therefore one of its leading opponents. In the 1970s, however, he took into account the national interests linked to conversion and thus attempted—although in vain—to advance conversion. Rabbi Unterman’s failure to realize his new concept constitutes an example of another way in which the state influenced conversion policy. The establishment of the state altered the classic rabbinic model positing that a rabbi’s authority depends on his congregation’s consent. For the first time in thousands of years, the rabbinic leadership was granted authority by the state


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to enforce its approach on all rabbis and citizens of Israel. Both strict and lenient rabbis embraced the new power granted them and used it to form a centralized policy. However, the connection between religion and state made the chief rabbinate’s policy dependent also on political and public demands. Beginning in the 1980s, a third conversion model developed, characterized mainly by indecisiveness and ambivalence. While the past conversion models were based on clear-cut perceptions of conversion, lenient or strict, since the late twentieth century the heads of the chief rabbinate had no coherent conversion view. Their policy was swayed by halakhic and political commitments and the demands from right and left. The chief rabbinate’s bewilderment in the context of conversion reflected the deeper process of its weakening and the failure of the idea of statehood underlying it. While the former rabbis crafted specific policies, the rabbis succeeding Rabbi Goren were dragged into the issue. They decentralized the unique authority granted them, and as a result a struggle ensued within the rabbinic establishment concerning the validity of the conversions performed by it. Beyond the conversion policy, these models also reflect different approaches within the religious leadership in Israel to all that pertains to the tension between religion and state in Israel. The approach of Rabbis Goren and Unterman in the 1970s reflected a view according to which there is a “Religious Zionist Halakhah.”54 To their minds, religion and the state are two legitimate components in the world of Torah ruling. These two components should be linked, and a solution may be found for these complex issues, as Rabbi Goren did regarding conversion. In contrast, according to the model created at the establishment of the state, the rabbis’ commitment to Halakhah leaves them no leeway that could allow for a solution to the challenge posed them by the secular nation-state, at least in the realm of conversion. According to the radical interpretation of this idea by Rabbi Sherman in the early 2000s, not only must Halakhah disregard national considerations, but whoever prioritizes them disqualifies himself from being a rabbi. The conversion controversy exposes, then, a complex halakhic and ideological issue evolving from one era to the next, from one rabbi to another, and even within the same person. The chief rabbinate’s current adoption of the ambiguous model, developed since the 1980s, shows that a solution has not yet been found—one way or the other—to the question of the connection between religion and state in Israel.


INTRODUCTION 1. David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York, 2013), 273; see also Michael Ragussis, Figures of Conversion: “The Jewish Question” and English National Identity (Durham, N.C., 1995). 2. Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism, 274. 3. Karl F. Morrison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville, Va., 1992), xiv. 4. See, e.g., Adam H. Becker and Annette Yoshiko Reed, eds., The Ways That Never Parted: Jews and Christians in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (Tübingen, 2003); and Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia, 2004). See also an excellent discussion of Christianity as a “translation” of Judaism in Naomi Seidman, Faithful Renderings: Jewish-Christian Difference and the Politics of Translation, Afterlives of the Bible (Chicago, 2006). 5. Andrew Jacobs, Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference (Philadelphia, 2012). 6. See Thomas Kaufmann, Luther’s Jews: A Journey into Anti-Semitism (Oxford, 2014). 7. Anthony Grafton and Joanna Weinberg, “I Have Always Loved the Holy Tongue”: Isaac Casaubon, the Jews, and a Forgotten Chapter in Renaissance Scholarship (Cambridge, Mass., 2011), 287. 8. See Ernest Renan, Vie de Jésus (1863); Robert Priest, “Ernest Renan’s Race Problem,” Historical Journal 58 (2015): 309–30; and Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton, N.J., 2008). 9. See Susannah Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago, 1998); and Simon Goldhill, “What Has Alexandria to Do with Jerusalem? Writing the History of the Jews in the Nineteenth Century,” Historical Journal 59.1 (2015): 125–51. 10. See Ishay Rosen-Zvi and Adi Ophir, “Paul and the Invention of the Gentiles,” Jewish Quarterly Review 105.1 (2015): 1–41; and Adi Ophir and Ishay Rosen-Zvi, Goy: Israel’s Multiple Others and the Birth of the Gentile (Oxford, 2018). 11. See, for instance, the aforementioned That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, where Luther noted, “If the apostles, who also were Jews, had dealt with us Gentiles as we Gentiles deal with the Jews, there would never have been a Christian among the Gentiles. Since they dealt with us Gentiles in such a brotherly fashion, we in our turn ought to treat Jews in a brotherly manner in order that we might convert some of them. . . . When we are inclined to boast of our position we should remember that we are but Gentiles, while the Jews are of the lineage of Christ. We are aliens and in-laws; they are blood relatives, cousins, and brothers


Notes to Pages 6–9

of our lord. Therefore, if one is to boast of flesh and blood the Jews are actually nearer to Christ than we are, as St Paul says in Romans 9.” Martin Luther, That Jesus Christ Was Born a Jew, trans. Walter I. Brandt, in Luther’s Works (Philadelphia, 1962), 45:200. Cf. Kaufmann, Luther’s Jews, 60. 12. John G. Kinnear, Cairo, Petra and Damascus, in 1839, with Remarks on the Government of Mehemet Ali (London, 1841), 260, quoted by T. Archer in Lectures on the Conversion of the Jews: By Ministers of Different Denominations, Published Under the Sanction of the British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among the Jews (London, 1843), 60. 13. See Jacob Katz, “Though He Sinned, He Remains an Israelite” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 5718 (1958): 203–17, reprinted in the author’s Halakhah and Kabbalah [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 1986), 255–69. 14. David Nirenberg, “Enmity and Assimilation: Jews, Christians and Converts in Medieval Spain,” Common Knowledge 9.1 (2003): 137–55 at 138. 15. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto (New York, 1971; repr., Seattle, 1981), 14. 16. See Joan-Pau Rubiés, “Were Early Modern Eu ropeans Racist?,” in Ideas of “Race” in the History of the Humanities, ed. Amos Morris-Reich and Dirk Rupnow (Cham, Switzerland, 2017), 33–87; Mercedes García-Arenal, ed., After Conversion: Iberia and the Emergence of Modernity (Leiden, 2016); David Nirenberg, “Was There Race Before Modernity? The Example of ‘Jewish’ Blood in Late Medieval Spain,” in The Origins of Racism in the West, ed. Miriam Eliav-Feldon, Benjamin Isaac, and Joseph Ziegler (Cambridge, England, 2009), 232–64; idem, “Rethinking Spanish ‘Judaism’ and ‘Christianity’ in an Age of Mass Conversion,” in Rethinking European Jewish History, ed. J. Cohen and M. Rosman (Portland, Ore., 2009), 149–72; idem, “Conversion, Sex, and Segregation: Jews and Christians in Medieval Spain,” American Historical Review 107.4 (2002): 1065–93. 17. We intentionally use “mirror image” here—rather than any term suggesting causation—and we give no credence to the idea, formulated by the anti-Semitic Spanish historian Claudio Sánchez Albornoz and the (not anti-Semitic) Spanish historian Américo Castro, that the Spanish Inquisition and the statutes of purity of blood owed their origin to Jewish legal traditions. See Yosef Kaplan, “Between Yitzhak Baer and Claudio Sánchez Albornoz: The Rift That Never Healed,” in Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman, ed. Richard I. Cohen, Natalie B. Dorhmann, Adam Shear, and Elchanan Reiner (Pittsburgh, 2014), 356–68 (at 363–67); Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “Baer’s History, Translated and Revisited” [first published in 1966], republished in The Faith of Fallen Jews: Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi and the Writing of Jewish History, ed. David N. Myers and Alexander Kaye (Waltham, Mass., 2014), 37–48 (at 47). 18. Nechama Tec, In the Lion’s Den: The Life of Oswald Rufeisen (New York, 1990). 19. Michael Wyschogrod, Abraham’s Promise: Judaism and Jewish-Christian Relations, ed. R. Kendall Soulen (Grand Rapids, 2004), 202–10. 20. One striking example among many is the retelling of the play in Howard Jacobson’s novel Shylock Is My Name (London, 2016). Sarah Gracombe’s contribution to this volume engages with Jacobson’s earlier work. See also Edna Nahshon and Michael Shapiro, eds., Wrestling with Shylock: Jewish Responses to “The Merchant of Venice” (Cambridge, England, 2017); and Lily Kahn, ed., “Shakespeare and the Jews,” special issue, European Judaism 51.2 (2018). 21. See, e.g., Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Conversion of Hermann the Jew, trans. Alex  J. Novikoff (Philadelphia, 2010); Maud Kozodoy, The Secret Faith of Maestre Honoratus (Phila-

Notes to Pages 9–11


delphia, 2015); and Jamie Gilham and Ron Geaves, eds., Victorian Muslim: Abdullah Quilliam and Islam in the West (New York, 2017). 22. See Yaël Hirsch, Rester juif? Les convertis face à l’universel (Paris, 2014); Ryan Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative: Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (Philadelphia, 2012); and Peter Mazur and Abigail Shinn, “Introduction: Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World,” in “Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World,” ed. Peter Mazur and Abigail Shinn, special issue, Journal of Early Modern History 17 (2013): 427–36. 23. See, e.g., Paola Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250–1391 (Philadelphia, 2012); Todd Endelman, Leaving the Jewish Fold: Conversion and Radical Assimilation in Modern Jewish History (Princeton, N.J., 2015); Martin Przybilski and Carsten Schapkow, eds., Konversion in Räumen jüdischer Geschichte (Wiesbaden, 2014); Ira Katznelson and Miri Rubin, eds., Religious Conversion: History, Experience and Meaning (Burlington, Vt., 2014); Arietta Papaconstantinou, Neil McLynn, and Daniel Schwartz, eds., Conversion in Late Antiquity: Christianity, Islam, and Beyond (Burlington, Vt., 2015); Tijana Krstić, Contested Conversions to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Stanford, Calif., 2011); Jan N. Bremmer, Wout Jac. van Bekkum, and Arie L. Molendijk, eds., Cultures of Conversions (Leuven, 2006); idem, eds., Paradigms, Poetics and Politics of Conversion (Leuven, 2006); Kenneth Mills and Anthony Grafton, eds., Conversion: Old Worlds and New (Rochester, N.Y., 2003); idem, eds., Conversion in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages: Seeing and Believing (Rochester, N.Y., 2003); Ellie  R. Schainker, Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817–1906 (Stanford, Calif., 2016); Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001); Adam Kaźmieczyk, Rodziłem się Żydem . . . Konwersje Żydów w Rzeczypospolitej XVII–XVIII wieku (Kraków, 2015); Agnieszka Jagodzińska, Duszozbawcy? Misja i literatura Londyńskiego Towarzystwa Krzewienia Chrześcijaństwa wśród Żydów w latach 1809–1939 (Kraków, 2017); Jeffrey Shoulson, Fictions of Conversion: Jews, Christians and Cultures of Change in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, 2013); David B. Ruderman, Connecting the Covenants: Judaism and the Search for Christian Identity in Eighteenth- Century England (Philadelphia, 2007); Yaniv Fox and Yosi Yisraeli, eds., Contesting Inter-religious Conversion in the Medieval World (London, 2017); Lincoln Mullen, The Chance of Salvation: A History of Conversion in America (Cambridge, Mass., 2017); Vincenzo Lavenia, Stefania Pastore, Sabina Pavone, and Chiara Petrolini, eds., Compel People to Come In: Violence and Catholic Conversions in the Non-European World (Rome, 2018). 24. Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford, 2014). 25. See, for instance, Alan Strathern, Unearthly Powers: Religious and Political Change in World History (Oxford, 2019); Sebastian Conrad, What Is Global History? (Princeton, N.J., 2016); Lynn Hunt, Writing History in the Global Age (New York, 2015); and Maxine Berg, ed., Writing the History of the Global: Challenges for the Twenty-First Century (Oxford, 2013). 26. One recent volume, for example, looks at a set of early modern cases in which changes of religious and gender identity are entangled: Simon Ditchfield and Helen Smith, eds., Conversions: Gender and Religious Change in Early Modern Europe (Manchester, England, 2017). 27. See Anthony Grafton, Traditions of Conversion: Descartes and His Demon (Berkeley, Calif., 2000), both for an insightful discussion of the analytical challenges early modern spiritual autobiographies pose to historians and for an examination of the way René Descartes’s


Notes to Pages 11–27

Discourse on Method drew on the manuals of the early Jesuit tradition in which he had been educated. 28. On this topic in par ticular, see Simon Goldhill, Victorian Culture and Classical Antiquity (Princeton, N.J., 2011). 29. See Todd Endelman, “Welcoming Ex-Jews into the Jewish Historiographical Fold,” in Broadening Jewish History: Towards a Social History of Ordinary Jews (Oxford, 2011), 82–92. 30. Fritz Mauthner in Judentaufen, ed. Arthur Landsberger (Munich, 1912), 76. 31. See David B. Ruderman, ed., Converts of Conviction: Faith and Skepticism in Nineteenth Century Jewish History (Berlin, 2018), especially Ruderman’s introduction; and Hirsch’s magnificent study of Jewish converts between World War I and World War II, Rester juif? 32. See, for instance, Brent Nongbri, Before Religion: A History of a Modern Concept (New Haven, Conn., 2013); Carlin A. Barton and Daniel Boyarin, Imagine No Religion: How Modern Abstractions Hide Ancient Realities (New York, 2016): Leora Batnitzky, How Judaism Became a Religion (Princeton, N.J., 2011); Rémi Brague, Sur la religion (Paris, 2018); and Daniel Boyarin, Judaism: The Genealogy of a Modern Notion (New Brunswick, N.J., 2018). For a similar argument regarding philology, see Seth Kimmel, Parables of Coercion: Conversion and Knowledge at the End of Islamic Spain (Chicago, 2015).

CHAPTER 1 1. Ger appears in the Bible ninety-two times in the singular and plural; about threefourths of these occurrences are in the Pentateuch. For the full statistics of the noun and the verb gur, see Dieter Kellermann, “‫ גור‬gur, ‫ גר‬ger, ‫ גרות‬geruth, ‫ מגורים‬megurim,” TDOT 2:442–43. 2. The noun shemad is more common than mumar. Originally shemad—an Aramaic loanword—meant “forced conversion” (e.g., Siphre Deuteronomy 15; t. Avodah Zarah 5:6; and more), but it later referred to any conversion from Judaism. Eliezer Ben Yehuda, A Complete Dictionary of Ancient and Modern Hebrew, 17 vols. (Jerusalem, 1959), 15:7225. For mumar, see b. Sanhedrin 27a; b. Hullin 4b–5a, 41a. 3. Some scholars ascribe the meaning of “religious convert” to the term ger already in certain layers of the biblical liter ature, such as the Priestly layer of the Pentateuch—e.g., Alfred Bertholet, Die Stellung der Israeliten und der Juden zu dem Fremden (Freiburg, 1896), 178; Karl Elliger, Leviticus (Tübingen, 1966), 227; and Kellermann: “In late strata of P the ger is the fully integrated proselyte,” or, “The ger is regarded largely as a proselyte” (“‫ גור‬gur,” 447, 446, respectively, following Elliger). Walther Zimmerli attributes this meaning to the occurrences of the term ger in Ezekiel— although without applying the term proselyte. See Walther Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1–2: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, Chapters 1–48, trans. Ronald B. Clements (vol. 1) and James D. Martin (vol. 2), 2 vols. (Philadelphia, 1979–83), 1:301–3, 453; 2:520–21, 532; followed by Kellermann, “‫ גור‬gur”; Daniel  I. Block, The Book of Ezekiel, 2 vols., New International Commentary on the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, 1997–98), 1:409, 708, 727; 2:717, and more. Regarding these claims, see the discussion later in this chapter. 4. See, for example, HALOT, 201: “a man who (alone or with his family) leaves village and tribe . . . and seeks shelter and residence at another place”; BDB, 158: “sojourner, temporary dweller, newcomer (no inherited rights).”

Notes to Pages 27–30


5. See HALOT, 184: “to dwell as alien and dependent”; and Thesaurus of the Language of the Bible, ed. Samuel E. Loewenstamm et al., 3 vols. (Jerusalem, 1957–68), 2:213: “sojourn, dwell under some ones’ protection.” 6. Joseph Tabory, JPS Commentary on the Haggadah: Historical Introduction, Translation and Commentary (Philadelphia, 2008), 90 (section maggid). This same comment appears in a concise phrasing in Siphre Deuteronomy §301, ed. Louis Finkelstein (New York, 1969), 319, but according to the editor, it is not extant in all the manuscripts and is probably a later gloss. 7. See, e.g., Exod. 23:9; Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:19; and, in the collective singular, Deut. 23:8. Thus Moses describes his residence in Midian: “I have been a ger [NJPS: stranger] in a foreign land” (Exod. 2:22). This meaning is reflected by the various translations—alien, stranger, sojourner, and the like—which, however, are usually not adopted consistently in the different contexts. A divergent voice is that of the commentator Joseph Bechor Shor, who comments on Gen. 47:4, “According to the plain meaning: to settle permanently. Our rabbis interpreted that he did not go there to settle permanently but only to dwell there.” The Commentaries of Rabbi Joseph Bechor Shor on the Pentateuch [in Hebrew], ed. Joseph Nevo (Jerusalem, 1994), 84 (translation my own). 8. HALOT, 201. 9. The book of Leviticus once uses the phrase eker mishpachat ger, interpreted as “the offshoot of an alien’s family” (Lev. 25:47, NJPS). According to the laws of the manumission of slaves, if a ger has become the owner of an Israelite slave, he must enable the slave to be redeemed at any time, without waiting until the Jubilee year, which is the law for Israelite slaves owned by their peers (Lev. 25:47–54). 10. The phrasing in this context is most general: “ There shall be one law for you and for the ger [NJPS: the resident alien]; it shall be a law for all time throughout the ages. You and the ger [NJPS: stranger] shall be alike before the Lord; the same ritual and the same rule shall apply to you and to the ger [NJPS: stranger] who resides among you” (Num. 15:15–16). It seems, however, that this most general statement refers to the law of sacrifices, laid down in chapter 15; similar phrases are found later on, in 15:26 and 28. 11. There are differences between the legal corpora of the Pentateuch regarding the legal rights and obligations of the ger; see, among others, Moshe Weinfeld, Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomic School (Oxford, 1972), 229–32; and Phillip  A. Enger, Die Adoptivkinder Abrahams: Eine exegetische Spurensuche zur Vorgeschichte des Proselytentum, (Frankfurt, 2006). The ongoing intensive debate regarding the composition and dating of the Deuteronomic and Priestly documents has some bearing on one’s views regarding the details and the development of these laws, but these details do not affect the general picture as presented here. See, among others, Nadav Na’aman, “Sojourners and Levites in the Kingdom of Judah in the Seventh Century BCE” [in Hebrew], Tarbiz 77 (2008): 170–86, published in English in Zeitschrift für Altorientalische und Biblische Rechtsgeschichte 14 (2008): 237–79; and the bibliography cited there. 12. This is the basic presupposition of scholars who regard the gerim in Deuteronomy either as citizens of northern Israel who had fled to Judah after the Assyrian conquest of Samaria, or as Judahites who had changed their place of residence after Sennacherib’s campaign and the devastation of their villages and towns. Na’aman, “Sojourners and Levites,” n11. 13. A very pertinent question is how universal these concepts were, in both time and place. Were they followed by people exiled from one country to another? At least according to 2 Kings 17, the foreign people who were brought to Samaria by the Assyrian rulers continued to worship their original gods, side by side with the God of Israel. How did the Israelites


Notes to Pages 30–31

conduct themselves in the lands of their exile? The book of Ezekiel demonstrates that his contemporaries in the Diaspora continued their own practices. Nevertheless, the question remains as to how exclusive their practice was, and how much of the local practices they followed. A syncretistic faith of the exiles is reflected in Ezekiel’s reproof of those who “hold the rope at both its ends”—that is, worship the local idols and come to the prophet to inquire about the word of the Lord (Ezek. 14:7–8; see pp. 37–38). Later novellas, such as Daniel and Esther, illustrate the dissatisfaction of contemporary rulers with the attempts of the Jews to adhere to their own faith and practices, a behavior regarded as a capital sin (Esther 3:9–10; Dan. 1:8–16; 3:8–30). Another aspect of this question is the conduct of the foreign queens during the time of Solomon, on the one hand, and that of Ahab, on the other. According to the biblical record, they were allowed to follow their original practices—perhaps as part of their marriage contracts (1 Kings 11:7–8; 2 Kings 23:13). In fact, the attempt of Jezebel to force the worship of Baal on the Israelite population of northern Israel is possibly an attempt to transform Israel into an Aramean state under the patronage of the god Baal (see 1 Kings 18:21). 14. I employ the term religious convert/conversion rather than proselyte because of the ambiguity inherent in the latter term. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, proselyte designates “a convert to a religion or opinion etc.,” with no consideration of the elements of motivation and free will, which are essential to the concept of “religious conversion.” Webster’s New World Dictionary offers a similar definition. 15. Yehezkel Kaufmann, History of the Religion of Israel, vol. 4, From the Babylonian Captivity to the End of Prophecy, trans. C. W. Ephroymson (New York, 1977), 43. 16. Ephraim E. Urbach, “Ger” [in Hebrew], Encyclopedia Hebraica, 32 vols. (Jerusalem, 1949–80), vol. 11 (1957), p. 173. 17. See, in par ticular, Shaye D. Cohen, “Conversion to Judaism in Historical Perspective: From Biblical Israel to Postbiblical Judaism,” Conservative Judaism 36.4 (1983): 31–45. Cohen writes, “My debt to Yehezkel Kaufmann . . . is large” (40–41n5). And again, “That conversion to Judaism was an innovation of the postbiblical period is the discovery of Y. Kaufmann” (41n11). Cohen, following Kaufmann, identifies “religious conversion” with the standardized and formalized procedure established by rabbinic Judaism after 70 c.e. and describes biblical Israelite society as having had “no mechanism by which outsiders could be amalgamated into the body politic” (39). As will be clarified later, the evidence of the biblical texts regarding religious conversion is quite different. The claim that the biblical texts do not mention any “mechanism” or “formal procedure” is based on the wrong assumption that the Bible provides a complete picture of Israelite life and institutions, an assumption that is contradicted in every field of Israelite life, and in par ticular in regard to procedural law and practices, as is universally recognized. Does the fact that there is no mention of “formal procedure” regarding marriage, divorce, adoption, inheritance, court systems, and so on mean that these did not exist? Does the absence of procedural law mean that there were no formal legal procedures in any field of Israelite society? See also p. 36 and n. 24. 18. Jewish exegetical tradition regards two earlier foreigners as the first proselytes: Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, and Rahab (see Mekhilta Jethro 1:2, Leviticus Rabbah 9:6, and more). The statements of Jethro and Rahab are indeed significant but are not as straightforward as that of Na’aman. Jethro’s declaration, “Now I know that the Lord is greater than all gods” (Exod. 18:11), indeed recognizes the Lord’s greatness but does not deny the existence or the power of other gods. Rahab’s statement is more comprehensive: “The Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath” (Josh. 2:11); but here again there is no

Notes to Pages 31–35


denial of the existence of other gods (NJPS “corrects” this omission by the addition of the word “only,” not found in the Hebrew). This difference was acknowledged by the rabbis: “Na’aman admitted this thing more than him [Jethro] for he said . . . and Rahab said: . . .” (Mekhilta Jethro 1:1). Na’aman is also the only one who makes an explicit commitment to worship the Lord alone. 19. See p. 29. 20. Later rabbinic sources regarded this conversion as insufficient, as it lacked the element of absolute free choice and conviction, and termed these people “converts of lions” (gerei arayot; see, e.g., b. Kiddushin 75b; b. Yebamoth 24b). 21. According to the biblical order of books, the texts discussed are from Isaiah (chapters 56 and 14, respectively), Zechariah, Ezra–Nehemiah, and Esther. They are all postexilic, and one may consult the commentaries to these books for the different proposals regarding their dating. 22. In Hebrew, these people are defined by a participle, nivdal, whereas the English translation presents them by a verb in the past tense: “all who separated themselves.” 23. The NJPS translates the Hebrew torah consistently as “teaching,” but I prefer to represent it by transliteration. The NRSV and other translations represent the word by “law.” 24. The prerequisite conditions or the formal ceremony that might have accompanied the inclusion of these people in the Judean community is not mentioned, nor are such requirements noted in regard to the previously specified sections of the Judean community (see, by contrast, Ezra 2:59 = Neh. 7:61, where such requirements are made explicit). The absence of such information is fully accounted for by the literary genre of the chapter as a story, rather than a legal discussion. 25. For this specific nuance of the phrase nivdal me . . . el/le—that is, to separate oneself from one group and join another—see 1 Chron. 12:9 (in the hiphil, Lev. 2:26, 8:14). 26. This is the precise rendering of the Hebrew benei ha-golah. Both the NRSV and the NJPS render this phrase as “the returned exiles”—the actual equivalent of a different phrase (ha-shavim me-ha-golah), which appears later in the verse. 27. On the significance of this term and its equivalents in Ezra–Nehemiah’s concept of identity, see Sara Japhet, “People and Land in the Restoration Period,” in Das Land Israel in biblischer Zeit: Jerusalem-Symposium 1981 der Hebräischen Universität und der Georg-AugustUniversität, ed. Georg Strecker (Göttingen, 1983), 103–25, published in Sara Japhet, From the Rivers of Babylon to the Highlands of Judah: Collected Studies on the Restoration Period (Winona Lake, Ind., 2006), 96–116. 28. For different interpretations of this phrase, see Peter H. W. Lau, “Gentile Incorporation into Israel in Ezra–Nehemiah,” Biblica 90 (2009): 356–73, on the one hand; and M. Thiessen, “The Function of a Conjunction: Inclusivist or Exclusivist Strategies in Ezra 6:19–21 and Nehemiah 10:29–30,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 34 (2009): 63–79, on the other. 29. See, among others, Claus Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, Old Testament Library (London, 1969), 305, 312–13: “A decision in the realm of sacral law is here given its sanction by means of a word from God” (305); and Shalom M. Paul, Isaiah 40–66: Introduction and Commentary [in Hebrew] (Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, 2008), 406–7. For another view, see Cohen, “Conversion to Judaism,” 35. 30. NJPS: “the stock of Israel.” The NRSV overlooks this specific usage by translating it as “the Israelites.”


Notes to Pages 35–40

31. The prophecy in Isa. 56:3–6 also includes a word to eunuchs, which seems to be in debate with Deut. 23:2, where the Israelites are instructed to exclude eunuchs from the community of the Lord. The end of this passage in Deuteronomy—referring to the Ammonite and Moabite (Deut. 23:4–7)—is explicitly referred to in Neh. 13:1–2. 32. The prophecy is anonymous, like all the secondary prophecies attached to the book of Isaiah. See, among others, Westermann, Isaiah 40–66, 305; Paul, Isaiah 40–66, 406. 33. NRSV; similarly NJPS, reading “strangers” for “aliens.” 34. See, e.g., Jer. 7:6, 14:8, 22:3; Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5; Job. 31:32; Ps. 94:6. 35. On Ezekiel’s view of the city of Jerusalem, see Dalit Rom-Shiloni, “Jerusalem and Israel, Synonyms or Antonyms? Jewish Exegesis of Ezekiel’s Prophecies against Jerusalem,” in After Ezekiel: Essays on the Reception of a Difficult Prophet, ed. Andrew Mein and Paul M. Joyce (New York, 2011), 89–114. 36. NRSV: “the alien residing within you” (22:7); “the alien” (22:9); NEB: “the alien” (in both verses); etc. 37. Compare ha-ger asher yagur be-Yisra’el with ha-ger hagar be-Yisra’el (Lev. 20:2), ha-ger hagar be-tokhekhem (Lev. 16:29 and often), and similar phrases. 38. See Zimmerli, Ezekiel 1–2, and above, n. 3. 39. They are defined here in similar terms to the prophecy of 14:7. Compare “the ger who resides [or sojourns, yagur] in Israel” (14:7) with “the gerim who reside among you” (47:21), and this chapter’s n. 36. 40. 1 Chron. 2:2, 29:15; 2 Chron. 2:16, 30:25. The term is avoided by Ezra–Nehemiah and Esther, while Zechariah and Malachi each refer once to the ger (Zech. 7:10; Mal. 3:5), in the traditional, social meaning of the term (see n. 5). 41. “For we are gerim [NJPS: sojourners] with You, mere transients like our fathers.” This is a plural rephrasing of the figure of Ps. 39:13. 42. See Sara Japhet, The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought, 3rd ed. (Winona Lake, Ind., 2009), 376–80. 43. See Japhet, Ideology, 254–74, and the conclusion on 274. The Chronicler’s view of the Israelite identity of all the inhabitants of the land in its broadest borders seems to have guided the policy of the Hasmoneans, who converted the conquered peoples who lived inside the borders of the land of Israel. On the conversion of the Idumeans by John Hyrcanus and the Jeturites by Aristobulos, as recorded by Josephus, see Jewish Antiquities 13:1 and 13:11. For recent discussions of these events, see Israel Shatzman, “On the Conversion of the Idumeans” [in Hebrew], in For Uriel: Studies in the History of Israel in Antiquity Presented to Professor Uriel Rappaport, ed. Menahem Mor et al. (Jerusalem, 2005), 213–41; Uriel Rappaport, “The Conversion of the Edomeans Under John Hyrcanus” [in Hebrew], in Israel’s Land: Papers Presented to Israel Shatzman on His Jubilee, ed. Joseph Geiger, Hannah M Cotton, and Guy D. Stiebel (Raanana, Israel, 2009), 59–74. On the book of Chronicles as the guide for Hashmonean policy (albeit in other matters), see also George J. Brooke, “The Book of Chronicles and the Scrolls from Qumran,” in Reflection and Refraction: Studies in Biblical Historiography in Honour of A. Graeme Auld, ed. Robert Rezetko, Timothy H. Lim, and W. Brian Aucker, Supplements to Vetus Testamentum 113 (Leiden, 2007), 35–48, and the conclusions on 48. 44. The title occurs in Chronicles only once more, regarding the extension of Josiah’s reform (2 Chron. 34:7). A plural form of this title (“The Lands of Israel”) also occurs once in Chronicles, in 1 Chron. 13:2. For a discussion of this term, see Japhet, Ideology, 282–84.

Notes to Pages 41–44


45. B. Yevamot 22a. For a thorough discussion of this maxim, see Norman Meyer Bronznik, “The Origin and Definition of ‘A Converted Ger Is like a Newborn Baby’ ” [in Hebrew], Or Hamizrah 26 (1978): 56–71.

CHAPTER 2 My thanks to audiences at the North American Patristics Society and the University of Pennsylvania who heard an earlier version of this paper and offered invaluable feedback. 1. Not least because such certainty is implausible, but additionally because of the almost endless series of assumptions that must be made about what “real” Jews would have known, seen, said, and thought in the first centuries. See, for example, W. Telfer, “Was Hegesippus a Jew?,” Harvard Theological Review 53 (1960): 143–53. 2. On other shadowy ex-Jewish Christians, see Constantine Bonis, “Was the Father of Gregory of Nazianzus of Greek or Hebrew Origin?,” in ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤΡΙΑ: Essays presented to Joan Hussey for Her 80th Birthday, ed. J. Chrysostomides and J. A. Munitz (Surrey, 1988), 173–79 (the answer is “Hebrew”). The Lex Dei (also known as the Collatio legum Mosaicarum et Romanarum) is sometimes considered the work of a Jew, or ex-Jew. See Andrew  S. Jacobs, “ ‘Papinian Commands One Thing, Our Own Paul Another’: Roman Christians and Jewish Law in the Collatio Legum Mosaicarum et Romanarum,” in Religion and Law in Classical and Christian Rome, ed. Jörg Rüpke and Clifford Ando (Stuttgart, 2006), 85–99. Multiple semianonymous or other wise obscure ex-Jews appear with some regularity in the pages of the Fathers themselves, from ὁ Ἑβραῖος (the Hebrew), who taught Origen in Alexandria (see his Homiliae in Jeremiam 20.2, cited by Joseph Trigg, Origen, Early Church Fathers [London, 1998], 11–12), to “Isaac the Jew,” discussed later. Epiphanius himself discusses converts to Judaism. See my discussion in Andrew S. Jacobs, “Matters (Un-)Becoming: Epiphanius of Salamis on Conversion,” Church History 81 (2012): 41–46. 3. Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion (Oxford, 2014). 4. Shane  P. Gannon, “Conversion as a Thematic Site: Academic Representations of Ambedkar’s Buddhist Turn,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 23 (2011): 2. 5. On conversion as a narrative effect in early Christian texts, see B. Diane Lipsett, Desiring Conversion: Hermas, Thecla, Aseneth (Oxford, 2010). 6. Andrew S. Jacobs, Epiphanius of Cyprus: A Cultural Biography of Late Antiquity (Oakland, 2016), 221–61. I draw on several pages of this chapter in my analysis in the present chapter. 7. On the Panarion, see Aline Pourkier, L’hérésiologie chez Épiphane de Salamine (Paris, 1992); and Young Richard Kim, Epiphanius of Cyprus: Imagining an Orthodox World (Ann Arbor, 2015). 8. Claudia Rapp, Holy Bishops in Late Antiquity: The Nature of Christian Leadership in an Age of Transition (Berkeley, 2005). 9. This dating has been established by Claudia Rapp, “The Vita of Epiphanius of Salamis: An Historical and Literary Study,” 2 vols. (DPhil diss., Oxford University, 1991), 1:99– 103. See also idem, “Epiphanius of Salamis: The Church Father as Saint,” in “The Sweet Land of Cyprus”: Papers Given at the Twenty-Fifth Jubilee Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, ed. A. A. M. Bryer and G. S. Georghallides (Nicosia, Cyprus, 1993), 169–87, esp. 178–83. I am


Notes to Pages 44–46

extremely grateful to Professor Rapp for sharing with me her dissertation, including her critical edition of the Vita Epiphanii that forms volume 2 (from which I cite later). 10. Jerome, Apologia contra Rufinum 3.6 (SC 303:230). See also Apologia contra Rufinum 2.22 (SC 303:162), where Jerome lists the five languages: “Graecam, Syram, et Hebraeam et Aegyptiacam linguam, ex parte et Latinam.” Epiphanius ordained Jerome’s brother Paulinianus (against Paulinianus’ wishes and, more politically damaging, against those of their local bishop, John of Jerusalem; see Epiphanius, ep. ad Johannem Hierosolytanum [= Jerome, ep. 51] 1.3–7 [CSEL 54:395–97]); he was Jerome’s ally during the Origenist controversy (see Elizabeth Clark, The Origenist Controversy: The Cultural Construction of an Early Christian Debate [Princeton, N.J., 1992], 86–104, 126, 132–33); and he was on friendly terms with Jerome’s friend and patron, Paula (Jerome, ep. 108.6.1, 7.2, 21.2 [CSEL 55:310– 11, 312, 337]). 11. On Sozomen’s accounts of Epiphanius, see Jon F. Dechow, Dogma and Mysticism in Early Christianity: Epiphanius of Cyprus and the Legacy of Origen (Macon, Ga., 1988), 25–29; and Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 1:15. 12. The forging, and calling out of forgeries, in the compilation of authoritative witnesses in theological debates appears already in the fourth century. See Mark Vessey, “The Forging of Orthodoxy in Latin Christian Literature: A Case Study,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 4 (1996): 495–513. 13. Nicephoros I, Antirrhetica adversus Eusebius et Epiphanidem 15.61; text in Spicilegium solesmense complectens sanctorum patrum scriptorumque ecclesiasticorum anecdota hactenus opera, ed. Jean-Baptiste Pitra (Paris, 1858), 4:292–380, at 4:340. Italics added. Unless other wise stated, English translations from the original texts are mine. 14. It is numbered as fr. 20 of the Epistula ad Theodosium Imperatorem by K. Holl, Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte (Tübingen, 1928), 2:360. 15. The Letter to Theodosius has been reconstructed out of Nicephoros’ refutation, and debate continued throughout twentieth century as to its authenticity. See Holl, Gessamelte Aufsätze, 2:360–62, with the discussion and references of Dechow, Dogma and Mysticism, 394n18, and Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 1:16, 33–34. For a more recent defense of Epiphanius’ iconophilism, see Steven Bigham, Epiphanius of Salamis, Doctor of Iconoclasm? Deconstruction of a Myth (Boston, 2008). 16. The violent scene of Epiphanius’ ordination recalls his own description of the forced ordination of Jerome’s brother Paulinianus (see n. 10). 17. Vita Epiphanii 47 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:107). 18. Vita Epiphanii 5 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:55). 19. Vita Epiphanii 47 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:108). The two-day debate recalls Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho the Jew (another echo of Epiphanius’ own Jewish education). The name of the Jewish interlocutor here, Aquila, perhaps shows knowledge of the Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila (on the dating of which, see Jacqueline Z. Pastis, “Dating the Dialogue of Timothy and Aquila: Revisiting the Earlier Vorlage Hypothesis,” Harvard Theological Review 95 [2002]: 169–95). The name Aquila, in both the Dialogue and the Vita Epiphanii, would likely invoke the Jewish (and, according to multiple Christian sources, anti-Christian) translator of the Greek Old Testament. 20. In addition to the conversion of Epiphanius and his sister, there is the conversion of a Saracen, subsequently named John; a philosopher also named Epiphanius; another philosopher, named Eudaimon; and the imperial siblings Arcadius, Honorius, and Proklianē (Vita Epiphanii 17, 38–43, 51, 83–91 [Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:67, 96–103, 112–14, 155–165]).

Notes to Pages 46–48


All of these conversions are effected by Epiphanius’ miracles: only Aquila is converted through discourse with Epiphanius. 21. Vita Epiphanii 82 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:155); the same phrase was used of Epiphanius’ tutelage in the Law and Hebrew by Trypho. 22. Vita Epiphanii 124 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:206–7). 23. Latin text: Vita Pelagiae Meretricis 15 (PL 73:670); Syriac text: Life of Pelagia 49–50, trans. in Susan Ashbrook Harvey and Sebastian Brock, Holy Women of the Syrian Orient (Berkeley, 1987), 61; text in J. Gildemeister, Acta Sanctae Pelagiae Syriace (Bonn, 1879), Syr. 11–12, Lat. 13–14. 24. Patricia Cox Miller, “Is There a Harlot in This Text? Hagiography and the Grotesque,” in The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography, ed. idem and Dale B. Martin (Durham, N.C., 2005), 87–102; the “luminous detail” (from Ezra Pound via New Historicism) of the “attempted cover-up” is at 91; the final quote at 97. 25. See Andrew S. Jacobs, “A Jew’s Jew: Paul and the Early Christian Problem of Jewish Origins,” Journal of Religion 86 (2006): 258–86. 26. Vita Epiphanii 5 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:55); compare the description of Lucian in Vita Epiphanii 7 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:56). 27. Vita Epiphanii 7 (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:57–58). The division is supposedly so sharp between the two groups that when Epiphanius, earlier in the vita, meets a Christian, Cleobius, he has never heard of Jesus; Cleobius, who does not know Epiphanius is Jewish (but nonetheless asks his religion), tells him, “He is the son of God, whom the Jews crucified” (Vita Epiphanii 4 [Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:54]). 28. Drag (as opposed to gender passing) relies on the transparency of the disguise: “ There has to be some telltale, not the gross five o’clock shadow or the limp wrist of the amateur, but something readable, a foot that is too big, a subtle gesture or the peculiar grain of the voice.” Oscar Montero, “Lipstick Vogue: The Politics of Drag,” Radical America 22.1 (January–February 1988): 41, quoted in Marjorie Garber, Vested Interests: Cross-Dressing and Cultural Anxiety (London, 1997), 149. 29. Garber, Vested Interests, 16–17. Cloaks—removed, replaced, donated, and discarded— form a notable leitmotif in the vita, signaling an interest in appearance and “reality,” as well as a commonplace metaphor for conversion: Vita Epiphanii 7 (Lucian the monk gives his cloak to a beggar, inspiring Epiphanius’ conversion); 28 (Epiphanius gives his cloak to a resurrected Persian youth on his way back to Palestine); 46 (recalling Matt. 9:20–22 and parr., a possessed woman tears off a piece of Epiphanius’ cloak); 81 (Epiphanius gives his cloak to a pair of con artists) (Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 2:57, 87–88, 106–7, 153–55). 30. Most recently and fulsomely Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines: The Partition of JudaeoChristianity, Divinations (Philadelphia, 2004). See also Thomas Sizgorich, Violence and Belief in Late Antiquity: Militant Devotion in Christianity and Islam, Divinations (Philadelphia, 2009), esp. 21–143. 31. On the manuscript history of the Vita Epiphanii and its confused authorship by Thomas Wimberley Mossman’s day, see Jacobs, Epiphanius, 249n99. 32. François-Armand Gervaise, L’histoire et la vie de St Epiphane, archevêque de Salamine & docteur de l’Eglise, où l’on voit ce qui s’est passé de plus curieux & de plus intéressant dans l’Eglise, depuis l’an 310 jusqu’en 403 avec l’analyse des ouvrages de ce saint, son apologie contre les protesants, & des notes critiques & historiques (Paris, 1738), v–xvi, 3 (on Epiphanius’ Jewish childhood). 33. Louis-Sébastien Le Nain de Tillemont, Mémoires pour servir à l’histoire ecclésiastique des six premiers siècles (Brussels, 1730), 10:306.


Notes to Page 48

34. See, for instance, Jean-Baptiste-Honoré-Raymond Capefigue, Histoire philosophique des juifs depuis la décadence des Macabées jusqu’à nos jours (The Hague, 1834), 2:52–55. 35. William Cave’s widely read and translated Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia litteraria a Christo nato usque ad saeculum XIV (London, 1688), 184, describes the vita as “magnam partem fabulosa” but still reports that Epiphanius’ parents were Jewish (“parentibus, ut videtur, ortus Judaeis”). 36. See William Cave, Lives of the Most Eminent Fathers of the Church, rev. Henry Cary (Oxford, 1840), 2:206–8. Cave is routinely cited by Philip Schaff (see note 39) and other Anglophone historians. However, note that a contemporary encyclopedia, also relying on Cave and Johannes Fabricius (who says the vita deserves “exiguam fidem”: Bibliotheca Graeca [Hamburg, 1727], 7:415), calls the story of Jewish origins “more or less of a fabulous nature,” while still citing the vita as one of its sources: The Supplement to the Penny Cyclopedia of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (London, 1851), 1:533. Cave’s treatment of Epiphanius’ prior Jewishness (read as “an orthodox Jewish-Christian”) also appears in eighteenth-century debates over Unitarianism, as studied and recapitulated in the nineteenth century: “An Account of the Controversy Between Dr. Priestly, Dr. Horsely, and Others,” General Repository 1 (1812): 273n. 37. The following selections are more or less at random: M. Capefigue, “History of the Jews (from the Decline of the Maccabees to the Present Day),” Metropolitan Magazine 30 (January–April 1841): 169–71; Calvin Ellis Stowe, Origin and History of the Books of the Bible, Both the Canonical and the Apocryphal, Designed to Show What the Bible Is Not, What It Is, and How to Use It (Hartford, Conn., 1867), 114; Philip Smith, The History of the Christian Church During the First Ten Centuries, Student’s Ecclesiastical History (New York, 1879), 323; John Theodore Dodd, Sayings Ascribed to Our Lord by the Fathers and Other Primitive Writers (Oxford, 1884), 37; Edward L. Cutts, Saint Jerome, 4th ed., Fathers for English Readers (London, 1897), 186. Two Jewish converts to Christianity cite the story approvingly: M. A. Berk, The History of the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity to the Present Time (Boston, 1846), 104, who lectured on Jewish history and published his lectures (Emily Dickinson heard his lectures in Amherst in 1846); and Alfred Edersheim, History of the Jewish Nation After the Destruction of Jerusalem Under Titus (Edinburgh, 1847), 535, who was associated with other “Hebrew Christians” on the Continent and in England. See the brief overview of Michael R. Darby, The Emergence of the Hebrew Christian Movement in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Leiden, 2010), 182–85. The casual mention of Epiphanius’ possible Jewishness stands in stark contrast to its absence from present-day scholarship. 38. See Eric Michael Reisenauer, “Anti-Jewish Philosemitism: British and Hebrew Affinity in Nineteenth-Century British Antisemitism,” British Scholar 1 (2008): 79–104. 39. Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, vol. 2, Nicene and Post-Nicene Christianity (Edinburgh, 1884), 926–27. On Schaff ’s peculiar “frontier” romanticism in the United States, see the ideologically curious essay by Thomas Albert Howard, “Philip Schaff: Religion, Politics, and the Transatlantic World,” Journal of Church and State 49 (2007): 191–210. On Schaff’s complex views of denominationalism (and Jews and Catholics), see Stephen Graham, Cosmos in the Chaos: Philip Schaff’s Interpretation of Nineteenth-Century American Religion (Grand Rapids, 1995), esp. 84–86. Schaff explicitly cites Cave as the source for Epiphanius’ Jewish origins (926n2). Of the major sources he cites in his History, Cave is the only one to refer to the Life and Epiphanius’ Jewishness. 40. On an earlier period, see Jacobs, “A Jew’s Jew.”

Notes to Pages 48–50


41. The year before he published his novel on Epiphanius, Mossman published a church history: A History of the Catholic Church of Jesus Christ: From the Death of Saint John to the Middle of the Second Century, Including an Account of the Original Organisation of the Christian Ministry and the Growth of the Episcopacy (London, 1873). 42. The frontispiece also contains the sparer title Saint Epiphanius. 43. The fullest study of these novels is Royal W. Rhodes, The Lion and the Cross: Early Christianity in Victorian Novels (Columbus, 1995). For additional sources and discussion of early Christian novels, see Jacobs, Epiphanius, 242–45. 44. Mossman has added some characters and incidents and entirely transformed Epiphanius’ ordination to the priesthood, which is conducted by force in the vita (Vita Epiphanii 60 [Rapp, “Vita of Epiphanius,” 126–27) and happens without much incident in the novel (Mossman, Epiphanius, 134–35). This respect for the priesthood and episcopacy seems of a piece with Mossman’s attempts to naturalize Catholicism in the patristic period. 45. Conversion was a key element of Victorian early Christian novels, which often reflected anx ieties of Victorian religious pluralism. 46. Mossman, Epiphanius, 9–10. Even Epiphanius’ contemporaries retain this “preJewish” Jewishness, as his father’s relatives speak “in the ancient dialect of our tribe, which was spoken two thousand years ago, before the Children of Israel came out of Egypt” (ibid., 11). 47. Michael Ragussis, Figures of Conversion: “The Jewish Question” and English National Identity (Durham, N.C., 1995), 130–73. 48. Mossman, Epiphanius, 76. See also 46: “Ever since I could remember, I had an intense longing to learn all I could about the language, and history, and religion, and traditions of our forefathers” (emphasis added). 49. Ibid., 108. 50. Ibid., 44. Mossman also subtly dissociates these “Messianic traditions” from the knowledge of other Jewish contemporaries: “Tryphon belonged to what may be called the elder school of Hebrew expositors of the Sacred Scriptures: that school which, now that I am writing in extreme old age, is almost, if not entirely, extinct among the Jews themselves, but whose traditionary expositions of the Messianic prophecies have become a priceless heritage of the Catholic Church” (ibid., 43). 51. Ibid., 60–67. As they are both crying profusely at the time, Epiphanius quite explicitly refers to this as Salome’s “baptism” (ibid., 68). 52. Ibid., 103, 113–15. 53. Richard Dellamora, “Benjamin Disraeli, Judaism, and the Legacy of William Beckford,” in Mapping Male Sexuality: Nineteenth-Century England, ed. Jay Losey and William Dean Brewer (Cranbury, N.J., 2000), 145–77; Dellamora, Friendship’s Bonds: Democracy and the Novel in Victorian England (Philadelphia, 2004), 47–69; Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 174–233. 54. Literal Jewish conversion both precedes and undergirds the more broad-ranging debates of Victorian England about “the Jewish question” (which penetrated multiple ethnic, religious, and political debates). On this background, see Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 15–56. Jewish converts to Christianity themselves also played a notable role in these debates, and also deployed Epiphanius. See A. Bernstein, “A Historical Sketch of the Controversy Between Christianity and Judaism, Chapter 1,” Hebrew Christian Witness and Prophetic Investigator 1 (1877): 88, where Bernstein describes Epiphanius as “another celebrated


Notes to Pages 50–51

Hebrew Christian of that epoch” and cites Cave as his source. The Hebrew Christian Witness was edited by Moses Margoliouth, himself a convert from Judaism who wrote a three-volume History of the Jews in Great Britain (1851), on which see Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 29–30. Alfred Edersheim (see n. 37) was another “Hebrew Christian” of the period who was mistakenly rumored to be taking over editorship of the Hebrew Christian Witness from Margoliouth (Hebrew Christian Witness 1 [1877]: 376). 55. See Rhodes, Lion and the Cross, 177–94, on Mossman’s Catholicism; see also Virginia Burrus, “Hailing Zenobia: Anti-Judaism, Trinitarianism, and John Henry Newman,” Culture and Religion 3 (2002): 163–77, particularly 175n10 on the alignment of “Catholic” and “Jew” in late nineteenth-century British religious politics (and the concomitant alignment of Protestants and ancient heretics). 56. In this sense, Mossman’s Epiphanius becomes an interesting inversion of the title character of George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (published in 1876, two years after Epiphanius), whose Jewishness is slowly revealed and totally restored over the course of several hundred pages. See one analysis of Eliot’s philosemitism (particularly in the context of Victorian English racialism and politics) by Alan T. Levenson, “Writing the Philosemitic Novel: Daniel Deronda Revisited,” Prooftexts 26 (2008): 129–56. 57. Dechow’s biographical spadework is cited as determinative by, for instance, Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis: Sects 1–46 (Leiden, 1994), xi. 58. One noteworthy exception is Michael Avi-Yonah, Jews Under Roman and Byzantine Rule (New York, 1984), 167–68, who refers unproblematically to Epiphanius as “of Jewish origin.” Historian of science Robert Kenneth French, Ancient Natural History (London, 1994), 277–78, also describes the “traditional details” of Epiphanius’ life, including his Jewish origins and education by Trypho, in his discussion of the Physiologus, an earlier text ascribed to Epiphanius in the Middle Ages. 59. Gauri Viswanathan, Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, and Belief (Princeton, N.J., 1998). 60. Even his chronological location in the “sixth century” is conjectural, since our sources merely tell us he came to Constantinople “in the reign of Anastasius,” which scholars have determined refers to Anastasius I (491–518). The various arguments are laid out by Paul Maas, “Die Chronologie der Hymnen des Romanos,” Byzantinische Zeitschrift 15 (1906–7): 1–44. 61. The text, which may date to the eighth or ninth century, is reproduced with French translation by J. Grosdidier de Matons, Romanos le Mélode et les origines de la poésie religieuse à Byzance (Paris, 1977), 169; it is also printed (without translation) and discussed in Maas, “Die Chronologie,” 30–32. 62. See the discussion of Grosdidiers de Matons, Romanos, 179, on this passage. 63. Although scholars have wrung creative biographical data from these few lines. See, for instance, Jefim Schirmann, “Hebrew Liturgical Poetry and Christian Hymnology,” Jewish Quarterly Review 44 (1953): 123–61, who infers from the reference to Saul and Paul that Romanos not only was “born in a Jewish family” but was also “apparently christened only as an adult” (156n86: “The poet [is] compared to St. Paul—probably an allusion to his baptism as an adult”). 64. See the sources collected by Grosdidiers de Matons, Romanos, 159–64. 65. Grosdidiers de Matons, Romanos, 179, refutes this suggestion put forward by Nikolaos Tomadakis, Ἡ Βυζαντινὴ ὑμνογραφία καὶ ποίησις (Athens, 1965), 90–91 (non vidi). 66. See Christine Shepardson, “Syria, Syriac, Syrian: Negotiating East and West in Late Antiquity,” in A Companion to Late Antiquity, ed. Philip Rousseau (Oxford, 2009), 455–66.

Notes to Pages 51–52


67. One exception is Georgia Frank, “Romanos and the Night Vigil in the Sixth Century,” in A People’s History of Christianity, vol. 3, Byzantine Christianity, ed. Derek Krueger (Minneapolis, 2006), 59–78. A typically casual, yet indeterminate, reference is that of Derek Krueger, Writing and Holiness: The Practice of Authorship in the Early Christian East (Philadelphia, 2004), 250n27. 68. Bathja Bayer, “Romanos Melodos,” in Encyclopedia Judaica (Jerusalem, 1971), 14:238, describes Romanos as “born of a Jewish family in Emesa. . . . It is not known whether his parents had already converted to Christianity or whether he did so himself in his youth.” The text is unchanged in the second (2007) edition (17:405). 69. Miloš Velimirović, “Romanos Melodos, St.,” in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, ed. Joseph P. Strayer (New York, 1988), 10:516, concludes, “Theories of Romanos’ Jewish origin have been questioned and are denied by the most knowledgeable specialists.” 70. See, for example, Lucas van Rompay, “Romanos le Mélode: Un poète syrien à Constantinople,” in Early Christian Poetry: A Collection of Essays, ed. J. den Boeft and A. Hilhorts, Supplements to Vigiliae Christianae 22 (Leiden, 1993), 283–96; and Günter Stemberger, “Zwangstaufen von Juden im 4.–7. Jahrhundert—Mythos oder Wirklichkeit?,” in Judaica Minora (Tübingen, 2010), 2:97–98. 71. Seth Schwartz, The Ancient Jews from Alexander to Muhammad, Key Themes in Ancient History (Cambridge, England, 2014), 137. 72. Most scholars cite the work of Maas, “Die Chronologie,” who affirms the “Jewish lineage” (jüdische Abkunft) of Romanos (based on the hymn cited earlier) on 31–32. 73. Maas, “Die Chronologie,” 31, quoted and translated by Eric Werner, “Hebrew and Oriental Christian Metrical Hymns: A Comparison,” Hebrew Union College Annual 23.2 (1950–51): 425. See also Ephrem Lash, On the Life of Christ: Kontakia (San Francisco, 1995), xxvi: “Romanos’s moderation toward the Jews, despite the mood of the day, was one of the reasons cited by the great classical scholar Paul Maas, a Jewish immigrant from Hitler’s Germany, for thinking that Romanos himself was of Jewish stock.” Maas was one of several Jewish classicists who found refuge during the war at Oxford. This irenicism is somewhat predictably also found in Marcus Plested, “Romanos Melodos,” in Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations, ed. Edward Kessler and Neil Wenborn (Cambridge, England, 2005), 383. 74. R. J. Schork, Sacred Song from the Byzantine Pulpit: Romanos the Melodist (Gainesville, Fla., 1995), 5. Schork does not find this fact necessarily dispositive, since it might reflect “the exaggerated zeal of a recent convert.” See also Nicholas De Lange, “Jews in the Age of Justinian,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian, ed. Michael Maas (Cambridge, England, 2005), 409: “The hymns of Romanos, for example, himself said to have been of Jewish origin, include attacks on the Jews.” 75. See William Petersen, “The Dependence of Romanos the Melodist upon the Syriac Ephrem: Its Importance for the Origin of the Kontakion,” Vigiliae Christianae 39 (1985): 171–87; idem, “A New Testimonium to a Judaic-Christian Gospel Fragment from a Hymn of Romanos the Melodist,” Vigiliae Christianae 50 (1996): 105–16; idem, The Diatessaron and Ephrem Syrus as Sources of Romanos the Melodist (Louvain, 1985); Sebastian Brock, “From Ephrem to Romanos,” Studia Patristica 20 (1989): 139–51 (repr. in From Ephrem to Romanos: Interactions Between Syriac and Greek in Late Antiquity [London, 1999]); and Van Rompay, “Romanos le Mélode.” 76. Lash, On the Life of Christ, xxvi. See similarly John  A. McGuckin, “Poetry and Hymnography (2): Greek,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. Susan


Notes to Pages 52–53

Ashbrook Harvey and David  G. Hunter (Oxford, 2008), 650: “ There were traditions that Romanos himself was a Jewish convert. He was most likely a Syrian by birth.” 77. Werner, a Viennese Jew, immigrated to New York in 1938 ahead of Nazi persecution. See Israel Katz, “In Memoriam: Eric Werner (1901–1988),” Ethnomusicology 33 (1989): 113–15, with a complete bibliography on 116–19; on Werner’s émigré context, see David Josephson, “The German Musical Exile and the Course of American Musicology,” Current Musicology 79–80 (2005): 9–53. 78. Werner, “Hebrew,” 402–3. He refers to Romanos as “the converted Jew” on 414 (where he also suggests that Andrew of Crete might have been “of Jewish descent”). He cites Maas as providing evidence “beyond any possibility of a doubt, corroborating the fact of Romanos’ Jewish extraction” (424–25), and concludes his essay by comparing Romanos, the Jewish liturgical hymn “U-Netaneh Tokef,” and the “Dies irae.” Much of this essay is reproduced in Eric Werner, The Sacred Bridge: The Interdependence of Liturgy and Music in Synagogue and Church During the First Millennium (New York, 1959), vol. 1. In the second volume, published later (Jerusalem, 1984), 140, Werner refers to Romanos as “the Jewish apostate.” 79. Laura  S. Lieber, A Vocabulary of Desire: The Song of Songs in the Early Synagogue (Leiden, 2014), 11. 80. Lieber, A Vocabulary of Desire, 11. Scholars writing on Romanos still cited Epiphanius’ Jewishness well into the twentieth century. See Schirmann, “Hebrew,” 155, immediately preceding his discussion of Romanos: “Prominent converts are known to us by name within Byzantine Christendom: among them was even a Father of the Church, Epiphanius, born in Palestine.” 81. Shepardson, “Syria, Syriac, Syrian,” 458. See also ibid., 465: “Whether in texts from the first or the twentieth century, Syria frequently emerges as an exotic Other, tantalizingly near yet unquestionably culturally distinct from the western authors’ realm of the familiar.” 82. F. C. Burkitt, Early Eastern Christianity (London, 1904), 7: “The inhabitants of the city [Edessa] and the district spoke a dialect of Aramaic akin to, but not identical with, that spoken in Palestine by our Lord and His apostles.” 83. Christine Shepardson, Anti-Judaism and Christian Orthodoxy: Ephrem’s Hymns in Fourth-Century Syria (Washington, D.C., 2009), 39–42. 84. Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender, and Sexuality in the Colonial Contest (London, 1995), 66–71, quotes at 70. 85. Ambrosiaster is a much-cited, little-studied figure of late Latin Christianity. See the overview of David Hunter, “2008 NAPS Presidential Address: The Significance of Ambrosiaster,” Journal of Early Christian Studies 17 (2009): 1–26, particularly his references; and idem, “Fourth-Century Latin Writers: Hilary, Victorinus, Ambrosiaster, Ambrose,” in The Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, ed. Frances Young, Lewis Ayres, and Andrew Louth (Cambridge, England, 2004), 307–9. The most recent full-length study of Ambrosiaster is that of Sophie Lunn-Rockliffe, Ambrosiaster’s Political Theology, Oxford Early Christian Studies (Oxford, 2007); see also the dissertation of Joshua Papsdorf, “Ambrosiaster’s Theological Anthropology: Nature, Law, and Grace in the Commentaries on the Pauline Epistles and the Quaestiones Veteris et Novi Testamenti CXXVII” (PhD diss., Fordham University, 2008). For Ambrosiaster’s context in the intellectual politics of fourth-century Rome, see Andrew Cain, “In Ambrosiaster’s Shadow: A Critical Re-evaluation of the Last Surviving Letter Exchange Between Pope Damasus and Jerome,” Revue d’études augustiniennes et patristiques 51 (2005): 255–77, extending the brief notice of Heinrich Vogels, “Ambrosiaster und Hieronymus,” Revue Bénédictine 66 (1956): 14–19. On the context of

Notes to Page 54


Ambrosiaster’s Quaestiones, see Annelie Volgers, “Ambrosiaster: Persuasive Powers in Progress,” Erotapokriseis: Early Christian Question-and-Answer Literature in Context, ed. A. Volgers and C. Zamagni (Leuven, 2004), 99–125. 86. G. Morin, “L’Ambrosiaster et le juif converti Isaac,” Revue d’histoire et de littérature religieuses 4 (1899): 92–121. 87. Morin begins his argument with a comparison of Ambrosiaster’s works and a purported text of “Isaac the former Jew,” Liber fidei (PG 33:1541–46): Morin, “Ambrosiaster,” 102–8. After these “assez arides” discussions (102), Morin turns to three overlapping characteristics between Isaac and Ambrosiaster: distaste for the Roman clergy (109–110); knowledge of Jews and Judaism well beyond what he might glean from scriptures (111–13: “prédilection marquée pour certaines coutumes de la religion israélite” [113]); and par ticular knowledge of Roman law. I cannot agree with the statement of Lydia Speller, “Ambrosiaster and the Jews,” Studia Patristica 17 (1982): 72, that Morin’s “hypothesis primarily rests [on] Ambrosiaster’s knowledge of the customs of the Jews” (emphasis added). 88. Our primary sources for Isaac in this conflict are the documents related to the episcopal strug gles collected in the sixth-century Collectio Avellana 13 (CSEL 35:54–58). See Lunn-Rockliffe, Ambrosiaster’s, 35–40. 89. G. Morin, “Hilarius l’Ambrosiaster,” Revue Bénédictine 20 (1903): 113–31, proposed a certain Decimus Hilarianus Hilarius; idem, “Qui est l’Ambrosiaster? Solution nouvelle,” Revue Bénédictine 31 (1914): 1–34, proposed Evagrius of Antioch, who translated the Life of Antony into Latin in the late fourth century. 90. Although as recently as 1977 we read in Maurice Bévenot, “Ambrosiaster’s Thoughts on Christian Priesthood,” Heythrop Journal 18 (1977): 152: “He has not been satisfactorily identified, though opinion today favours a certain ‘Isaac the Jew.’ ” 91. In its annual summary of Patristica (compiled by editor C. H. Turner), the Journal of Theological Studies 1 (1900): 154, lauds Morin’s article (“by far the most impor tant of Dom Morin’s recent contributions to patristic studies”) but curiously reverses the order of the argument: after discussing Morin’s original point that Ambrosiaster was “unusually well informed in all that pertained to Judaism,” the summary continues, “Dom Morin then reminds us that history tells us of a converted Jew, of the name of Isaac” (emphasis added). As I pointed out earlier, Morin actually discusses the linguistic and theological commonalities between Isaac and Ambrosiaster first. Turner continued to champion the identification of Ambrosiaster with Isaac even after it had been abandoned by Morin: C. H. Turner, “Niceta and Ambrosiaster II,” Journal of Theological Studies 7 (1906): 355–72. 92. Henry Chadwick, The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great (Oxford, 2001), 379. I have been unable to trace Chadwick’s reference and am informed by David Hunter that several other scholars of Ambrosiaster (much more qualified than I) have likewise been unable to locate it (personal communication, April 13, 2009). 93. Hunter, “Significance,” 26. See, more circumspectly, Papsdorf, “Ambrosiaster’s Theological Anthropology,” 14–15; and now Ambrosiaster, Commentaries on Romans and 1–2 Corinthians, trans. and ed. Gerald L. Bray, Ancient Christian Texts (Downers Grove, Ill., 2009), xvi. 94. Ambrosiaster, Liber quaestionum 44 (CSEL 50:71–81); the title (like many texts transmitted Adversus Iudaeos) seems to be later. The content, however, is fairly typical of the genre, as when Ambrosiaster calls Jews “miserable and two-faced” (perfidi et duplici). Arguments from content like this cannot be determinative, of course: see the paradoxical readings of Romanos cited earlier.


Notes to Pages 55–58

95. Lunn-Rockliffe, Ambrosiaster’s, 41. 96. Robert Wilken, John Chrysostom and the Jews: Rhetoric and Reality in the Late Fourth Century (Berkeley, 1983), 161–62. 97. Although it is worth pointing out the opinion of a historian of Jews in late ancient Rome: “The works of Ambrosiaster tell us little or nothing about the Jews of Rome in Late Antiquity.” Leonard V. Rutgers, The Jews in Late Ancient Rome: Evidence of Cultural Interaction in the Roman Diaspora (Leiden, 2000), 212. 98. Speller, “Ambrosiaster,” 76. 99. Lunn-Rockliffe, Ambrosiaster’s, 41. I make a similar point with respect to Ambrosiaster and the slightly later Collatio legum mosaicarum et romanarum, or Lex Dei: Jacobs, “ ‘Papinian,’ ” 94–97. 100. On Jerome’s ambivalence with respect to Jews and Jewish knowledge, see Andrew S. Jacobs, Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity, Divinations (Stanford, Calif., 2004), 56–100. 101. Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New York, 2008). 102. On epistemology and religious power in ancient Rome, see Clifford Ando, The Matters of the Gods: Religion and the Roman Empire (Berkeley, 2008). 103. On this score, we might read Epiphanius’ forays into biblical translation and historical criticism as a cipher for Mossman’s own historical theses. 104. For the multiplicity of legends about Tiresias (including a lost poem outlining six gender switches), see James J. O’Hara, “Sostratus Supp. Hell. 773: A Lost, Possibly CatullanEra Elegy on the Six Sex Changes of Tiresias,” Transactions of the American Philological Association 126 (1996): 173–219; and a complete register of Tiresias’ literary appearances (only some of which involve his sex change) in Gherardo Ugolini, Untersuchungen zur Figur des Sehers Teiresias (Tübingen, 1995). The figure of Tiresias is more compelling than that of (for instance) the hermaphrodite, particularly for its diachronicity: Tiresias is a former woman (just as he was a former man) and simulta neously speaks truth (because he has knowledge through experience) and upholds the patriarchal order (by siding with Jupiter over Juno). 105. Ovid, Metamorphoses 3.316–38, gives the classic story of Tiresias—who spent seven years as a woman and, blinded by Juno for his honesty, was given the gift of prophecy by Jupiter. Ovid recounts Pentheus’ tragedy at the conclusion of the same book of the Metamorphoses (3.708–34), notably stripped of Euripides’ famous cross-dressing. 106. Michel de Certeau, Heterologies: Discourse on the Other (Manchester, 1986), 217. 107. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, A Critique of Post-colonial Reason: Toward a History of the Vanishing Present (Cambridge, Mass., 1999), 216. See also ibid., 6: “I think of the ‘native informant’ as a name for that mark of expulsion from the name of Man— a mark crossing out the impossibility of the ethical relation.” On the “potentially paralyzing situation” of the “native informant,” see Shahnaz Khan, “Reconfiguring the Native Informant: Positionality in the Global Age,” Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 30 (2005): 2017–35.

CHAPTER 3 1. Jacob Katz, Bein Yehudim le-Goyim (Jerusalem, 1960), 84–88, published in English as Exclusiveness and Tolerance (Oxford, 1961), 77–82.

Notes to Pages 58–60


2. B. Z. Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing in the Tosafist Responsa,” Jewish Quarterly Review 51 (1961): 288–315. 3. A.  R. Reiner, “Ha-Ger: Ha-Omnam Ahikha Hu? Li-She’elat Ma’amad ha-Gerim bi-Kehilot Ashkenaz ve-Tsarefat ba-Me’ot ha-Yod Alef—ha-Yod Gimmel,” in Ta-Shma— Mehkarim le-Zikhro shel Yisra’el M. Ta-Shma, ed. M. Idel et al. (Alon Shvut, 2011), 747–69, published in French as “L’attitude envers les proselytes en Allemagne et en France du XIe au XIIIe siècle,” Revue des Études Juives 167 (2008): 99–119. See also Kenneth Auman, “Conversion from Christianity to Judaism in the Middle Ages” (MA thesis, Yeshiva University, 1977), which deals with the evidence from medieval Eu rope more broadly. 4. See, e.g., Isadore Twersky, Introduction to the Code of Maimonides (New Haven, Conn., 1980), 485–86. This Ovadiah should not be confused with Ovadiah the Norman proselyte; e.g., see Norman Golb, “The Music of Obadiah the Proselyte and His Conversion,” Journal of Jewish Studies 18 (1967): 43–63. 5. See Sefer Rabiah, ed. A. Aptowitzer (repr., Brooklyn, 1983), 2:253–56 (Masekhet Megilah, sec. 549); and Sefer Mordekhai al Masekhet Megilah, ed. M. A. Rabinowitz (Jerusalem, 1997), 21–23 (sec. 786). Cf. Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing,” 302–4; and E. E. Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot (Jerusalem, 1984), 1:210–11. 6. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 78–79. See also Auman, “Conversion from Christianity,” 10. 7. The latter halakhic consideration was a matter of ongoing discussion within both northern France and Germany during the Tosafist period. See, e.g., Tosafot Bava Batra 81a, s.v. lim’utei; Teshuvot u-Fesakim, ed. E. Kupfer (Jerusalem, 1973), 101–5 (sec. 60); Sefer haManhig le-R. Avraham b. Natan ha-Yarhi, ed. Y. Raphael (Jerusalem, 1978), 1:225–26; Sefer Rokeah, ed. B. Schneerson (repr., Jerusalem, 1967), fol. 229 (sec. 331); Hagahot Asheri to Berakhot 3:13; Sefer Or Zaru’a, hilkhot tefilah, ed. Makhon Yerusalayim (Jerusalem, 2010), 1:103 (sec.  107); Piskei Maharam li-Verakhtot, ed. S. Spitzer (Jerusalem, 1988), 99 (in a gloss to sec.  22); and the commentaries of R. Samson of Sens and Rosh to Bikurim 1:3. See also Teshuvot Rabiah, ed. D. Deblitzsky (Bnei Brak, Israel, 1996), vol. 1, sec. 939, where Rabiah appears (again) to agree with his father R. Joel’s approach in these matters. 8. A. M. Habermann, Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Tsarefat (Jerusalem, 1945), 49. 9. See Avraham Grossman, “Yihus Mishpahah be-Ashkenaz ha-Kedumah,” in Perakim be-Toledot ha-Hevrah ha-Yehudit Bimei ha-Benayim uve-Et ha-Hadashah—Mukdashim li-Prof. Ya’akov Katz, ed. I. Etkes and Y. Salmon (Jerusalem, 1980), 15. See also Habermann, Gezerot Ashkenaz ve-Tsarefat, 37, 53, 100–103; and Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” 747–50. Two or three additional converts who perished during 1096 are also noted. See S. Salfeld, Das Martyrologium des Nürnberger Memorbuches (Berlin, 1898), 9. While the Crusade chronicles reflect certain societal attitudes, as well as a strong degree of idealization—see, e.g., Jeremy Cohen, “A 1096 Complex? Constructing the First Crusade in Jewish Historical Memory, Medieval and Modern,” in Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, ed. J. Van Engen and M. Signer (Notre Dame, Ind., 2001), 9–26; Cohen, Sanctifying the Name of God: Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memory of the First Crusade (Philadelphia, 2004); and Shmuel Shepkaru, Jewish Martyrs in the Pagan and Christian Worlds (Cambridge, England, 2006), 141–205—they do not necessarily reflect halakhic attitudes toward conversion. Cf. Avraham Grossman, Hakhmei Ashkenaz ha-Rishonim (Jerusalem, 1981), 360–61, 404, 408, who suggests that these sources support the abiding conception and importance of yihus within the Jewish communities of Germany; and see n. 53 of the present chapter.


Notes to Pages 60–63

10. Ri’s formulation is found in Tosafot Yevamot 109b, s.v. ra’ah ahar ra’ah li-mekablei gerim. Cf. Tosafot ha-Rosh to Yevamot 109b and Tosafot Yevamot 24b, s.v. lo bimei David. See also ms. Vercelli (bishop’s seminary) C1 (Institute for Microfilmed Hebrew Manuscripts #30923), fol. 291d (in a marginal gloss); and ms. JTS Rab. 526 (39216), fol. 190v. Ri’s formulation is recorded anonymously in a number of Mordekhai texts. See, e.g., ms. JTS Rab. 655, fol. 220r; ms. Hamburg 247 (1051), fol. 91r; ms. Moscow Guenzberg 1329 (47575), fol. 148v; ms. Toronto-Friedberg 3-004, fol. 98v; ms. Montefiore 129 (4641), fols. 126v–127r; ms. Parma (de Rossi) 1334 (13031), fol. 247v; and ms. Vatican 324 (8635), fol. 230v. 11. Tosafot Kidushin 71a, s.v. kashim gerim. Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” has suggested that, overall, Ri and his beit midrash exhibited newfound support for converts and conversion to Judaism, in both ideological and halakhic texts and contexts. 12. See, e.g., Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing,” 297–301; Auman, “Conversion from Christianity,” 11–16; Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” 764–65; and Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 78n5. 13. See Auman, “Conversion from Christianity,” 46–54, 57–60. 14. See Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 79 ; Sefer ha-Yashar le-Rabenu Tam (helek hateshuvot), ed. S. Rosenthal (Berlin, 1898), 106–8 (sec. 51); Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:130– 31; and Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing,” 295–97, for the case of a recently deceased ger who had been taught scripture and Mishnah “night and day” (following his conversion) by a brother of one of Rabenu Tam’s leading students, R. Moses of Pontoise. The ger’s subsequent death prompted a complex question about the original allocation of his assets (which disbursed them in the main to his devoted teacher, the brother of R. Moses of Pontoise), and whether these assets could have been willed at a later point by the convert to his own brother’s son, who was himself a ger. This question was dealt with by R. Meshullam of Melun, R. Elijah of Paris, and Rabenu Tam himself. Mordekhai le-Masekhet Mo’ed Katan, secs. 907–8, records a situation (ma’aseh) that came before Ri, concerning whether a ger should observe formal avelut for his deceased mother (who had also converted to Judaism). The Mordekhai passage then correlates this decision with the question of inheritance of the parent in this instance by the ger. Cf. Mordekhai Mo’ed Katan, sec. 938; and Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing,” 301n57. Mordekhai Bava Mezi’a, secs. 258–59 [= ms. Vercelli C1, fol. 38d], recounts the story of a convert who dwelled in the house of R. Isaac ha-Levi of Speyer (and perhaps became his student). When this ger passed away, a question arose as to whether an amount of gold found within the deceased’s clothing belonged to R. Isaac ha-Levi or to the student of R. Isaac who made this find. Questions concerning the distribution of a ger’s assets after his death were presented for adjudication before both Raban of Mainz and his grandson, Rabiah of Cologne, but there does not appear to have been any relationship between the converts and the rabbinic figures in these instances. See R. Eliezer b. Nathan, Even ha-Ezer, ed. S. Ehrenreich (repr., Jerusalem, 1975), fol. 196b (masekhet Bava Mezi’a, hilkhot dinin); and A. Aptowitzer, Mavo la-Rabiah (repr., Jerusalem, 1984), 479; and cf. Teshuvot Rabiah, ed. D. Deblitzky (Bnei Brak, Israel, 2000), vol. 2, sec. 1007; Mordekhai Bava Batra, sec. 553 (citing R. Barukh of Mainz); and Simcha Emanuel, Shivrei Luhot (Jerusalem, 2006), 133n136. 15. See, e.g., Ephraim Kanarfogel, “Religious Leadership During the Tosafist Period: Between the Academy and the Rabbinic Court,” in Jewish Religious Leadership: Image and Reality, ed. J. Wertheimer (New York, 2004), 1:297–305; and Emanuel, Shivrei Luhot, 1–12. 16. See ms. Vercelli C1, fol. 291c (in a marginal gloss); and n. 26 of the present chapter. Regarding the status of a circumcision for gerut that was performed at night, see Maharam Mi-Rothenburg: Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim, ed. I. Z. Kahana (Jerusalem, 1957), 1:144–45

Notes to Pages 63–64


(secs. 149–50); and Haggahot Maimuniyyot, hilkhot milah, 1:5 [40]; cf. Hiddushei ha-Ritva al Maskhet Yevamot 45b, ed. R. A. Jofen (Jerusalem, 1992), 2:266. 17. See Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:236. As Urbach notes, Ri’s view was presented by his student R. Isaac b. Abraham (Rizba), as recorded in the commentary (Tosafot) to Hilkhot ha-Rif by R. Moses of London (to Yevamot 42a), in Ha-Tosafot she-al ha-Alfas, ed. M. Y. Blau (New York, 1970), 317. R. Moses of London immediately adds the restrictive Tosefta reference. Various Tosafot passages to Yevamot 42a, including the standard Tosafot, Tosafot ha-Rosh and Tosafot Yeshanim, do not specify Ri’s name in their citation of this position. The same is true for Mordekhai li-Yevamot, secs. 34–35, which cites the restrictive position from an unspecified midrash agadah. See also ms. Vercelli C1, fol. 291b; ms. Vatican 141 (11627), fol. 174v; ms. Budapest 201 (31445), fol. 269c; ms. British Museum 537 (5018 = Add. 19972), fol. 345v; ms. Vienna 72, fol. 213c; and ms. Parma (de Rossi) 929 (13795), fol. 235c. 18. See Shitat ha-Kadmonim al Massekhet Avodah Zarah, ed. Blau, 309–10 (Tosafot Rabenu Yehudah b. Yitshak mi-Paris). Cf. Hagahot Mordekhai to Yevamot, sec. 111, regarding the (much later) case of a ger who underwent immersion (or the conversion process more broadly) in front of judges who were related, and leading, albeit unnamed, rabbinic authorities argued about the status of wine that he then touched. This passage intimates that there is a responsum on this matter to be found in the Mordekhai ha-Katsar le-Perek ha-Holets. To this point, however, I have been unable to locate this responsum, in either printed texts or manuscript. 19. See Tosafot Avodah Zarah 64b, s.v. ein. See also Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” 764n69. 20. See Tosafot Kidushin 62b, s.v. ger; Tosafot Yevamot 45b; Tosafot ha-Rosh al Masekhet Kidushin, ed. D. Metzger (Jerusalem, 2006), 529–31, s.v. ger zarikh sheloshah; and Tosafot Yevamot 45b, s.v. mi lo tavlah le-nidutah; cf. Tosafot ha-Rosh, to Yevamot 45b. Piskei ha-Rosh to Yevamot (4:31, and see also Maharam Mi-Rothenburg: Teshuvot, Pesakim u-Minhagim, ed. I. Z. Kahana [Jerusalem, 1960], 2:262–63, pesakim 212) records this formulation as a response by Rosh’s teacher, R. Meir (of Rothenburg), whose teachings were sometimes added by the Rosh to the earlier version of northern French Tosafot that he preserved. (R. Meir of Rothenburg studied in northern France with several Tosafist colleagues of R. Moses of Coucy, including R. Yehi’el of Paris and R. Samuel of Evreux.) See also Tosafot Yeshanim ha-Shalem al Masekhet Yevamot, ed. A. Shoshana (Jerusalem, 1994), 273 (to Yevamot 46a, s.v. mi lo tavlah); and cf. Hidushei ha-Ritva al Masekhet Yevamot 46b, ed. Jofen, 2:311. On the northern French provenance of all of these Tosafot collections, see Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot 2:620–25, 630– 33. On Tosafot ha-Rosh, see ibid., 2:587–98 (and esp. 595, 596n39); and cf. E. Chwat, introduction to Hidushei ha-Ramban le-Masekhet Ketubot, ed. E. Chwat (Jerusalem, 1993), 32–37. The essential French formulation is also found in Sefer Mordekhai li-Yevamot, sec. 33. See also, e.g., ms. Vercelli C1, fols. 291b–c. 21. See, e.g., S. Emanuel, “Ha-Meneket ha-Notserit Bimei ha-Benayim—Halakhah ve-Historiyyah,” Zion 73 (2008): 21–40; cf. R. Aharon Lichtenstein, “Gerut: Leidah u-Mishpat,” Torah shebe-Al Peh 13 (1971): 82–94. 22. See Tosafot Kidushin 62b, s.v. ger; Tosafot ha-Rosh 62b, ed. Metzger, s.v. mishpat, 531–32; and Tosafot Yevamot 47a, s.v. mishpat. See also Tosafot ha-Rosh al Masekhet Gitin, ed. H. B. Ravitz (Bnei Brak, Israel, 1974), 296 (to Gitin 88b, s.v. ki avdinan shlihutaihu be-milta de-shekhiha); and Tosafot Gitin 88b, s.v. be-milta, citing Ri. 23. Tosafot Kidushin 62b, s.v. ger. On R. Netan’el of Chinon, see Urbach, Ba’alei haTosafot, 1:480–81, 2:623n15); A. Shoshana, introduction to Tosafot Yeshanim al Yevamot, ed. Shoshana, 22–24; and Avraham Grossman, “R. Netan’el me-Chinon: Mi-Gedolei Ba’alei


Notes to Pages 64–68

ha-Tosafot be-Tsarefat ba-Me’ah ha-Yod Gimmel,” in Mehkerei Talmud 3, ed. Y. Sussmann and D. Rosenthal (Jerusalem, 2005), 174–84. 24. See also the Tosafot to Yevamot in ms. Vatican 162 (8624), fol. 47r, s.v. tikunei gavra (= Tosafot Yevamot 46b); and ms. Rome Angelica Or. 38 (11692), Tosafot to Kidushin, fol. 35v, published as Shitat ha-Kadmonim al Masekhet Kidushin, ed. M. Blau (New York, 1970), 155. 25. Sefer Or Zaru’a, ed. Yerushalayim, 2:145 (pt. 2, sec. 99, at the end of the section). See also Wacholder, “Cases of Proselytizing,” 306. The addressee of this responsum by R. Samson was R. Judah, the son of (ha-kadosh) R. Yom Tov of Joigny. (R. Judah was also a student of Rabbenu Tam, as his father had been.) See Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:146, 318. Sefer Or Zaru’a, piskei Bava Kama, sec. 436, also records R. Samson of Sens’ description of how a beit din was constituted in Sens, in response to a question from his student R. Jacob b. Solomon of Courson. Cf. Kanarfogel, “Religious Leadership,” 289–90. 26. Sefer Mitsvot Gadol, ed. Machon Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, 1993), 2:195 (mitsvat lo ta’aseh 115–16). 27. Ibid., 2:198. 28. Note that in Semag, mitsvat aseh 74 (ed. Venice, 1517), fol. 152b, R. Moses urges that since, according to the Talmud, the purpose of the exile of the Jewish people among the nations of the world is to attract proselytes, Jews should deal honestly with non-Jews as well because if they behave inappropriately or unfairly, who will want to join them? Cf. Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance, 80; and Reiner, “Ha-Gerim,” 769nn86–87. 29. Semag, ed. Machon Yerushalayim (Jerusalem, 2007), 2:200. It should be noted, however, that there is only ancillary discussion of gerut in R. Eliezer of Metz’s Sefer Yere’im (see Sefer Yere’im ha-Shalem, secs. 31–32, 180–81, where the blessings for the circumcision are noted), 402, and no discussion in either the published or manuscript version of R. Barukh b. Isaac’s Sefer ha-Terumah, two works that were typically among Semag’s most important sources. Semag’s firm insistence that the immersion take place in the presence of three may also reflect the influence of Maimonides; see Mishneh Torah, hilkhot issurei bi’ah, 13:6. 30. Sefer Raban, ed. S. Z. Ehrenreich (New York, 1957), fols. 29b–30a (sec. 36). 31. Ibid., fol. 243a. 32. Ibid. 33. Sefer Mordekhai al Masekhet Yevamot, secs. 35–36. This passage is found similarly in ms. Vercelli C1, fol. 291b; ms. Budapest 201, fol. 269c; ms. Parma 929, fol. 235r; and ms. Vienna 72, fol. 213c. For Rif ’s approach, see also Arba’ah Turim, Yoreh De’ah, sec. 268. 34. See Mordekhai al Masekhet Yevamot, sec. 40 (immediately following an entirely different citation from Avi’asaf concerning an apostate). See also, e.g., ms. Vatican 324, fol. 229d; ms. Vienna 72, fol. 230r; and ms. Moscow-Guenzberg 1329, fols. 148r–v. 35. See, e.g., Sefer Rabiah, ed. Aptowitzer, vol. 1, sec.  285. Cf. Sefer Rokeah, ed. Schneerson, fols. 59–60 (sec. 108); and Shibolei ha-Leket, hilkhot milah, ed. S. Buber (Vilnius, Lithuania, 1887), fol. 185b (sec. 1). 36. On R. Isaac of Vienna’s teachers, see Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:436–39; and Uzi Fuchs, “Iyyunim be-Sefer Or Zaru’a le-R. Yizhak b. Mosheh me-Vienna” (MA thesis, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1993), 12–40. 37. For a similar pattern of pesak on the part of R. Isaac in an unrelated case, see Ephraim Kanarfogel, “The Appointment of Hazanim in Medieval Ashkenaz: Communal Policy and Individual Religious Prerogatives,” in Spiritual Authority: Strug gles over Cultural Power in Jewish Thought, ed. H. Kreisel et al. (Beersheba, Israel, 2009), 5–31.

Notes to Pages 68–69


38. Sefer Or Zaru’a, sec. 745 [5] (responsum to R. Avigdor Katz of Vienna), ed. Yerushalayim, 1:640. On this responsum, cf. Uzi Fuchs, “Shalosh Teshuvot Hadashot shel R. Yitshak Or Zaru’a,” Tarbiz 70 (2001): 109–14, 121–27. 39. Sefer Or Zaru’a, ed. Yerushalayim, 1:105–7 (pt. 1 [response], sec. 112). Although this formulation perhaps implies that the same is true, at least in part, for the immersion of a new convert to Judaism, Maharil (d. 1427) is the first Ashkenazic rabbinic authority to say so explicitly. See Sefer Maharil: Minhagim shel Rabenu Ya’akov Molin, ed. S. Spitzer (Jerusalem, 1989), 315 (hilkhot erev yom ha-kippurim); and cf. Teshuvot u-Pesakim, ed. Kupfer, 290–91 (sec. 171). 40. Sefer Mordekhai li-Yevamot, sec. 33. See also ms. Vercelli C1, fol. 291c (in the body of Sefer Mordekhai); ms. Budapest 201, fol. 269c; ms. British Museum 537, fol. 345v; ms. Vienna 72, fol. 231d; and ms. Parma (de Rossi), fol. 235r (sec. 419). The R. Judah b. Yom Tov mentioned in this passage was the grandson of Rashi’s son-in-law R. Judah b. Nathan, who married the widow of Rabbenu Tam’s brother, R. Isaac b. Meir, and was the grandfather of R. Judah Sirleon. See Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:46, 58, 120, 227, 229, 284, 307, 321, 329. 41. See, e.g., I. Ta-Shma, Halakhah, Minhag u-Mezi’ut be-Ashkenaz, 1100–1350 (Jerusalem, 1996), 112–18, 125–27; Elisheva Baumgarten, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton, N.J., 2004), 17, 42, 159–63, 168; A. Grossman, Pious and Rebellious: Jewish Women in Medieval Europe (Waltham, Mass., 2004); Ivan Marcus, Piety and Society (Leiden, 1981), 2–17; and Ephraim Kanarfogel, Jewish Education and Society in the High Middle Ages (Detroit, 2007), 20–21, 31, 36–41, 86–99, 137–41. 42. On apostates in Ashkenaz at this time, see, e.g., Ephraim Kanarfogel, “Returning to the Jewish Community in Medieval Ashkenaz: History and Halakhah,” in Turim: Studies in Jewish History and Literature Presented to Dr. Bernard Lander, ed. M. Shmidman (New York, 2007), 1:69–97; and Kanarfogel, “Changing Attitudes Toward Apostates in Tosafist Literature, Late Twelfth–Early Thirteenth Centuries,” in New Perspectives on JewishChristian Relations in Honor of David Berger, ed. E. Carlebach and J. J. Schacter (Leiden, 2011), 297–327. 43. Sefer Hasidim (defus Bologna), ed. R. Margoliot (Jerusalem, 1957), sec. 116. On the French recension of Sefer Hasidim, see, e.g., Ephraim Kanarfogel, “Peering Through the Lattices”: Mystical, Magical and Pietistic Dimensions in the Tosafist Period (Detroit, 2000), 33–35; and Haym Soloveitchik, “Piety, Pietism and German Pietism: Sefer Hasidim I and the Influence of Hasidei Ashkenaz,” Jewish Quarterly Review 92 (2002): 455–66. 44. Sefer Hasidim (defus Parma), ed. J. Wistinetski (Frankfurt, 1924), 1097 = Sefer Hasidim (defus Bologna), 377. 45. See also SHP 1098; and Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” 766n77. SHP 215 (= SHB 691) rules stringently, in accordance with the sugya in Yevamot (48b; noted also by Raban, n. 31 of the present chapter), that a ger must pay any outstanding monetary obligations that he incurred, even though he is spiritually considered to be ke-katan she-nolad. Cf. Tosafot Sanhedrin 71b, s.v. ben. Similarly, Sefer Hasidim writes that the ger still requires expiation (kaparah) if he has committed a murder, since even as a non-Jew, he knew that this act was sinful. 46. SHP 214 (= SHB 690). 47. See SHP 1911–12; and n. 53 of the present chapter. At the same time, however, R. Judah he-Hasid notes that there are instances in which a ger results from the soul of a Jew that the angel who oversees pregnancies mistakenly placed in the womb of a non-Jewish woman. See Teshuvot Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, ed. I. A. Agus (New York, 1954), 286; and the passage from R. Eleazar of Worm’s prayer commentary cited in Reiner, “Ha-Ger,” 765n75. SHP,


Notes to Pages 69–72

986, maintains that “ha-Torah kashah le-gerim mipnei ha-boshet.” This notion about gerim is expressed, however, as a counterexample in the context of a larger argument by Sefer Hasidim that when a person is trained from his youth to observe mitsvot, it is not difficult for him to continue to do so when he gets older. Indeed, he will not so easily abandon mitsvot at that point because to do so would cause him to feel boshet. See also SHP, 1011. 48. Zikhron Brit la-Rishonim, ed. J. Glassberg (Berlin, 1892), 132–36 (= ms. Montefiore 134, fols. 85a–86a). On this work, see, e.g., Ta-Shma, Halakhah, Minhag u-Mezi’ut beAshkenaz, 96–97; and Baumgarten, Mothers and Children, 46–54. 49. See Hilkhot ha-Rif ‘al Masekhet Shabbat, fol. 55b (to the end of chapter 19). See also Pisqei ha-Rosh le-Shabbat, 19:11; Arb’ah Turim, Yoreh De’ah, sec. 268; and the Beit Yosef commentary, s.v. ve-ein marbin alav. 50. See the pesak attributed to Avi ha-Ezri (= Rabiah) in Semak mi-Zurikh, ed. M. HaShoshanim (Jerusalem, 1977), 2:49; the passage in the Sifra Commentary attributed to R. Samson of Sens (Jerusalem, 1959), parashat Emor, parsheta 14n1, fol. 110b, which lists both shaving the head and cutting the nails; R. Avigdor Katz of Vienna (d. ca. 1270, a student of R. Simhah of Speyer), in Perushim u-Fesakim le-R. Avigdor (Jerusalem, 1996), 409–10; and cf. Kitsur Sefer Mitsvot Gadol le-R. Avraham b. Ephraim, ed. Y. Horowitz (Jerusalem, 2005), 194. Note that the Sifra commentary attributed to Samson of Sens was not composed by a Frenchman but rather by a German contemporary of Rabiah; see Kanarfogel, “Returning to the Jewish Community,” 86–87n34. 51. See nn. 30–32 of the present chapter. See also the Hagahot Mordekhai li-Yevamot, sec.  110: “ani hedyot ha-kotev nir’ah li de-mi she-ba lefanenu ve-yadua lanu she-bishvil to’elet davar hem osim ein le-kablam.” R. Avigdor Katz of Vienna is one of the few German rabbinic authorities of his age to exhibit a wider range of interests in gerim and gerut in both exegetical and halakhic contexts, although his awareness of rabbinic materials from northern France (and Italy) is well attested. See his Perushim u-Fesakim le-R. Avigdor, 43, 58, 103, 113, 162, 228, 361, 400, 410–11, 463–64, 474; and cf. Kanarfogel, “Peering Through the Lattices,” 107–9, 225–27; Emanuel, Shivrei Luhot, 173–81; and the next note. 52. Among the learned converts who surfaced in northern France during this period, mention should be made of R. Yehosefyah ha-Ger, who composed a number of piyyutim, and R. Avraham (b. Avraham) ha-Ger, whose well-known opinion on the usefulness of gerim in urging other Jews to fulfill the commandments is cited in Tosafot Kidushin 71a, s.v. kashim. See, e.g., Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:226. Interestingly, R. Avigdor Katz of Vienna cites the approach of R. Avraham b. Avraham in the name of his learned northern French ancestor, the Tosafist R. Menahem b. Perez of Joigny. See Perushim u-Fesakim le-R. Avigdor, 361. 53. See Grossman, Hakhmei Ashkenaz ha-Rishonim, 400–415; idem,“Yihus Mishpahah u-Mekomo ba-Hevrah ha-Ashkenazit be-Ashkenaz ha-Kedumah,” Perakim be-Toledot haHevrah ha-Yehudit Bimei ha-Benayim uve-Et ha-Hadashah, ed. I. Etkes et  al. (Jerusalem, 1980), 9–23; idem, “Yerushat Avot be-Hanhagah ha-Runhanit shel Kehilot Yisra’el Bimei ha-Benayim ha-Mukdamim,” Zion 50 (1985): 207–20; and idem, Hakhmei Tsarefat haRishonim (Jerusalem, 1995), 281; and cf. nn. 7–8 of the present chapter. 54. See Tosafot Bava Mezi’a 111b, s.v. mi-gerkha; and Urbach, Ba’alei ha-Tosafot, 1:237n41. (Tosafot Rabenu Perets to Bava Mezi’a 11b does not record this citation.) 55. Teshuvot Rabiah, ed. D. Deblitzky, 2:284 (sec. 1026). 56. See Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, Harigim Be’al Korham (Jerusalem, 2008), 230–34; SHP, 19; nn. 44 and 46 of the present chapter; Semag, lo ta’aseh 118; Piskei ha-Rosh Rosh liYevamot, 8:1–3; and Arba’ah Turim, Even ha-Ezer, sec. 5:1.

Notes to Pages 73–74


57. See, e.g., Solomon Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the Thirteenth Century, vol. 1 (New York, 1966), 22–26, 59–60, 199–200; idem, The Church and the Jews in the Thirteenth Century, vol. 2, ed. K. Stow (New York, 1989), 13–17, 102–3, 122–23; Robert Chazan, Church, State and Jew in the Middle Ages (West Orange, N.J., 1980), 191–94; J. M. Ziolkowski, “Put in No-Man’s Land: Guibert of Nogent’s Accusations Against a Judaizing and Jew-Supporting Christian,” in Van Engen and Signer, Jews and Christians, 110–22; J. R. Rosenbloom, Conversion to Judaism: From the Biblical Period to the Present (Cincinnati, 1978), 71–83; and the varied examples collected in Auman, “Conversion from Christianity,” 20–43. The monk Rigord of Saint Denis, in accounting for Phillip Augustus’ expulsion of the Jews from the royal realm in 1182, includes the following claim: “They had Christians in their homes as menservants and maidservants, who were open backsliders from the faith of Jesus and judaized with the Jews.” See R. Chazan, Medieval Jewry in Northern France (Baltimore, 1973), 43–45; cf. W. C. Jordan, The French Monarchy and the Jews (Philadelphia, 1989), 9–10, 33–37. 58. On the bishops who monitored conversions, see, e.g., Alfred Haverkamp, “Baptised Jews in German Lands During the Twelfth Century,” in Van Engen and Signer, Jews and Christians, 255–310. On the monasteries and the Jews of Germany, see, e.g., J. D. Young, “Neighbors, Partners, Enemies: Jews and the Monasteries in Germany in the High Middle Ages” (PhD diss., Notre Dame, 2011), esp. 183–92, which documents the “neighborly relations” (and close proximity) between Jews in Germany and various monks and friars during the early thirteenth century that allowed anti-Christian behavior to be monitored more closely. See also Jeremy Cohen, The Friars and the Jews (Ithaca, N.Y., 1982), 229–34. As noted by Cohen, the Franciscan friar Berthold Von Regensburg (who was active ca. 1240–70), in his German vernacular sermons, railed against the Jews who collaborated to lead the faithful astray, in very specific and intimate terms: “A Jew wants to make conversation with you, so that you might therefore become weaker and weaker in your belief. . . . He has thought out for a long time how he will converse with you, in order that you might thereby become even weaker in your faith. For the same reasons, it is declared by scripture and the papacy that no unlearned man should speak with a Jew” (234). See Almut Suerbaum, “Language of Violence: Languages as Violence in Vernacular Sermons,” in Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse, ed. A. Suerbaum et al. (Farnham, England, 2015), 125– 48. (My thanks to the anonymous reader for the press for this reference.) In 1233, Pope Gregory IX admonished the German clergy of Germany regarding Christians who “of their own free will adopt their [the Jews’] faith, following their rites and permit themselves to be circumcised, publicly professing themselves Jews.” S. Grayzel, The Church and the Jews, 1:199. In the very same year, the Church Council in Mainz “excommunicated such Christians as choose to live in Jewish homes in order to act as their servants,” and order their colleagues to do so as well, “to make this decision thoroughly observed by their subjects.” Ibid., 1:325. 59. See n. 42. 60. See SHP 214; and n. 46 of the present chapter. In the parallel passage in SHB (690), the reason that the circumcision was delayed (because of fear on the part of the community) is not found, reflecting perhaps a mea sure of censorship. 61. See Teshuvot Maharam b. Barukh defus Prag, sec. 103; I. A. Agus, R. Meir of Rothenburg (New York, 1947), 2:666–67 (sec. 772); and Auman, “Conversion from Christianity to Judaism,” 24–25, 33–34. 62. Teshuvot Maharah Or Zaru’a, ed. M. Abbitan (Jerusalem, 2002), 133 (sec.  142 [end]). R. Hayyim concludes by indicating that this episode was (also) recorded in his father’s Sefer Or Zaru’a (to which he composed an abridgement). Although this material has


Notes to Pages 74–75

not been located within any extant versions of Sefer Or Zaru’a, perhaps because of censorship (cf. Katz, Bein Yehudim le-Goyim, 84n53), a brief reference to this situation is found in Pesakim le-Rabenu Hayyim b. Yitshak Or Zaru’a, ed. M. Blau (New York, 1997), 2:377 (sec. 33). See also Teshuvot Maharah, ed. Abbitan, 275 (teshuvot hadashot mi-ktav yad), sec. 14. 63. R. Isaac Or Zaru’a spent part of his student days in northern France (see n. 36 of the present chapter), but he lived for the most part, and certainly during his mature years as a rabbinic decisor, in Germany and Austria. His son, R. Hayyim, lived in a variety of locales in Germany and Austria, and there is no evidence that he was ever in northern France. See Noah Goldstein, “R. Hayyim Eli’ezer ben Isaac Or Zaru’a—His Life and Work” (DHL diss., Yeshiva University, 1960), 23–26. 64. See, e.g., ms. Parma (de Rossi) 605 (13061; a mahzor of the western Ashkenazic rite), fol. 143r; ms. Cluny Museum 12290 (14772; a Worms siddur), fols. 68v–69r; and ms. Jewish National and University Library 40682 (B398; an eastern Ashkenazic rite), fol. 41r; and cf. ms. Parma 3518 (14025; a northern French mahzor), fol. 15r. On the incidence and significance of interpretational, methodological, and halakhic differences between the Tosafists in northern France and Germany, see Ephraim Kanarfogel, The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz (Detroit, 2013), 68–84.

CHAPTER 4 1. An early version of this essay was presented at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. I am grateful to David Ruderman and the many colleagues there who shared their insights. I am grateful also to Pere Benito, Joel Colomer, and Steven Schoenig for discussing par ticular documents; to Judah Galinsky, Benjamin Gampel, and Sarit Kattan-Gribetz for their incisive comments on early drafts; and to Theodor Dunkelgrün, Paweł Maciejko, and the anonymous reviewers for their editorial suggestions. In this essay, translations are my own unless other wise indicated. 2. Petrus Alfonsi, Dialogi contra iudaeos, Patrologiae cursus completus, Series Latina, ed. Jacques-Paul Migne (Paris, 1854), 157:538. 3. Avraham ben David, Teshuvot u-fesakim, ed. Yosef Kapach (Jerusalem, 1964), no. 126. Also see Louis Jacobs, Theology in the Responsa (London, 1975), 50. Warm thanks to Judah Galinsky for bringing this source to my attention. 4. Teshuvot Maharam mi-Rothenburg ve-haverav, ed. Simcha Emanuel (Jerusalem, 2012), 489 (no. 188). 5. David Berger, ed. and trans., The Jewish-Christian Debate in the High Middle Ages: A Critical Edition of the Nizzahon Vetus (Philadelphia, 1979), 206 (no. 211). 6. Sefer Hasidim, ed., Yehudah Wistinetzki (Berlin, 1891), 75 (no. 200). On approaches to Sefer Hasidim, see Ivan G. Marcus, The Religious and Social Ideas of the Jewish Pietists in Medieval Germany: Collected Essays [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 1986), 11–24. 7. Translated in Benjamin Gampel, “A Letter to a Wayward Teacher: The Transformations of Sephardic Culture in Christian Iberia,” in Cultures of the Jews: A New History, vol. 2, Diversities of Diaspora, ed. David Biale (New York, 2002), 391. Also see the discussion in ibid., 391–403. On Pablo de Santa María, see Yosi Yisraeli, “Between Jewish and Christian Scholarship in the Fifteenth Century: The Consolidation of a ‘Converso Theology’ in the Theological Writings of Pablo de Santa María” (PhD diss., Tel Aviv University, 2015).

Notes to Page 76


8. On attraction to Christianity as an ever-present possibility in medieval Ashkenaz, see Ivan G. Marcus, “Jews and Christians Imagining the Other in Medieval Eu rope,” Prooftexts 15 (1995): 209–26; idem, “Hierarchies, Religious Boundaries and Jewish Spirituality in Medieval Germany,” Jewish History 1 (1986): 7–26; idem, “A Pious Community and Doubt: Quiddush ha-Shem in Ashkenaz and the Story of Rabbi Amnon of Mainz,” in Studien zur jüdischen Geschichte und Soziologie: Festschrift Julius Carlebach (Heidelberg, 1992), 97–113; and Jeremy Cohen, “Between Martyrdom and Apostasy: Doubt and Self-Definition in TwelfthCentury Ashkenaz,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 29 (1999): 431–71. On apostasy as a means of escape from the Jewish community, see Paola Tartakoff, “Testing Boundaries: Jewish Conversion and Cultural Fluidity in Medieval Eu rope, 1200–1391,” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 90 (2015): 728–62; and idem, Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250–1391 (Philadelphia, 2012), 63–80. 9. On the ways the medieval Ashkenazic community constructed a discourse about apostasy that sought to further communal goals, see Chaviva Levin, “Jewish Conversion to Christianity in Medieval Europe Encountered and Imagined, 1100–1300” (PhD diss., New York University, 2006), 148–89; David Malkiel, “Jews and Apostates in Medieval Eu rope: Boundaries Real and Imagined,” Past and Present 194 (2007): 5, 28–34; and Avraham Grossman, “Roots of Kiddush Hashem in Early Ashkenaz” [in Hebrew], in The Sanctity of Life and Anguish of the Soul: A Collection of Essays in Memory of Amir Yekutiel, ed. Yeshayahu Gafni and Aviezer Ravitsky (Jerusalem, 1992), 99–131. 10. This letter is published in English in Kenneth Stow, “Jacob of Venice and the Jewish Settlement in Venice in the Thirteenth Century,” in Community and Culture: Essays in Jewish Studies, ed. N. Waldman (Philadelphia, 1987), 228–32. 11. On Salerno, see Joshua Starr, “The Mass Conversion of Jews in Southern Italy (1290–1293),” Speculum 21 (1946): 207. On Castile, see Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, vol. 9 of 18, Under Church and Empire (New York, 1957), 21. 12. Jessica Marin Elliott, “The Changing Status of Converted Jews in Thirteenth- and Fourteenth-Century Northern France” (PhD diss., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2014). 13. For examples of medieval Jewish converts who were wealthy or learned before baptism, see Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 63; and Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 113–15. 14. John Tolan, Petrus Alfonsi and His Medieval Readers (Gainesville, Fla., 1993), 11. 15. Alfred Haverkamp, “Baptised Jews in German Lands During the Twelfth Century,” in Jews and Christians in Twelfth-Century Europe, ed. Michael A. Signer and John Van Engen (Notre Dame, Ind., 2001), 274–75, 278. 16. Robert C. Stacey, “The Conversion of Jews to Christianity in Thirteenth-Century England,” Speculum 67 (1992): 266, 276–77. 17. William Chester Jordan, The French Monarchy and the Jews (Philadelphia, 1989), 189. Also see Franklin Pegues, The Lawyers of the Last Capetians (Princeton, N.J., 1962), 131–38; and Joseph Strayer, The Reign of Philip the Fair (Princeton, N.J., 1980), 22–23, 61, 67, 398, 401. 18. On the oeuvre of Alfonso de Valladolid, see Ryan Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative: Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (Philadelphia, 2013). 19. On Pablo Christiani, see Jeremy Cohen, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism (Ithaca, N.Y., 1982), esp. 103–28; and idem, Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity (Berkeley, 1999), esp. 334–42.


Notes to Pages 76–78

20. On converts who were granted lucrative employment, see Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 81–82. On Juan Sánchez de Calatayud, see Yitzhak Baer, A History of the Jews in Christian Spain, trans. Louis Schoffman (Philadelphia, 1961), 2:93–94. 21. Baron, Social and Religious History, 20. Solomon Grayzel, The Church and the Jews in the Thirteenth Century, vol. 1, 1198–1254, 2nd ed. (New York, 1966), 19n36. On Jews as possessions of the state, see Léon Bardinet, “Condition civile des Juifs du Comtat Venaissin,” Revue Historique 12 (1880): 14; Gavin Langmuir, “Tanquam Servi: The Change in Jewish Status in French Law About 1200,” in Les Juifs dans l’histoire de France, ed. Myriam Yardeni (Leiden, 1980), 25–54; Guido Kisch, The Jews in Medieval Germany: A Study of Their Legal and Social Status (Chicago, 1949); and David Abulafia, “The Servitude of Jews and Muslims in the Medieval Mediterranean: Origins and Diffusion,” Mélanges de l’École française de Rome: Moyen âge, temps modernes 112 (2000): 687–714. On the confiscation of the property of Muslim converts to Christianity in the fourteenth-century Crown of Aragon, see María Teresa Ferrer i Mallol, Els sarraïns de la corona catalano-aragonesa en el segle XIV: Segregació i discriminació (Barcelona, 1987), 69–72. 22. Frederick I repeated this legislation in 1157 (Kaiserkunden nos. 411 and 412, Dipl. Reg. et Imp. Germ. v. 6.2, 547, 548, cited in Jessie Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion from the Sixth to the Twelfth Century” [PhD diss., University of Toronto, 2006], 154n12). 23. Baron, Social and Religious History, 21. 24. Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 152–53. 25. See Starr, “Mass Conversion,” 206; and Baron, Social and Religious History, 23. 26. Elliott, “Changing Status of Converted Jews.” 27. Michael Adler, Jews of Medieval England (London, 1939), 281. 28. On the case of the physician Vincenç Esteve, see Jean Régné, ed., History of the Jews in Aragon: Regesta and Documents, 1213–1327 (Jerusalem, 1978), 532 (no.  2881). On Juan Sánchez de Calatayud, see Yitzhak Baer, Die Juden im Christlichen Spanien: Urkunden und Regesten (Berlin, 1929), 1:610 (no. 390.1). 29. The property of English converts, for instance, is known to have been forfeit to the king as early as the reign of John I. Stacey, “Conversion of Jews,” 266. On confiscations carried out in England, see Adler, Jews of Medieval England, 32–33, 292–94; and Cecil Roth, The Jews of Medieval Oxford (Oxford, 1951), 3, 67, 133. 30. Shlomo Simonsohn, ed., The Apostolic See and the Jews: Documents: 492–1404 (Toronto, 1988), 418–19 (no. 393), 419–21 (no. 394). 31. Peter Browe, Die Judenmission im Mittelalter und die Päpste (Rome, 1942), 191n54. 32. Miquel Pujol i Canelles, La conversió dels jueus de Castelló d’Empúries (Castelló d’Empúries, Spain, 1997), 248. 33. On the disinheritance of apostates, see Jacob Katz, Exclusiveness and Tolerance: Studies in Jewish-Gentile Relations in Medieval and Modern Times (Oxford, 1961), 72–73; Friedrich Lotter, “The Scope and Effectiveness of Imperial Jewry Law in the High Middle Ages,” Jewish History 4 (1989): 41–42. On Jews seizing the real estate of apostates, see Baron, Social and Religious History, 20. 34. See Josep M. Marquès, “Sis-cents pidolaires (1368–1540): Captius, esclaus i peregrins,” Estudis del Baix Empordà 13 (1994): 137–65. 35. Simonsohn, Documents, 418–19 (no. 393), 419–21 (no. 394). 36. Ibid., 423–25 (nos. 398, 399). Other group homes for Jewish converts existed in Cologne (Michel Mollat, The Poor in the Middle Ages: An Essay in Social History, trans. Arthur Goldhammer [New Haven, Conn., 1986], 287) and Oxford (Roth, Jews of Medieval Oxford, 56).

Notes to Pages 78–80


37. Eduard Sierra Valentí, “Captivus de Sarraïns: Llicències per a demanar caritat dels bisbes de Gerona (1376–1415),” Anuario de estudios medievales 38 (2008): 386. 38. See Ephraim Shoham-Steiner, “Poverty and Disability: A Medieval Jewish Perspective,” in The Sign Languages of Poverty: International Roundtable Discussion, ed. Gerhard Jaritz (Vienna, 2007), 77. On the disabled poor in medieval Paris, see Sharon Farmer, Surviving Poverty in Medieval Paris: Gender, Ideology and the Daily Lives of the Poor (Ithaca, N.Y., 2002). 39. Annales Egmundani, Monumenta Germaniae Historica, Scriptores, 16 (Hannover, 1859), 454–55. See the discussion of this case in Jessie Sherwood, “Rebellious Youth and Pliant Children: Jewish Converts in Adolescentia,” in Medieval Life Cycles: Continuity and Change, ed. Isabelle Cochelin and Karen Smyth (Turnhout, 2013), 192. 40. Translated in Karl Morrison, Conversion and Text: The Cases of Augustine of Hippo, Herman-Judah, and Constantine Tsatsos (Charlottesville, Va., 1992), 231–32. On the debated authenticity of the text, see Jean-Claude Schmitt, La conversion d’Hermann le Juif: Autobiographie, histoire et fiction (Paris, 2003)—now translated into English by Alex J. Novikoff (Philadelphia, 2010)—and the sources cited in Jonathan Elukin, “From Jew to Christian? Conversion and Immutability in Medieval Eu rope,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. James Muldoon (Gainesville, Fla., 1997), 186n8. 41. Alfonso de Valladolid [Abner of Burgos], Mostrador de justicia, ed. Walter Mettman, 2 vols. (Opladen, Germany, 1994–96), 1:47. 42. Simonsohn, Documents, 52 (no. 50). 43. Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 94–96 (no. 6). 44. Ibid., 96–99 (no. 8). 45. Baron, Social and Religious History, 21. 46. Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 296–95 (no. I). 47. Ibid., 298–99 (no. III). 48. The full text of this statute is preserved in a bull of Pope Innocent III published in Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 254–56 (no. 105). For the text of Jaume II’s reissuing, see Luis Alanya, Aureum Opus Regalium Privilegiorum Civitatis et Regni Valentie, first published 1515 (Valencia, 1982), fol. xl, col. 1. 49. Las siete partidas del Rey Don Alfonso el Sabio, ed. Real Academia de la Historia (Madrid, 1807), 7.24.6. 50. Stacey, “Conversion of Jews,” 279. 51. Jordan, French Monarchy, 149–50; and Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 19 (no. 36). 52. Stacey, “Conversion of Jews,” 267, 269; Joan Greatrex, “Monastic Charity for Jewish Converts: The Requisition of Corrodies by Henry III,” in Christianity and Judaism: Papers Read at the 1991 Summer Meeting and the 1992 Winter Meeting of the Ecclesiastical History Society, ed. Diana Wood (Cambridge, Mass., 1992), 133–45. 53. Stephen of Tournai, Epistola 32, PL 211, cols. 332C–33A. 54. On Louis IX, see Joseph Shatzmiller, “Jewish Converts to Christianity in Medieval Eu rope, 1200–1500,” in Cross Cultural Convergences in the Crusader Period: Essays Presented to Aryeh Grabois on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Michael Goodich et al. (New York, 1995), 317; and Alexandre Bruel, “Notes de Vyon d’Hérouval sur les baptizés et les convers et sur les enquêteurs royaux au temps de saint Louis et de ses successeurs (1234–1334),” Bibliothèque de l’École des Chartres, 6th ser., 3 (1867): 609–21, esp. 618–19. 55. In 1360 Jean II granted a Jewish convert named Aliza an annual stipend of eighty pounds. Th. Cochard, “La juiverie d’Orléans du IVe au XVe siècle,” Mémoires de la société d’agriculture, sciences, belles-lettres et arts d’Orléans 33 (1895): 59–61. On the kings of France


Notes to Pages 80–82

financially supporting Jewish converts, see also Roger Kohn, Les Juifs de la France du nord dans la seconde moitié du XIV e siècle (Paris, 1988), 184; Jordan, French Monarchy, 149–50; and Lucien Lazard, “Les Juifs de Touraine,” Revue des Études Juives 17 (1888): 215. 56. See Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 85. 57. On the support of religious houses and ecclesiastics during the twelfth century, see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 155–57. 58. On converts’ godparents, see Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 66–67. 59. Joseph Shatzmiller, Recherches sur la communauté juive de Manosque au moyen âge (Paris, 1973), 56–57. 60. On the tension between royal legislation and its implementation, see Paola Tartakoff, “Christian Kings and Jewish Conversion in the Medieval Crown of Aragon,” Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 3.1 (2011): 27–39. 61. See, for example, the cases discussed in Shlomo Simonsohn, The Apostolic See and the Jews: History (Toronto, 1991), 247–53; and Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 248–57. 62. Simonsohn, Documents, 5 (no. 73). 63. On the structure of the content of these licenses, see Sierra Valentí, “Captivus de Sarraïns,” 390–92. For examples of licenses granted to groups of converts in the Crown of Aragon in the third quarter of the fourteenth century, see Arxiu Diocesà de Gerona (hereafter ADG), Lletres Episcopals (hereafter LE) 1, fols. 81v–82r, and 16, fol. 37r–v; and Arxiu Diocesà de Barcelona (hereafter ADB), Registrum Gratiarum (hereafter RG) 4, fol. 100r, published in Paola Tartakoff, “Jewish Women and Apostasy in the Medieval Crown of Aragon,” Jewish History 24 (2010): 18–19 (no. 1). On begging licenses in the medieval Crown of Aragon, also see Jarbel Rodriguez, Captives and Their Saviors in the Medieval Crown of Aragon (Washington, D.C., 2007), esp. chap. 6. 64. ADG, LE 16, fols. 37v–38r. 65. ADG, LE 16, fol. 149r–v. 66. ADG, LE 64, fol. 92v, published in Tartakoff, “Jewish Women,” 19 (no. 2). On assistance to poor maidens in medieval Catalonia, see Teresa María Vinyoles i Vidal, “Ajudes a donzelles pobres a maridar,” in La pobreza y la asistencia a los pobres en la Cataluña medieval, ed. Manuel Riu (Barcelona, 1980), 1:295–362. 67. James William Brodman, Charity and Religion in Medieval Europe (Washington, D.C., 2009), 26; Mollat, The Poor, 134, 290. 68. On converts as Jews, see Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 67–68. On the reception of the descendants of converts, see Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 273–81; and Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 303–11. On the persistence of medieval images of the unchanging nature of the convert into the early modern period, see Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001), 35–37. 69. See Elukin, “From Jew to Christian?,” 182–84. On the implications of this understanding of conversion for the convert Guillaume of Flaix, see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 230–38; and Jessie Sherwood, “A Convert of 1096: Guillaume, Monk of Flaix, Converted from the Jew,” Viator 39 (2008): 1–22. 70. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: A Study in Seventeenth-Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics (New York, 1971), 13. 71. See Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 67–75, 91–95; Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 315–38; Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 139–47; and Carlebach, Divided Souls, 28–29. 72. See Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 63–80; Shatzmiller, “Jewish Converts,” 302–10; and William Chester Jordan, “Adolescence and Conversion in the Middle Ages: A

Notes to Page 82


Research Agenda,” in Signer and Van Engen, Jews and Christians, 77–93. On the experiences of women converts, see Tartakoff, “Jewish Women”; and Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 170–71. On women and poverty in medieval Paris, see Farmer, Surviving Poverty. 73. See Shoham-Steiner, “Poverty and Disability,” 91–93; Yacov Guggenheim, “Meeting on the Road: Encounters Between German Jews and Christians on the Margins of Society,” in In and Out of the Ghetto: Jewish-Gentile Relations in Late Medieval and Early Modern Germany, ed. Ronnie Po-Chia-Hsia and Hartmut Lehmann (Cambridge, England, 1995), 125–36; and Mark D. Meyerson, Jews in an Iberian Frontier Kingdom: Society, Economy, and Politics in Morvedre, 1248–1391 (Leiden, 2004), 164–74. On mendicancy and physical disability in medieval Jewish communities, see Elliott Horowitz, “Charity, the Poor and Social Control in European Jewish Communities Between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period” [in Hebrew], in Religion and Economy— Connections and Interactions, ed. Menahem Ben-Sasson (Jerusalem, 1995), 209–32. On Jewish poverty in medieval Egypt, see Mark Cohen, Poverty and Charity in the Jewish Community of Medieval Egypt (Princeton, N.J., 2005). 74. Stacey, “Conversion of Jews,” 269n38, 270–71. 75. Starr, “Mass Conversion,” 207–8. 76. See Carlebach, Divided Souls, 30. 77. At least one medieval collection of Roman law stated that Jews who became Christians should be absolved of their debts. Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 24n21. Conversion did not always work out this way, however. In the case of Bonanat, for instance, the Jewish aljama of Xàtiva had no intention of letting him abandon his debts, and it confiscated his houses. Meyerson, Jews, 81n61. The impact of conversion on financial debts is at issue in a mid-fourteenth-century court case whose records are preserved in Vic, Spain (AVV, 1330.07); see especially fols. 24v and 25r. 78. On the lack of communal charitable funds in some fourteenth-century Spanish Jewish communities, see Yom Tov Assis, “Welfare and Mutual Aid in the Spanish Jewish Communities,” in The Sephardi Legacy, ed. Haim Beinart (Jerusalem, 1992), 319–20. 79. On medieval Jewish charitable institutions, see Judah Galinsky, “Jewish Charitable Bequests and the Hekdesh Trust in Thirteenth-Century Spain,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 35 (2005): 423–40; Judah Galinsky, “Custom, Ordinance or Commandment? The Evolution of the Medieval Monetary-Tithe in Ashkenaz,” Journal of Jewish Studies 62 (2011): 203–32; Carme Batlle i Gallart and Montserrat Casas i Nadal, “La caritat privada i les institucions benèfiques de Barcelona (segle XIII),” in Riu, La pobreza, 1:147–49; and Israel Jacob Yuval, “Hospices and Their Guests in Jewish Medieval Germany” [in Hebrew], in Proceedings of the Tenth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1989), 2:125–29. On the decline of Jewish communal institutions following the Black Death, see Yitzhak Handelsman, “Changes in the Leadership of the Jewish Communities in Germany During the Middle Ages from the Eleventh to the Fifteenth Century” (PhD diss., University of Tel Aviv, 1980), 304–9, 312–13; and Eric Zimmer, Harmony and Discord: An Analysis of the Decline of Jewish Self-Government in Fifteenth Century Central Europe (New York, 1970), 8–9, 104–7. 80. On the medieval Christian landscape of charity, see Mollat, The Poor, 135–56. On conditions in Catalonia, see James William Brodman, Charity and Welfare: Hospitals and the Poor in Medieval Catalonia (Philadelphia, 1998); and the many useful studies in Riu, La pobreza. 81. Meyerson, Jews, 170–72. The “shamefaced poor” were a widely recognized phenomenon within Christian society. See Mollat, The Poor, 157; Cohen, Poverty and Charity, 70– 71; Ana Magdalena Lorente, “El plato de los pobres vergonzantes de la parroquia de Santa María del Mar, en Barcelona,” in Riu, La pobreza, 2:154–71; and Guillermo Aramayona


Notes to Pages 83–86

Alonso, “El cuaderno de 1420 de ‘el Bací dels pobres vergonyants’ de la parroquia de Santa María del Mar, de Barcelona,” in Riu, La pobreza, 2:173–89. 82. Caesarius of Heisterbach, The Dialogue on Miracles, trans. and ed. G. G. Coulton and Eileen Power (New York, 1929), 1:37. 83. Simonsohn, Documents, 418–21 (nos. 393, 394). 84. On Thomas Aquinas converting Jews, see Carlebach, Divided Souls, 33–34. On the similar depiction of the convert Joshua of Trier, see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 161. When Christian authorities issued preaching licenses to Jewish converts, they also extolled these individuals’ alleged erudition. Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 88–89. 85. Quoted in Stow, “Jewish Settlement,” 230. 86. Ibid., 230–31. 87. Prim Bertran i Roigé, “L’Almoina pontifícia d’Avinyó: Els seus inicis (1316–1324) en temps de Joan XXII,” Acta Historica et Archaeologica Mediaevalia 25 (2004): 314n143. 88. See, for example, ADG, LE 1, fols. 104r–105v, and 22, fol. 149r–v. On medieval understandings of baptism, see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 323–28. 89. ADB, RG 4, fol. 100r, published in Tartakoff, “Jewish Women,” 18–19 (no. 1). On medieval Jewish fears about conversion during childbirth, see Elisheva Baumgarten, Mothers and Children: Jewish Family Life in Medieval Europe (Princeton, N.J., 2004), 51–52. On associations between conversion and childbirth in the thirteenth-century Castilian Cantigas de Santa María, see Dwayne E. Carpenter, “The Jew in the Cantigas de Santa María,” in In Iberia and Beyond: Hispanic Jews Between Cultures, ed. Bernard Dov Cooperman (Newark, N.J., 1998), 23. 90. Morrison, Conversion and Text, 109. On similar language in the writings of Guillaume of Flaix, see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 228. 91. In the Crown of Aragon between 1263 and 1389, kings issued preaching licenses to at least thirteen converts. See Jaume Riera i Sans, “Les llicències reials per predicar als jueus i als sarraíns (segles XIII–XIV),” Calls 2 (1987): 113–43; and Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 88–91. Jewish converts became Christian preachers also in France and Castile. Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew, 90. On “the rhetoric of papal ambivalence and support,” see also Levin, “Jewish Conversion,” 248–57. 92. See Chazan, Reassessing Jewish Life, 108–12; and Cohen, Living Letters, 224–25, 249. 93. In the same letter, Innocent admonished Christians who failed to assist Jewish converts financially for being stingy on account of the “greed of such as are possessed of plenty.” Grayzel, Church and the Jews, 97–99 (no. 8). 94. ADG, LE 16, fols. 37v–38r. 95. Simonsohn, Documents, 419–20 (no. 394). 96. “Ill-gotten gains” were to be restituted to their proper owners or donated to charity. See Simonsohn, History, 249; Baron, Social and Religious History, 21–22, 51; and Michael Lower, “Conversion and St. Louis’s Last Crusade,” Journal of Ecclesiastical History 58 (2007): 223. 97. Quoted in Browe, Die Judenmission, 200n103. 98. On the use of the verb dimittere, compare, for example, Pujol, La conversió dels jueus, 248; ADG, LE 1, fols. 18v–19r; and ADB, RG 1371, fol. 100r. 99. These converts included Martí Peralta (1326, ADG, LE 2, fol. 18r); Joan de Planils and his sons Pere and Bernat (1326, ADG, LE 2, fol. 2v); Guillem de Belloc (1328, ADG, LE 3, fol. 181r); Jucef Cohen/Joan (1346, ADG, LE 10, fol. 91v); Iomtov/Pere (1347, ADG, LE 11, fol. 86r); Guillem de Llinyola (1350, ADG, LE 16, fols. 37v–38r); Joan Serra, Pere de Terre de Fraga, Bernat de Palaciolo de Tarazona, and Ramón Esquert de Valadorit (1350, ADG, LE 16, fol. 37r–v); Francesc de Papiolo (1352, ADG, LE 21, fols. 73v–74r); Joan García

Notes to Pages 86–90


(1352, ADG, LE 15, fol. 130r); Daniel de Verger (1353, ADG, LE 22, fol. 149r–v); Tomás de Gerona (1359, ADG, LE 33, fol. 187r); Blanca, her family, and eighty unnamed others (1371, ADB, RG 4, fol. 100r); Juan Pérez de Benabarre (1372, ADG, LE 1, fols. 42v–43r); Joan Sord (1375, ADG, LE 1, fols. 66v–67r); Pere Rodes and his wife, Joana, and son Joan (1375, ADG, LE 1, fols. 67v–68r); Joan de Ruibech (1378, ADB, RG 7, fol. 123r); Pere Alfons (1379, ADG, LE 1, fol. 90r); David Gerson/Marc Moner, Mosse Valensí/Joan Turon, and Issach Viton/ Joan Estrader (1381, ADG, LE 1, fols. 81v–82r); and Tonsanus and three companions (1381, ADG, LE 1, fols. 104r–105v). On baptism by immersion in medieval Barcelona, see Josep Baucells i Reig, Vivir en la edad media: Barcelona y su entorno en los siglos XIII y XIV (1200– 1344) (Barcelona, 2004), 1:635–38. Documents that mention converts’ nudity during baptism include ADG, LE 1, fols. 90r and 104r–105v. 100. See, for example, ADB, RG 8, fol. 196r; ADG, LE 2, fol. 2v; ADG, LE 3, fol. 181r; ADG, LE 15, fol. 130r; ADG, LE 16, fol. 37r–v; ADG, LE 33, fol. 187r; Riera, “Les llicències reials,” 136 (no. 5). On Pere de Saumana, who was baptized in 1375 in Gerona, see Jaume Puig i Oliver, “Documents relatius a la inquisició del ‘Registrum Litterarum’ de l’Arxiu Diocesà de Gerona (s. XIV),” Arxiu de Textos Catalans Antics 17 (1998): 450–53 (nos. 62–64). On the attribution of Jewish conversions to “divine grace,” see Sherwood, “Jewish Conversion,” 160–63. 101. ADG, LE 1, fol. 105r. 102. On visions of a child in the consecrated host, see Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New Haven, Conn., 1999), 7–39. 103. ADG, LE 1, fols. 104r–105v. 104. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ declares, “If you wish to be perfect, go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor [and you will have trea sure in Heaven] and come, follow me” (19:21). Similarly, in Luke: “[Unless you] renounce all that you possess, you cannot be my disciple” (14:33). 105. Antoni Rubió i Lluch, Documents per l’història de la cultura catalana migeval, 2 vols. (Barcelona, 1921), 2:59–60 (no. 63). 106. Simonsohn, Documents, 423 (no. 398). 107. ADG, LE 1, fols. 18v–19r. 108. ADB, RG 4, fol. 100r. 109. Claudio Enrique Girbal, Los judíos en Gerona (Gerona, 1870), 41n2. 110. ADG, LE 1, fols. 104r–105v. 111. Translated in Morrison, Conversion and Text, 109. 112. ADG, LE 1, fols. 104r–105v. 113. ADG, LE 1, fols. 102v–103r. 114. Browe, Die Judenmission, 192–93.

CHAPTER 5 1. The eyewitness account of the early per formance of the Inquisition in Toledo was first published by Fidel Fita, “La Inquisición toledana: Relación contemporánea de los autos y autillos que celebró desde el año 1485 hasta el de 1501,” Boletín de la Real Academia de la Historia 11 (1887): 294–96. 2. See Angus MacKay, “The Hispanic-Converso Predicament,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, 5th ser., 35 (1985): 160; and Marcella Ciceri, “Le ‘Coplas de Mingo Revulgo,’ ” Cultura Neolatina 37 (1977): 234–35.


Notes to Pages 90–95

3. See Eloy Benito Ruano, Los orígenes del problema converso (Madrid, 2001); and Nicholas  G. Round, “La rebelión toledana de 1449: Aspectos ideológicos,” Archivum 16 (1966): 385–446. 4. See the Lucena family tree later in this chapter. 5. See, for instance, Eleazar Gutwirth, “Elementos étnicos e históricos en las relaciones judeo-conversas en Segovia,” in Jews and Conversos: Studies in Society and the Inquisition, ed. Yosef Kaplan (Jerusalem, 1985), 83–101. 6. Antonio Ricciulli, Tractatus de Neophytis (Rome, 1622), 609, 628. Also see Fausto Parente, “La posizione giuridica dell’ebreo convertito nell’Età della Controriforma,” Sefarad 61 (1991): 339–52. 7. Cf. Jean-Pierre Dedieu, “¿Pecado original o pecado social? Reflexiones en torno a la constitución y a la definición del grupo judeo-converso en Castilla,” Manuscrits 10 (1992): 61–76. 8. Francisco Cantera Burgos, “Fernando de Pulgar y los conversos,” Sefarad 4 (1944): 302–10, 321–29. 9. Fernando del Pulgar, Crónica de los Reyes Católicos, ed. Juan de M. Carriazo (Madrid, 1943), 210–11; cf. Cantera Burgos, “Fernando de Pulgar y los conversos,” 345–46. Unless other wise stated, English translations from the original texts are mine. 10. See José Gómez-Menor, Cristianos nuevos y mercaderes de Toledo (Toledo, 1970), 49–57. 11. Juan Gil, Los conversos y la Inquisición sevillana (Sevilla, 2000), 1:96–104. 12. All the confessions (except Juana’s, then sixteen years old), along with additional evidence, are contained in the only file preserved of a member of this family, Teresa de Lucena, tried and convicted in 1530–31, in Archivo Histórico Nacional, Inquisición, Toledo, leg. 163, no. 13. A partial transcription of the file was published in Manuel Serrano y Sanz, “Noticias biográficas de Fernando de Rojas, autor de La Celestina y del impresor Juan de Lucena,” Revista de Archivos, Bibliotecas y Museos, 3rd ser., 6 (1902): 256–60, 282–95. I have checked the original file in its entirety. Unless other wise stated, all documentary references made in this article are to this record and the original foliation. 13. See Adriano Prosperi, Tribunali della coscienza: Inquisitori, confessori, missionari (Turin, 1996), 213–18 and Elena Brambilla, Alle origine del Sant’Uffizio: penitenza, confessione e giustizia spirituale, dal medioevo al XVI secolo (Bologna, 2000). 14. Interestingly, Zacut mentions the event too. See Abraham Zacut, Sefer Yuhasin haShalem, ed. Herschell Filipowski, repr. with an introduction Abraham H. Freimann (Frankfurt am Main, 1924), 226a. 15. See Juan López de Salamanca, La confesión y las indulgencias: Prerreforma y tradición, critical ed. by Ramón Hernández (Salamanca, 1978). 16. Gaspar Isidro de Argüello, Instrucciones del Santo Oficio, sumariamente antiguas y nueuas . . . (Madrid, 1627), 3v. 17. On this questionnaire, see Herman P. Salomon, “The ‘Monitorio do Inquisidor Real’ of 1536: Background of Some ‘Judaic’ Customs Listed Therein,” Arquivos do Centro Cultural Português 17 (1982): 61–63. 18. Israel S. Révah, “La religion d’Uriel da Costa, Marrane de Porto (d’après des documents inédits),” Revue d’Histoire des Religions 156 (1962): 63. 19. García de Montalbán, cousin of the father-in-law of the author of La Celestina. 20. Francisco Cantera Burgos and Pilar León Tello, Judaizantes del arzobispado de Toledo habilitados por la Inquisición en 1495 y 1497 (Madrid, 1969), 15, 29–30, 107. See also Tarsicio de Azcona, “Aspectos económicos de la Inquisición de Toledo en el siglo XV,” in V Simposio Toledo Renacentista (Madrid, 1980), 2:7–72.

Notes to Pages 95–99


21. Cf. Vrbis Olisiponis Descriptio per Damianum Goem (Evora, Portugal, 1554), n.p. (2r). 22. See As Gavetas da Torre do Tombo (Lisbon, 1960), 1:85–87 (order reissued in 1515); and Fernando Filipe Portugal, “O problema judaico no reinado de D. Manuel,” Armas e troféus, 3rd ser., 4 (1975): 314, 320. 23. A full transcription of the letter in Serrano y Sanz, “Noticias biográficas,” 286–87. 24. Baer pointed to “too obvious [hidden] meanings” (remazim galuim lemaday) in the letter, though he did not undertake an in-depth analysis. Yitzhak F. Baer, Toledot ha-Yehudim bi-Sefarad ha-Notsrit, 2nd ed. (Jerusalem, 1986), 420. 25. He is possibly related to Gonçalo Vas and Estevam Vaaz, agents in 1510 of the king of Portugal in Castile, in Antonio de la Torre and Luis Suárez Fernández, eds., Documentos referentes a las relaciones con Portugal durante el reinado de los Reyes Católicos (Valladolid, 1963), 3:158–59, 182–83. 26. Among them, Diogo de Lucena arrived in the 1470s as physician of Queen Juana of Castile. See Francisco A. Martins Bastos, Nobiliarchia medica . . . (Lisbon, 1858), 21. 27. The safety of those converso émigrés returning home, even if temporarily, was a delicate issue. See De la Torre and Suárez, Documentos referentes a las relaciones con Portugal, 3:184. 28. Cf. Dean  W. McPheeters, “Melibea, mujer del Renacimiento,” in Estudios Humanísticos sobre La Celestina (Potomac, Md., 1985), 9. 29. See Karl A. Bühler, Séneca en España: Investigaciones sobre la recepción de Séneca en España desde el siglo XIII hasta el siglo XVIII (Madrid, 1969), 212–22. 30. See Donald McGrady, “Misterio y traducción en el Romance del Prisionero,” in Actas del X Congreso de la Asociación Internacional de Hispanistas (Barcelona, 1992), 1:273–282; there are some biblical resonances in 2 Sam. 22:29 and Job 3. 31. See, among others, Ian Macpherson, “Celestina Labrandera,” Revista de Literatura Medieval 4 (1992): 177–86. 32. See Angus MacKay, “The Whores of Babylon,” in Prophetic Rome in the High Renaissance Period: Essays, ed. Marjorie Reeves (Oxford, 1992), 223–32. 33. See the contemporary narrative by a Castilian witness of the 1506 events inserted in Andrés Bernáldez, Memorias del reinado de los Reyes Católicos, ed. Manuel Gómez-Moreno and Juan de M. Carriazo (Madrid, 1962), 503–9. One of the manuscripts of the chronicle makes clear that the massacre also affected Castilian conversos fleeing from the Inquisition; ibid., 508. 34. The nickname is mentioned twice in the margins of his translation of the Gospels from Latin into Castilian at BNE, MS 9556. 35. Solomon Ibn Verga, Sefer Shevet Yehudah, ed. Azriel Shohat (Jerusalem, 1948), 9, 117–18, 205. Contrast with the mention of Fernán Díaz, the royal secretary of John II of Castile, as ha-sar ha-gadol yatsa mi-klal Yisra’el (a convert), in Eleazar Gutwirth, “Ryltwr o Dyltwr: Fernán Díaz de Toledo y los judíos,” Sefarad 45 (1985): 229–34. 36. Archivo General de Simancas (AGS), Quitaciones de Corte, leg. 1, no. 143; and cf. Alicia Gómez Izquierdo, Cargos de la Casa y Corte de Juan II de Castilla (Valladolid, 1968), 58. 37. See Mario Schiff, “Notice sur la traduction castillane des ‘Evangiles’ et des ‘Épitres de saint Paul’ faite par le docteur Martin de Luçena pour le marquis de Santillane,” Bulletin Hispanique 10 (1908): 307–14. 38. Helen Nader, The Mendoza Family in the Spanish Renaissance, 1350 to 1550 (New Brunswick, N.J., 1979), 77–100.


Notes to Pages 99–102

39. Either some pages of the manuscript were ripped out or the texts were never included: Acts, Galatians 4:7–6:18, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and 1 Thessalonians. 40. Alonso de Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae (Tratado en favor de los judíos conversos), ed. Manuel Alonso (Madrid, 1943), 77–80. 41. Two volumes of a three-volume set are extant: (1) BNE, MS 10288—see Margherita Morreale, “El ms. 10288 de la Biblioteca Nacional de Madrid: Traducción parcial castellana de la Biblia del hebreo y del latín,” Filología 13 (1968): 251–87; Biblia Romanceada: BNM Ms. 10.288, study, edition, and notes by Francisco J. Pueyo Mena (Madison, 1996); and Gemma Avenoza, Biblias castellanas medievales (San Millán de la Cogolla, 2011), 149–70; and (2) Escorial, MS I.i.4—see Andrés Enrique-Arias and F. Javier Pueyo Mena, “La Biblia completa del Marqués de Santillana,” Revista de Filología Española 97 (2017): 35–68. 42. BNE, MS 10196. Despite the biographical similitudes, Mario Schiff questioned the identification of Martín González de Lucena with Martín de Lucena, el Macabeo, and he considered them different authors. Far from being resolved, the problem still awaits an indepth analysis of the documentary evidence preserved; see Mario Schiff, La Bibliothèque du Marquis de Santillana (Paris, 1905), 307, 314, 317–18; and Margherita Morreale, “Apuntes bibliográficos para el estudio del tema ‘Dante en España hasta el siglo XVII,’ ” Annali del corso di lingue e letterature straniere della Università di Bari 8 (1967):14–16. 43. Cf. Juan de Mena, La Coronaçión, ed. Maxim P. A. M. Kerkhof (Madrid, 2009), 4n26. 44. BNE, MS 10208; cf. Mario Penna, Exposición de la Biblioteca de los Mendoza del Infantado en el siglo XV . . . (Madrid, 1958), 31, which raises the issue of Lucena’s authorship. 45. Cf. Marqués de Santillana, Poesías completas, ed. Maxim P. A. M. Kerkhof and Angel Gómez Moreno (Madrid, 2003), 637–40. 46. AGS, Quitaciones de Corte, leg. 1, no. 143; and cf. Gómez Izquierdo, Cargos de la Casa y Corte, 58. 47. A mention of a lost Epístola consolatoria sobre la caída de Constantinopla by a Toledan author as a response to contemporary apocalyptic expectations is in Ramón Gonzálvez Ruiz, “El bachiller Palma y su obra de polémica proconversa,” in “Qu’un sang impur . . .”: Les conversos et le pouvoir en Espagne à la fin du Moyen Âge, coord. Jeanne Battesti-Pélegrin (Aixen-Provence, 1997), 55. 48. William M. Brinner, “A Fifteenth-Century Karaite-Rabbanite Dispute in Cairo,” in The Majlis: Interreligious Encounters in Medieval Islam, ed. Hava Lazarus-Yafeh et al. (Wiesbaden, 1999), 184–96. 49. Early that year, his firstborn son, Francisco, was transferred the annual income his father received as royal scribe. See AGS, Quitaciones de Corte, leg. 4, no. 125-126. 50. Thorough genealogical information is included in Beatriz de Lucena’s confession of 1529 (14v–15v). 51. A witness reports how Juan de Lucena called his brother-in-law “cousin” (11v). 52. Eloy Benito Ruano, Toledo en el siglo XV: Vida política (Madrid, 1961), 93–110. 53. See Angus MacKay and Geraldine McKendrick, “La semiología y los ritos de violencia: Sociedad y poder en la Corona de Castilla,” En la España Medieval 11 (1988): 153–65. 54. See Francisco Cantera Burgos, El poeta Rodrigo Cota y su familia de judíos conversos (Madrid, 1970), 26–30, 93–96. 55. It will suffice to invoke two different instances documenting the frequency of Jewish–New Christian socialization, in Carlos Carrete Parrondo, “Fraternization Between Jews and Christians in Spain Before 1492,” American Sephardi 9 (1978): 15–21; and idem,

Notes to Pages 103–106


Fontes Iudaeorum Regni Castellae, vol. 3, Proceso inquisitorial contra los Arias Dávila: Un enfrentamiento social entre judíos y conversos (Salamanca, 1986). 56. Respectively, 16v, 18v, 4v, 22r, and 22v. 57. Respectively, 19r, 22v, 11r, 9v, 17r, and 22v. 58. Convicted in 1526. See Serrano y Sanz, “Noticias biográficas,” 266; and Cantera Burgos and León Tello, Judaizantes del arzobispado de Toledo, 131. 59. On vernacular prayers, there is nothing similar for the Castilian linguistic domain to the comprehensive Jaume Riera i Sans, “Oracions en català dels conversos jueus: Notes bibliogràfiques i textos,” Anuario de Filología 1 (1975): 345–67. A functional approach to converso prayer is in Jacqueline Genot, “Recherche sur les fonctions de la prière individuelle en milieu marrane aux alentours de 1492: Prière et salut,” in Prière, mystique et judaïsme, ed. Roland Goetschel (Paris, 1987), 159–78. 60. The beginnings of print in Toledo are related to the printing of indulgences, but there is no evidence pointing to Juan de Lucena’s involvement with it. See Ramón Gonzálvez Ruiz, Estudios sobre la imprenta incunable toledana (Toledo, 2013), 161–92. 61. Still active in the 1470s, Montoro belonged to the generation of Martín de Lucena. Mocking self-denigration is one of the leitmotifs of his poetry; cf. Marcella Ciceri, “Anton de Montoro, ‘converso,’ ” Rassegna Iberistica 29 (1987): 5. E. Michael Gerli defines the “rhetoric of abjection” as “the verbal creation of a person distinguished by marginality and alterity.” E. Michael Gerli, “The Converso Condition: New Approaches to an Old Question,” in Medieval Iberia: Changing Societies and Cultures in Contact and Transition, ed. Ivy A. Corfis (London, 2007), 6. 62. It was not unusual that the printer’s daughters helped in this trade. See McPheeters, “Melibea,” 12. 63. He is known, among others, through his anti-Jewish preaching in Segovia and the role he played in the Holy Child of La Guardia libel (1491). 64. Shimon Iakerson, Catalogue of Hebrew Incunabula from the Collection of the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (New York, 2004–2005), 1:xxxiv, 2:454–478, [551]–[87]. 65. In the absence of new evidence, we can reject the attribution to this press of the Mahzor le-Yom Kippur; cf. Alexander Marx, “Eine unbekannte Spanische Inkunabel: ‫מחזור ליום כפור‬,” Soncino-Blätter: Beiträge zur Kunde des Jüdischen Buches 3 (1929–30): 97–98. 66. Pulgar, Crónica de los Reyes Católicos, 439. 67. Cf. Ramón Carande and Juan de M. Carriazo, eds., El Tumbo de los Reyes Católicos del Concejo de Sevilla . . . , vol. 3, Años 1479–1485 (Sevilla, 1968), 129. 68. See Gabriel Secall i Güell, La comunitat hebrea de Santa Coloma de Queralt (Tarragona, 1986), 240–41 (I thank Jaume Riera for providing me with the correct transcription of the surname). Is he the bookseller R. Abraham from Talavera, convicted as Luis García by the Inquisition in 1515 (Archivo Histórico Nacional, Inquisición, Toledo, leg. 150, no. 9)? 69. Also in Beatriz de Lucena’s confession of 1529 (24r–v). Other contemporary instances are identified in Eduardo Aznar Vallejo, “Nuevos datos sobre los orígenes de la Inquisición en Sevilla,” in Andalucía entre Oriente y Occidente (1236–1492): Actas del V Coloquio Internacional de Historia Medieval de Andalucía (Córdoba, Spain, 1988), 569–80. For a later recurrence of this fast, see Révah, “La religion d’Uriel da Costa,” 57–58, 68. 70. Miguel Ángel Ladero Quesada, “Judeoconversos andaluces en el siglo XV,” in I Congreso Internacional “Encuentro de las Tres Culturas” . . . (Toledo, 1983), 37–68. Also see his “Sevilla y los conversos: Los ‘habilitados’ en 1495,” Sefarad 52 (1992): 429–47.


Notes to Pages 106–113

71. See the tone of wonder (and resignation) expressed by a converso declaring that the 1462 turmoil did not break out “ because of us.” Ladero Quesada, “Judeoconversos andaluces,” 41. 72. Cantera Burgos, “Fernando de Pulgar y los conversos,” 308. Gil identifies the anonymous impugnador with Juan Ruíz de Medina, an inquisitors’ assistant. Gil, Los conversos y la Inquisición sevillana, 1:76. 73. Francisco J. Lobera Serrano, “Los conversos sevillanos y la Inquisición: El Libello perdido de 1480,” Cultura Neolatina 49 (1989): 7–53. 74. Fray Hernando de Talavera, Católica impugnación, ed. Francisco Martín Hernández (Barcelona, 1961), 70. 75. Gil, Los conversos y la Inquisición sevillana, 1:136. 76. Ibid., 1:60–61. 77. Ibid., 4:128. 78. Ibid., 1:127, 4:326. The two remaining adoptive fathers are more difficult to identify: several homonymous individuals hold the name Juan de Sevilla. Ibid., 5:302–4, 1:31, 38, 42, 81. 79. Ibid., 1:99, 116–17n11. 80. Such as the one published in ibid., 1:115–16n6. 81. Talavera de la Reina, Archivo de la Colegiata de Santa María la Mayor, caja 256, no. 1 (August 22, 1486). 82. For example, Pedro de Santacruz of Aranda was granted absolution in exchange for his patronage of an altarpiece. See Carlos Carrete Parrondo, Fontes Iudaeorum Regni Castellae, vol. 2, El tribunal de la Inquisición en el obispado de Soria (1486–1502) (Salamanca, 1985), 172. 83. Archivo Catedral de Toledo, Obra y Fábrica, libro 356, fol. 126v. 84. Archivo Catedral de Toledo, Obra y Fábrica, libro 964, fol. 139r. Çima’s father had been living there since 1483; and cf. Pilar León Tello, Judíos de Toledo (Madrid, 1979), 2:487. 85. See Alonso de Oropesa, Luz para conocimiento de los gentiles, ed. Luis A. Díaz y Díaz (Madrid, 1979), 215–16. 86. See David Nirenberg, “Mass Conversions and Genealogical Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain,” Past & Present 174 (2002): 3–41. 87. Juan [Ramírez] de Lucena, De vita felici, in Testi spagnoli del secolo XV, ed. Giovanni M. Bertini (Turin, 1950), 132. 88. Cf. MacKay, “Hispanic-Converso Predicament,” 175–79. 89. But cf. Raphael Loewe, “ ‘Salvation’ Is Not of the Jews,” Journal of Theological Studies (NS), 32 (1981), 341–68. 90. The wording is by Marcel Bataillon, Erasmo y España: Estudios sobre la historia espiritual del siglo XVI, trans. Antonio Alatorre (Mexico City, 1966), 832. 91. Without mazal (luck). Cf. Antón de Montoro, Cancionero, ed. Marcella Ciceri and Julio Rodríguez Puértolas (Salamanca, 1990), 60; and see the rejoinder by Leo Spitzer, “Desmazalado,” Nueva Revista de Filología Hispánica 1 (1947): 78–79, on Yaakov Malkiel, “A Latin-Hebrew Blend: Hispanic Desmazalado,” Hispanic Review 15 (1947): 272–301.

CHAPTER 6 1. William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London, 1902), lectures 9 and 10; Paula Fredriksen, “Paul and Augustine: Conversion Narratives, Orthodox Traditions, and the Retrospective Self,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 (1986): 3–34.

Notes to Pages 113–115


2. Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001); Ryan Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (Philadelphia, 2013). 3. Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative; Pierre-Antoine Fabre, “La conversion infinite des conversos: Des ‘nouveaux-chrétiens’ dans la Compagnie de Jésus au 16e siècle,” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 4 (1999): 875–93. 4. Ryan Szpiech, “A Father’s Bequest: Augustinian Typology and Personal Testimony in the Conversion Narrative of Salomon Halevi/Pablo de Santa María,” in The Hebrew Bible in Fifteenth-Century Spain: Exegesis, Literature, Philosophy, and the Arts, ed. Jonathan Decter and Arturo Prats (Leiden, 2012), 177–98. 5. “Catholicum verso sub nomine Pauli volo esse cognominatum . . . magis invalescebat et confudebat iudeos qui habitabant damasci.” Pablo de Santa María, Incipit dyalogus qui vocatur Scrutinium scripturarum (Strasbourg, ca. 1474), 3. 6. Gareth Lloyd Jones, “Paul of Burgos and the ‘Adversus Judaeos’ Tradition,” Henoch 31 (1999): 313–29; Michelangelo Tábet, “El diálogo judeo-cristiano en el ‘Scrutinium Scripturarum’ de Pablo de Santa María,” Annali di Storia dell’Esegesi 16.2 (1999): 537–60; Yosi Yisraeli, “Between Jewish and Christian Scholarship in the Fifteenth Century: The Consolidation of ‘Converso Doctrine’ in the Theological Writings of Pablo de Santa Maria” (PhD diss., Tel Aviv University, 2014). 7. Cf. David Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition (New York, 2013), esp. chap. 6. 8. Maurice Kriegel, “Autour de Pablo de Santa María et d’Alonso de Cartagena: Alignement culturel et originalité converso,” Revue d’Histoire Moderne et Contemporaine 41.2 (1994): 197–205; Bruce Rosenstock, New Men, Conversos, Christian Theology and Society in Fifteenth-Century Castile (London, 2002); John H. Edwards, “New Light on the ‘Converso’ Debate? The Jewish Christianity of Alfonso de Cartagena and Juan de Torquemada,” in Cross, Crescent and Conversion: Studies on Medieval Spain and Christendom in Memory of Richard Fletcher, ed. Simon Barton and Peter Linehan (Leiden, 2008), 311–26. 9. Judith Gale Krieger, Pablo de Santa María: His Epoch, Life and Hebrew and Spanish Literary Productions (Ann Arbor, 1988), 310, 317. 10. “Unum est quod silentio committere non possum, nobis ex Levitico sanguine descendentibus aliquantulum demonstratum fuisse quod ante tot saecula scriptum est: ‘Tribui Levi non fuisse data possessionem, quia Dominus est possessio ejus’; Deus enim est possessio nostra, Christus haereditas nostra, qui purgaturus filios Levi, ut sacrificia Domino in justitia offerent, voce prophetica antiquitus praedicatum.” PL 113:36. Unless other wise stated, English translations from the original texts are mine. Concerning the biblical quotation, I have followed the Twenty-First-Century King James Version (KJ21). 11. Claude B. Stuczynski, “Pro-Converso Apologetics and Biblical Exegesis,” in Decter and Prats, Hebrew Bible, esp. 155–59. 12. Cf. Paula Fredriksen, Augustine and the Jews: A Christian Defense of Jews and Judaism (New York, 2008), 235–59. 13. Santa María, Incipit dyalogus qui vocatur Scrutinium scripturarum, fols. 1r–2v, 7r; PL 113:36. 14. Stuczynski, “Pro-Converso Apologetics,” 167–68n64. 15. Yossi Israeli, “A Christianized Sephardic Critique of Rashi’s Peshat in Pablo de Santa Maria’s Additiones,” in Medieval Exegesis and Religious Difference: Commentary Conflict and Community in the Premodern Mediterranean, ed. Ryan Szpiech (New York, 2015), 128–43, 246–53.


Notes to Pages 116–119

16. David Nirenberg, “Mass Conversion and Genealogical Mentalities: Jews and Christians in Fifteenth-Century Spain,” Past and Present 174 (2002): 3–41. 17. Javier Martínez de Bedoya, La segunda parte del “Scrutinium scripturarum” de Pablo de Santa María: “El diálogo catequético” (Rome, 2002), 162. 18. Ibid., 163. 19. Ibid., pars 2, distinctio 6, cap. 13. 20. John Y. B. Hood, Aquinas and the Jews (Philadelphia, 1995), 76–77; Steven C. Boguslawski, Thomas Aquinas on the Jews: Insights into His Commentary on Romans 9–11 (Mahwah, N.J., 2008). 21. Quoted in Benzion Netanyahu, The Origins of the Inquisition in Fifteenth Century Spain (New York, 1995), 381. 22. Netanyahu, Origins of the Inquisition, 367–69. 23. Ibid., 355; Pablo González Saquero, Tomas Gonzalez Rolán, and Pilar Saquero Suárez-Somonte, eds., De la sentencia-estatuto de Pero Sarmiento a la instrucción del Relator: Estudio introductorio, edición crítica y notas de los textos contrarios y favorables a los judeo-conversos a raíz de la rebelión de Toledo de 1449 (Madrid, 2012), 5–6, 27. 24. Shaye  J.  D. Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley, 1999), chap. 6. 25. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, “The Inquisition and the Jews of France in the Time of Bernard Gui,” Harvard Theological Review 63 (1970): 317–76; Elias Lipiner, Terror e linguagem: Um dicionário da Santa Inquisição (Lisbon, 1998), 149, 153; Paola Tartakoff, Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250–1391 (Philadelphia, 2012), esp. 24–32. 26. Sebastián de Covarrubias Orozco, Tesoro de la lengua castellana o española, ed. Felipe C. R. Maldonado and Miguel Camarero (Madrid, 1994), 688. 27. Myriam Greilsammer, L’usurier chrétien, un Juif métaphorique? Histoire de l’exclusion des prêteurs lombards (XIII e–XVII e siècle) (Rennes, 2012). 28. Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism, 212–13. 29. Alonso de Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, ed. Manuel Alonso (Madrid, 1943), 343, 345. 30. Ibid., 345, but also see 350, where el Relator claimed that Jewish proximity to the Christian faith also implied being more severe with those Jews or conversos who deny Christ. Gonzalez Saquero, Gonzales Rolán, and Saquero Suárez-Somonte, De la sentencia-estatuto, 109. The Old Christian bishop of Cuenca, Lope de Barrientos, held almost identical views (ibid., 121–91). 31. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 354. 32. Robert Aleksander Maryks, The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews: Jesuits of Jewish Ancestry and Purity-of-Blood Laws in the Early Society of Jesus (Leiden, 2010), 45–46. 33. Juan de Torquemada, Tratado contra los madianitas e ismaelitas, de Juan de Torquemada (contra la discriminación de los conversos), ed. Carlos del Valle (Madrid, 2002), 158. I follow the suggestion of my colleague and friend Nadia Zeldes and opt for the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV). 34. Torquemada, Tratado, 156–67, 201–3. 35. Ibid., 200. 36. Netanyahu, Origins of the Inquisition, 1110, 1115. Torquemada quoted from the book of Wisdom (12:10) to argue that idolatry transformed the gentiles into a “naturally evil nation” (“iniqua est natio eorum et naturalis malitia eorum”). Torquemada, Tratado, 140.

Notes to Pages 119–121


However, he afterward claimed that conversion to Christianity erased all the past bad proclivities of gentiles (ibid., 141). Cf. Giuliano Gliozzi, Adamo e il nuovo mondo: La nascita dell’antropologia come ideologia coloniale: Dalle genealogie bibliche alle teorie razziali (1500– 1700) (Florence, 1977); Colin Kidd, The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600–2000 (Cambridge, England, 2006). 37. Torquemada, Tratado, 216–17. 38. Ibid., 219. 39. E.g., Albert Sicroff, Los estatutos de limpieza de sangre: Controversias entre los siglos XV y XVII (Newark, 2010), 86, 143, 149, 237. 40. Ed Parrish Sanders, Paul, the Law, and the Jewish People (Philadelphia, 1983), esp. 198–99. According to James D. G. Dunn, “In Romans 9–11 Paul bares his soul as nowhere else. His personal identity and the logic of his gospel were so intimately bound up with the call and destiny of his people. Consequently, the resulting theology is more personal, and more vulnerable, than at any other point.” The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, 2006), 531. 41. For an expanded analy sis of this subject, see Claude B. Stuczynski, “From Polemics and Apologetics to Theology and Politics: Alonso de Cartagena and the Conversos Within the ‘Mystical Body,’ ” in Conflict and Conversation: Religious Encounters in Latin Christendom, ed. Ram Ben-Shalom and Israel Yuval (Turnhout, 2014), 253–75. 42. Henri de Lubac, Corpus mysticum: L’Eucharistie et l’Église au Moyen Âge: Étude historique (1949; Paris, 2009). 43. Ernst Hartwig Kantorowicz, The King’s Two Bodies: A Study in Mediaeval Political Theology (Princeton, N.J., 1997), chaps. 5, 6. 44. In order to justify the pressing need to abolish all the juridical differences between conversos and Old Christians, the mystical body metaphor was still invoked in 1773 by King José I of Portugal and the Marquis of Pombal, as well as during the negotiations held between the Mallorcan Xueta conversos and the Spanish king Carlos III during the 1770s and 1780s. Cf. Isaías da Rosa Pereira, Considerações em torno da Carta de Lei de D. José I, de 1773, relativa à abolição das designações de “Cristão-Velho” e “Cristão-Novo” (Lisbon, 1988), 30–36; Lorenzo Pérez Martínez and Francisco Riera Montserrat, eds., La reivindicación de los judíos mallorquines: Documentos para su estudio (Palma de Mallorca, 1983). 45. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 367–70; Vicente Beltrán de Heredia, “Las bulas de Nicolás V acerca de los conversos de Castilla,” Sefarad 21 (1961): 22–47. 46. E.g., Torquemada’s commentary on Ephesians 4:3–4: “Et causam propter quam haec unitas in vincula pacis observanda est inter fideles subiungit, dicens: quia, scilicet, unum corpus, scilicet Christi mysticum, estis et unus spiritus, id est, unus Spiritus habitat in vobis.” Tratado, 209–10. Cf. the anonymous “Sermo in die Beati Augustini,” in Gonzalez Saquero, Gonzales Rolan, and Saquero Suarez-Somonte, De la sentencia-estatuto, 49–50. 47. José Antonio Maravall, “La idea de cuerpo místico en España antes de Erasmo,” Boletín de la Cátedra de Derecho Político de la Universidad de Salamanca 10–12 (1956): 29–44. 48. “Omnes namque fideles appellantur unum corpus siue una Ecclessia per fidem et charitatem siue perfection gratiae . . . cuius caput est Christus.” Alonso Díaz de Montalvo, La causa conversa, ed. Matilde Conde Salazar, Antonio Pérez Martín, and Carlos del Valle Rodríguez (Madrid, 2008), 118. 49. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 305. Cf. Jeremy N. H. Lawrance, “Alfonso de Cartagena y los conversos,” in Actas del primer congreso anglo-hispano, vol. 2, Literatura, ed. Alan Deyermond and Ralph Penny (Madrid, 1993), 103, 120.


Notes to Pages 121–124

50. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 61. 51. Ibid., 62–64. 52. Ibid., 68–74, 117–18. 53. Ibid., 142. 54. “Tam israelitas quam gentiles per sacri baptismatis ianuam ad fidem catholicam ingredientes non duos populos aut duas gentes divisas manere sed ex utrisque venientibus unum populum novum creari” (ibid., 89–90). 55. “Ex his duabus cohortibus quas ediximus, cum ad fidem catholicam veniunt, unam ecclesiam, unum populum, unum corpus fieri, cuius caput est Christus” (ibid., 131). 56. Ibid., 286–87. 57. That said, Cartagena explicitly related disunion between Christians to the effects of idolatry among Old Testament Israelites (ibid., 279–86). On only one occasion (ibid., 150) did Cartagena use gentilizare instead of paganizare. 58. Ibid., 158–66, 203. 59. Ibid., 149–50; Thomas Aquinas, In Omnes D. Pauli Apostolo Epistolas Commentaria (Lyons, 1856), 472; Biblia Latina cum glossa ordinaria et expositione Nicolai de Lyra, 6 vols. (Basel, 1498), vol. 6, 1 Cor. 12:12–27: “Et sic faciunt sub capite Christo unum corpus mysticum. . . . Siue iudei sive gentiles q.d. hanc unitatem non impedit diversitatis gentis praecedentes baptismum. Sive servi sive liberi, q.d. diversitas conditionis hanc unitatem non impedit.” 60. Sicroff, Los estatutos, esp. 141–42, 149–50, 158–63, 170–71, 181–84. In his “Defensio Statuti Toletani” (1573), Diego de Simancas will follow Siliceo’s interpretation of Paul. See Maryks, Jesuit Order, 37–38n15. 61. Bruce Rosenstock, “Alonso de Cartagena: Nation, Miscegenation, and the Jew in Late-Medieval Castile,” Exemplaria 12 (2000): 185–204. 62. PL 26:21. 63. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 131–32, 134. 64. Francisco Cantera Burgos, Alvar García de Santa María y su familia de conversos: Historia de la judería de Burgos y de sus conversos más egregios (Miranda de Ebro, Spain, 2007), 284. 65. Cartagena, Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 141. 66. “Quod, licet aliquas feminarum ex gentilitate in generatione sua recepit, virilitate tamen, quae in gentilibus viris fortissima et roburissima erat” (ibid., 136). 67. Sebastían Covarrubias Orozco explains the popular dictum “to have the Jew in the body” (tener el judío en el cuerpo) in the following way: “to be afraid, since Our Lord determined that Jews will become a very debased and timid people after the death of our Savior.” Tesoro, 688. Alonso de Cartagena recalled that cowards were popularly called Jews: “Tanta namque et tam notoria infidelium israelitarum timiditas est, et cum excessivam timiditatem exprimere volumus, iudeitatem vocemus et excessive timentem iudeum solemus vocare.” Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 215. 68. Cartagena was astonished by the ability of some conversos to suddenly excel in war: “Sponte nemine compellente armorum usum agredi continue videmus, et in actis bellicis competenti audacia militare, quod tanto singularius est, quanto ante sublationem impedimenti timidiores putabantur ut erant.” Defensorium Unitatis Christianae, 215. 69. Robert B. Tate, “The ‘Anacephaelosis’ of Alfonso García de Santa María, Bishop of Burgos, 1435–1456,” in Hispanic Studies in Honour of I. González Llubera, ed. Frank Pierce (Oxford, 1959), 387–401; Alonso de Cartagena, Edición crítica del discurso de Alfonso de Cartagena

Notes to Pages 125–127


“Propositio super altercatione praeminentia sedium inter oratores regum Castellae et Angliae in concilio Basiliense,” ed. María Victoria Echeverría Gaztelumendi (Madrid, 1992), esp. 201–22. 70. Sicroff, Los estatutos, 60. 71. Was Lucena ironically referring to 1 Cor. 1:10–13? 72. Juan de Lucena, De Vita Beata, ed. Govert Westerveld (Blanca [Murcia], Spain, 2012), 28. 73. Ibid., 63–66. I follow Stefania Pastore’s insightful analysis of Lucena’s De Vita Beata: Stefania Pastore, Un’eresia spagnola: Spiritualità conversa, alumbradismo e inquisizione (1449–1559) (Florence, 2004), 37–44. 74. Marcel Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne: Nouvelle édition en trois volumes, text prepared by Daniel Devoto, ed. Charles Amiel (Geneva, 1991), 1:64–65; idem, Les jésuites dans l’Espagne du XVIe siècle (Paris, 2009). 75. Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:207. 76. Desiderius Erasmus, Enquiridion o Manual del Cauallero Christiano compuesto en latin por Erasmo en la sagrada y buena theologia doctor catolico y famosissimo y por ser tal, hecho del consejo de su Magestad, puesto en esta lengua por mandado del muy Illustre y Reuerendissimo señor Don Alonso Manrique arçobispo de Seuilla . . . (Valencia, 1528), XIIIv, LIr–v, LXIr, XCVIIv, XCVIIIr–XCIX. Cf. Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:213, 218, 600–601, 607. 77. Erasmus, Enquiridion o Manual del Cauallero Christiano, XXXVIIv–XXXVIIIr, LXXIv. 78. Desiderius Erasmus, Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 66, Spiritualia: Enchiridion, De Contemptu Mundi, De Vidua Christiana, ed. John W. O’Malley (Toronto, 1988), 46–51. Cf. Nirenberg, Anti-Judaism, 244; Shimon Markish, Erasmus and the Jews (Chicago, 1986); Josceline N. Hillgarth, The Mirror of Spain, 1500–1700: The Formation of a Myth (Ann Arbor, 2000), 160–161. 79. “Avouerai-je pourtant que je conçois mal qu’on puisse attentivement scruter le christianisme de l’Enchiridion sans y noter l’importance de la métaphore paulinienne. . . . Sans doute est elle dégagée plus explicitement par le traducteur espagnol” (Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:221); “Cette belle image, dont le traducteur espagnol de l’Enchiridion repasse toujours les contours avec complaisance, est, avec l’opposition de l’esprit à la chair, la grande découverte qu’Érasme a faite dans saint Paul” (ibid., 1:379). See Pastore, Un’Eresia Spagnola. According to Pastore, that included constant criticism of the antievangelical hardness of the Inquisition. Idem, Il Vangelo e la Spada: L’Inquisitzione di Castiglia e I suoi Critici (1460–1598) (Rome, 2003). 80. Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:227, 327–28, 349–50, 511–12, 638–42, 789–90, 801–3, 809, 847. 81. María Laura Giordano, “ ‘La ciudad de nuestra conciencia’: Los conversos y la construcción de la identidad judeocristiana (1449–1556),” Hispania Sacra 62 (2010): 43–91. 82. Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:205–6. 83. Albert A. Sicroff, “Clandestine Judaism in the Hieronymite Monastery of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe,” in Studies in Honor of M. J. Benardete: Essays in Hispanic and Sephardic Culture, ed. Izaak A. Langas and Barton Sholod (New York, 1965), 89–125; Sicroff, “El caso del judaizante jerónimo Fray Diego de Marchena,” in Homenaje a Antonio Rodríguez-Moñino (Madrid, 1966), 2:227–33; Haim Beinart, “The Judaizing Movement in the Order of San Jerónimo in Castile,” Scripta Hierosolymitana 7 (1961): 167–92. 84. E.g., “Intra Ecclesiam vero omnes debebant semper recipi uniformiter, quandocumque ad fidem venirent, et equali ordine haberi, quia contrarium facere esset secundum illum veterem statum iudaizare.” Alonso de Oropesa, Luz para conocimiento de los gentiles, ed. Luis A. Diaz y Diaz (Madrid, 1979), 339.


Notes to Pages 128–130

85. Hernando de Talavera, Católica impugnación del herético libelo maldito y descomulgado que fue divulgado en la ciudad de Sevilla, con dos estudios de Francisco Márquez Villanueva, presentación Stefania Pastore, edición y notas de Francisco Martín Hernández ([Córdoba], 2012), 91. 86. Bataillon, Érasme et l’Espagne, 1:805: “à ce qu’on pourrait appeler son érasmisme sécret.” 87. Luis de León, De los nombres de Cristo, ed. Cristóbal Cuevas (Madrid, 2010), e.g., 286, 461–62, 449–89, 633–34. 88. Luis de León, The Names of Christ, trans. and introduction by Manuel Durán and William Kluback, preface by José Ferrater Mora (New York, 1984), 83. 89. Ibid., 86–87; Luis de León, De los nombres de Cristo, 217–18. 90. According to Covarrubias, “Limpio se dice comúnmente el hombre cristiano viejo, sin raza de moro ni judío.” Tesoro, 716. 91. Luis de León, Names of Christ, 84; Luis de León, De los nombres de Cristo, 214–15. 92. Compare with Alonso de Cartagena’s more corporeal ideas of outward and inward limpieza, according to the biographical account given by the converso chronicler Fernando de Pulgar (ca. 1436–ca. 1493): Fernando del Pulgar, Claros varones de Castilla, ed. Miguel Ángel Pérez (Madrid, 2007), 186. 93. Luis de León, De los nombres de Cristo, 374–77; Miguel de la Pinta Llorente, La Inquisición española y los problemas de la cultura y de la intolerancia (Madrid, 1953), 114. Two other notorious Spanish Catholic thinkers, Juan de Ávila and Fray Luis de Granada, opted for analogous nonpolitical spiritual ways to argue in favor of Conversos’ integration. See Juan Ignacio Pulido Serrano, “Juan de Ávila: Su crítica a la limpieza de sangre y su condición conversa,” Sefarad 73 (2013):  339–69; Axel Kaplan Szyld, “Adversus Iudaeos or ‘Pro Converso?’ Pro Converso Theology in the ‘Fourth Part of the Introduction of the Symbol of Faith’ (1583),” Hispania Sacra 171 (2019) (in press). 94. Henry Kamen, “Una crisis de conciencia en la Edad de Oro en España: Inquisición contra limpieza de sangre,” Bulletin Hispanique 88 (1986): 334. 95. Agustín Salucio, Discurso acerca de la justicia y buen govierno de España, en los estatutos de limpieza de sangre; y si conviene, o no, alguna limitación en ellos, ed. Antonio Pérez y Gómez (Murcia, Spain, 1975); Vicente Parello, “Entre honra y deshonra: El Discurso de fray Agustín Salucio acerca de los estatutos de limpieza de sangre (1599),” Criticón 80 (2000): 139–53. 96. Henri Mauroy, Apologia in duas partes divisa pro iis, qui ex Patriarcharum, Abrahae, videlicet Isaac et Jacob reliquiis sati, de Christo Jesu et fide catholica pie ac sancte sentient (Paris, 1553). I am currently preparing a study on this monumental proconverso treatise. 97. Elvira López Ferreiro, ed., El tratado de Uceda contra los Estatutos de Limpieza de Sangre: Una reacción ante el establecimiento del Estatuto de Limpieza en la Orden Franciscana (Madrid, 2000). 98. Claude B. Stuczynski, “Negotiating Relationship. Jesuits and Portuguese Conversos: A Reassessment,” in “The Tragic Couple”: Encounters Between Jews and Jesuits, ed. Robert A. Maryks and Jim Bernauer (Leiden, 2014), 43–64. 99. Sina Rauschenbach, “The Castilian Arbitristas, the Conversos and the Jews,” in Reforming Early Modern Monarchies: The Castilian Arbitristas in Comparative European Perspectives, ed. Sina Rauschenbach and Christian Windler (Wiesbaden, 2016), 177–98. 100. Claude B. Stuczynski, “New Christian Political Leadership in Times of Crisis: The Pardon Negotiations of 1605,” in Bar-Ilan Studies in History V: Leadership in Times of Crisis, ed. Moisés Orfali (Ramat-Gan, Israel, 2007), 45–70.

Notes to Pages 131–134


101. Israël Salvator Révah, “Le plaidoyer en faveur des Nouveaux Chrétiens portugais du licencié Martín González de Cellorigo (Madrid 1619),” Révue des Études Juives 122 (1963): 244. 102. Claude  B. Stuczynski, “Religious Identity and Economic Activity of New Christians: A New Examination” [in Hebrew], in Portuguese Jewry at the Stake: Studies on Jews and Crypto-Jews, ed. Yom Tov Assis and Moisés Orfali (Jerusalem, 2009), 227–59. 103. Paul J. Hauben, “The Enlightenment and Minorities: Two Spanish Discussions,” Catholic Historical Review 65 (1979): 1–19; Claude B. Stuczynski, “Harmonizing Identities: The Problem of Integration of the Portuguese Conversos in Early Modern Iberian Corporate Polities,” Jewish History 25 (2011): 229–57. 104. Nathan Wachtel, “Théologies marranes: Une configuration millénariste,” Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales 62 (2007): 69–100; Claude B. Stuczynski, “Providentialism in Early Modern Catholic Iberia: Competing Influences of Hebrew Political Traditions,” Hebraic Political Studies 3 (2008): 377–95. 105. Antonio José Saraiva, “Antonio Vieira, Menasseh ben Israël et le cinquième empire,” Studia Rosenthaliana 6 (1972): 25–57; Thomas  M. Cohen, “Judaism and the History of the Church in the Inquisition Trial of António Vieira,” Luso-Brazilian Review 40 (2003): 67–78. 106. Manuel J. Gandara, Joaquim de Fiore, joaquimismo e esperança sebástica (Lisbon, 1999). 107. António Vieira, Apologia das coisas profetizadas, ed. Adma Fadul Muhana (Lisbon, 1994), 23. During his lifetime, Bandarra was popular among Portuguese conversos, but there is no evidence he had any Jewish ancestry. Elias Lipiner, Gonçalo Anes Bandarra e os Cristãos-Novos (Trancoso, Brazil, 1996). 108. António Vieira, Obras Escolhidas, vol. 4, Obras Várias (II), ed. António Sergio and Hernâni Cidade (Lisbon, 1951), 24. 109. Adma Muhana, ed., Os autos do processo de Vieira na Inquisição (São Paulo, 1995), 17, 56. 110. Maria Ana Travassos Valdez, Historical Interpretations of the “Fifth Empire”: The Dynamics of Periodization from Daniel to António Vieira, S.J. (Leiden, 2011), esp. 281–82, 307–14. On Vieira’s Judeo-gentile Christian union, see António Vieira, Representação perante o Tribunal do Santo Ofício, 2 vols., ed. Ana Paula Banza (Lisbon, 2008), 2:115–42. 111. Vieira, Apologia das coisas profetizadas, 125. 112. Vieira, Representação perante o Tribunal do Santo Ofício, 2:325. 113. Vieira, Apologia das coisas profetizadas, 122. 114. Muhana, Os autos do processo, 120. 115. Ibid., 166. 116. Ibid., 169. 117. Walter Benjamin, “On the Concept of History,” in Selected Writings, vol. 4, 1938– 1940, ed. Michael W. Jennings et al. (Cambridge, Mass., 2003), 391. 118. For a criticism of Paul’s universalism, see Giorgio Agamben, The Time That Remains: A Commentary on the Letter to the Romans (Stanford, Calif., 2005), 51–53.

CHAPTER 7 1. Daniel Levi de Barrios, “Carça de Mosseh,” in Triumpho del govierno popular, y de la antiguedad Holandesa (Amsterdam, 1683–85), 81. Unless other wise noted, translations are my own. 2. The major points of de Barrios’ biography and oeuvre are outlined in Kenneth R. Scholberg, “Miguel de Barrios and the Amsterdam Sephardic Community,” Jewish Quarterly


Notes to Pages 135–138

Review 53.2 (1962): 120–59; and Yosef Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism: The Story of Isaac Orobio de Castro, trans. Raphael Loewe (Oxford, 1989), 223–34. 3. Kaplan’s is still the most complete treatment of communal censure of de Barrios, citing the relevant earlier literature. See Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism, 224–34. 4. Yirmiyahu Yovel, The Other Within: The Marranos: Split Identity and Emerging Modernity (Princeton, N.J., 2009); idem, Spinoza and Other Heretics, vol. 1, The Marrano of Reason (Princeton, N.J., 1989). There is no need to cite the many works treating Spinoza as a harbinger of modern skepticism and secularism. The connection between Spinozism in particular and his converso background is debatable, but many point to skepticism, secularism, and alienation among the seventeenth-century Sephardim. See, for example, Yosef Kaplan, “The Intellectual Ferment in the Spanish-Portuguese Community of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam,” in Moreshet Sepharad: The Sephardi Legacy, ed. H. Beinart (Jerusalem, 1992), 1:288–314; Richard Popkin, “The Marranos of Amsterdam,” in The Third Force in Seventeenth- Century Thought (Leiden, 1992), 149–71; and José Faur, In the Shadow of History: Jews and Conversos at the Dawn of Modernity (Albany, N.Y., 1992); and see David Ruderman, Early Modern Jewry: A New Cultural History (Princeton, N.J., 2010), 155–58, for a general discussion of the apparent intellectual and spiritual crisis among seventeenthcentury Jews. 5. J. A. van Praag, “Almas en litigio,” Clavileño 1 (1950): 14–26; Henry Méchoulan, Hispanidad y judaismo en tiempos de Espinoza: Estudio y edicion anotada de “La certeza del camino” de Abraham Pereyra, Amsterdam 1666 (Salamanca, 1987), 31–48, on the “double attitude” of hatred and loyalty. 6. This attitude is evident in Kaplan’s focus on transition in Isaac Orobio de Castro’s life (Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism) and Bodian’s interest in their compound ethnic identity in Miriam Bodian, Hebrews of the Portuguese Nation: Conversos and Community in Early Modern Amsterdam (Bloomington, Ind., 1997). Likewise, Swetschinski acknowledges a variety of factors causing conflict among Amsterdam Sephardim but denies any inherent incongruity in their “patchwork culture” and instead observes “Iberian, Jewish, and Dutch elements in peaceable coexistence.” Daniel Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans: The Portuguese Jews of Seventeenth-Century Amsterdam (Oxford, 2000), 278–314. 7. Cecil Roth, “Immanuel Aboab’s Proselytization of the Marranos,” Jewish Quarterly Review 23.2 (1932): 122. 8. I.  S. Révah, “Autobiographie d’un Marrane: Édition partielle d’un manuscrit de João (Moseh) Pinto Delgado,” Revue des Études Juives 119 (1961): 66. 9. Bodian, Hebrews, esp. 96–131. 10. Yosef Haim Yerushalmi, The Re-education of Marranos in the Seventeenth Century, Third Annual Rabbi Louis Feinberg Memorial Lecture (Cincinnati, 1980). 11. Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans, 4, 6. 12. Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism, v. Within the first page of the “Preface to the Hebrew Edition” (an English translation of the original Hebrew preface), we find both “revert” and “return,” along with indications that conversos publicly joined the Jewish community, that their name changes constituted identity changes, and that this was a metamorphosis—but no “conversion.” “Return” is a translation of the original Hebrew’s shivah, and “revert” is apparently a loose rendering of lehitstaref (to join), in the sense of affiliation with the Jewish community. Yosef Kaplan, Mi-Natsrut le-Yahadut: Hayyav u-Fe’ulo shel ha-Anus Yitshak Orobio de Castro (Jerusalem, 1982), 7. Teshuvah, meaning “repentance and return,” is not used; see the discussion later in this chapter.

Notes to Pages 138–142


13. Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans, 6. 14. Moisés Orfali Levi, Los conversos españoles en la literatura rabinica: Problemas jurídicos y opiniones legales durante los siglos XII–XVI (Salamanca, 1982); B. Netanyahu, The Marranos of Spain from the Late 14th  to the Early 16th  Century, According to Contemporary Hebrew Sources, 3rd ed. (Ithaca, N.Y., 1999). 15. Yosef Kaplan, “ ‘ The First and Most Essential Commandment’: Circumcision in the World of the Conversos Who Returned to Judaism in the Early Modern Period” [in Hebrew], in From Sages to Savants: Studies Presented to Avraham Grossman, ed. J. Hacker, Y. Kaplan, and B. Z. Kedar (Jerusalem, 2010), 353–89. 16. Amsterdam may have been particularly lenient. In the Ottoman Empire, conversos were apparently treated as Christians after the sixteenth century, unless they could prove that they had been forcibly prevented from emigrating, and “returnees” were routinely required to undergo full conversions because of the length of time that had elapsed. Alisa Meyuhas Ginio, “Returning to Judaism: The Reconversion of ‘New Christians’ to Their Ancestral Jewish Faith in the Ottoman Empire During the Sixteenth Century,” Medieval History Journal 12.2 (2009): 383–404. 17. See Jeffrey Shoulson, Fictions of Conversion: Jews, Christians, and Cultures of Change in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, 2013), 1–39. 18. Netanyahu, Marranos of Spain; Gerson Cohen, “Review of B. Netanyahu, The Marranos of Spain,” Jewish Social Studies 29 (1967): 178–84. See also Yosi Israeli, “Constructing and Undermining Converso Jewishness: Profiat Duran and Pablo de Santa María,” in Religious Conversion: History, Experience and Meaning, ed. M. Rubin and I. Katznelson (Farnham, Surrey, 2014), 185–216, on converso Jewishness; and Simha Goldin, “Jewish Self-Definition Against Christianisation,” in Religious Conversion: History, Experience and Meaning, 217–32, on the complexities of Jewish self-positioning with respect to converts and conversion to Christianity more broadly. 19. Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar, Transforming Identity: The Ritual Transition from Gentile to Jew—Structure and Meaning (London, 2007), 270. See also the review by Michael J. Broyde and Shmuel Kadosh in Tradition: A Journal of Jewish Thought 42.1 (2009): 84–103, which rejects the stark opposition between this and a more ritual-based paradigm. 20. Sarah Bunin Benor, Becoming Frum: How Newcomers Learn the Language and Culture of Orthodox Judaism (New Brunswick, N.J., 2012), and Lynn Davidson, Becoming UnOrthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidic Jews (New York, 2015), refer to “becoming” in place of some form of conversion to describe this religious change. 21. Kaplan, “ ‘ The First and Most Essential Commandment.’ ” 22. Carsten Lorenz Wilke, “Conversion ou retour? La métamorphose du nouveau chrétien en juif Portugais dans l’imaginaire sépharade du xviie siècle,” in Mémoires juives d’Espagne et du Portugal, ed. E. Benbassa (Paris, 1996), 53–77. Quoting Heinrich Graetz as remarking that the seventeenth-century renewal of Jewish life and creativity was “like an act of Providence,” Wilke was prompted to ask whether Providence had “by chance read Hegel.” 23. Lieke Stelling and Todd  M. Richardson describe an “unprecedented urgency” in early modern conversion in the introduction to The Turn of the Soul, ed. L. Stelling, H. Hendrix, and T. M. Richardson (Leiden, 2012), 1. This volume as a whole attests to the intensity and centrality of conversion in that period. 24. See Michael Wolfe, The Conversion of Henri IV (Cambridge, Mass., 1993); Keith  P. Luria, Sacred Boundaries: Religious Coexistence and Conflict in Early-Modern


Notes to Pages 143–145

France (Washington, D.C., 2005); idem, “Conversion and Coercion: Personal Conscience and Political Conformity in Early Modern France,” Medieval History Journal 12.2 (2009): 221–47; and Marc David Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (Oxford, 2008). 25. Daniel Levi de Barrios, “Epistola aun mal encaminado,” in Triumpho del govierno popular, 127–30. 26. De Barrios, “Episotola,” especially stanza 9 (p. 130). Harran has observed that Luther’s sense of conversion was a kind of ongoing contrition that altered the way one operated in the world. Marilyn J. Harran, Luther on Conversion: The Early Years (Ithaca, N.Y., 1983), 22. 27. Paths figure prominently in Petrarch’s “Ascent of Mt. Ventoux,” a hugely influential Renaissance-era reflection on the process of conversion. It is discussed by Stelling and Richardson in their introduction to Turn of the Soul, 7–9. 28. De Barrios, Triumpho del govierno popular, 656. Paulo de Pina took the name Rehuel Jessurun in Amsterdam and wrote a play called Dialogo dos Montes that was performed in the Bet Jacob synagogue in 1624. 29. Gerson himself discussed conversion in his mystical writings, which emphasize turning scholarly practice toward God, and particularly focused on some passages in Hosea and Joel that summon the Israelites to return to God. Harran, Luther on Conversion, 44; Louis Pascoe, Jean Gerson: Principles of Church Reform (Leiden, 1973), 175–206, esp. 198. 30. A similar emphasis on this distinction is found in the Franciscan tradition. Harran, Luther on Conversion, 26–28, 42; Robert J. O’Connell, St. Augustine’s Confessions: The Odyssey of a Soul (Cambridge, Mass., 1969). 31. De Barrios, “Epistola,” 130. 32. Henry Méchoulan, “La pensée d’Abraham Pereyra dans La certeza del camino,” in Dutch Jewish History: Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands, November  28–December  2, 1982, ed. J. Michman and T. Levie (Jerusalem, 1984), 69–85; Méchoulan, Hispanidad y judaismo. 33. Bodian discusses this literature in Hebrews, 96–110. It includes halakhic manuals, guides to the order of prayer ser vices, and spiritual manuals, often based in large part on authoritative Hebrew works. Some examples include Abraham Pharrar, Declaracaõ das 613 encomendancas de nossa sancta ley (Amsterdam, 1627), based on Maimonides’ Sefer ha-Mitsvot; Moses Raphael d’Aguilar, Dinim de sechitá & bedicá (Amsterdam, 1681), drawn from Karo’s Shulhan arukh; and Hobat alebabot: Obrigacam dos coracoens, a Portuguese translation by Samuel ibn Isaac Abaz of Bahya ibn Pakuda’s Hovot ha-levavot (Amsterdam, 1670). 34. Pierre Dumonceaux, “Conversion, convertir: Étude comparative d’après les lexicographes du xviie siècle,” in La conversion au XVII e siècle: Actes du XII e colloque de Marseille (Marseille, 1982), 7–17. Also see Sebastián de Covarrubias Horozco, Tesoro de la lengua Castellana o Española, ed. I. Arellano and R. Zafra (Navarra, 2006). 35. Isaac Orobio de Castro, Respuesta a un filosofo Hebreo, que pide fundamentos de razon para persuadirse al credito de el sacro texto (EH 48 C 04 [1668]), f. 1. 36. Moses Raphael d’Aguilar, Reposta e discurso sobre certas perguntas de Bayone e foy em nome das Hahamim Senhores (EH 48 A 11 [1664]), § 10, ff. 213r–225r. Translation by Yosef Kaplan in From Christianity to Judaism, 337. 37. See Henri Gooren’s summation of William James’s view of conversion as the healing of a “divided self.” Henri Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation: Tracing Patterns of Change in Faith Practices (New York, 2010), 20–22. See William James, “Lecture IX,” in

Notes to Pages 146–149


The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study of Human Nature (New York, 1903), 189–216. An expansion of this attitude to describe conversion as reversing modern societal degeneration is found in Erin Dufault-Hunter, The Transformative Power of Faith: A Narrative Approach to Conversion (Lanham, Md., 2012). 38. Dumonceaux also notes the centrality of reason in early modern conceptions of religious choice—which is corroborated by Wolfe, Conversion of Henri IV, 15. 39. João Pinto Delgado, Dialogos contra a cristandade (EH 48 D 39 [ca. 1634]), fol. 3. This line is also discussed by Révah in “Autobiographie d’un Marrane,” 50. 40. Abraham Pereyra, Espejo del vanidad del mundo (Amsterdam, 1671), 560, cited in translation by Yosef Kaplan in From Christianity to Judaism, 337. 41. Isaac Cardoso, Las excelencias de los Hebreos (Amsterdam, 1679), 48. Translation by Yosef Haim Yerushalmi in From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso: A Study in Seventeenth-Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics (New York, 1971), 378. 42. Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court, 378. 43. Pinto Delgado, Dialogos, fol. 9. 44. João Pinto Delgado, Poema de la Reina Ester: Lamentaciones del profeta Jeremías, historia de Rut y varias poesías, ed. I. S. Révah (Lisbon, 1954), 326. 45. Pinto Delgado, “Dialogos,” ff. 5 and 7. 46. De Barrios, “Epistola,” 128–9. 47. Karl Morrison contrasts this characteristic of medieval Christian conversion with the “peripety paradigm” exemplified by Nock’s account of the conversion experience ending in “adhesion.” Karl Morrison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville, Va., 1992), 7. 48. De Barrios, “Epistola,” 127, 129. 49. David  H. Darst, Converting Fiction: Counter Reformational Closure in the Secular Literature of Golden Age Spain (Chapel Hill, N.C., 1998). See also Leslie Levin, Metaphors of Conversion in Seventeenth-Century Spanish Drama (London, 1999). 50. Dumonceaux, “Conversion, convertir,” 11–12. 51. Pinto Delgado, Dialogos, fol. 5. 52. See Matt Goldish, “Patterns in Converso Messianism,” in Jewish Messianism in the Early Modern World, ed. R. Popkin and M. Goldish (Dordrecht, 2001), 41–63; Francisco Moreno-Carvalho, “Yaacov Rosales: Medicine, Astrology, and Political Thought in the Works of a Seventeenth-Century Jewish-Portuguese Physician,” Korot 10 (1993–94): 143–56; Antonio José Saraiva, “Menasseh Ben Israel and His World,” in Menasseh Ben Israel and His World, ed. Y. Kaplan, H. Méchoulan, and R. Popkin (Leiden, 1989), 240–43; Matt Goldish, The Sabbatean Prophets (Cambridge, Mass., 2004), especially chap. 1 on the early modern context; and Miriam Bodian, “Biblical Hebrews and the Rhetoric of Republicanism: Seventeenth-Century Portuguese Jews on the Jewish Community,” AJS Review 22.2 (1997): 199–221. Also see Sabine MacCormack, “History, Memory and Time in Golden Age Spain,” History and Memory 4.2 (1992): 38–68, on the relationship between the near and distant past. 53. Similarly problematic is the practice of uncritically referring to the Judaization of other groups as “return.” See Emanuela Trevisan Semi, “Conversion and Judaisation: The ‘Lost Tribes’ Committees at the Birth of the Jewish State,” in Judaising Movements: Studies in the Margins of Judaism, ed. T. Parfitt and E. T. Semi (New York, 2002), 53–64. 54. Karin van Nieuwkerk, “ ‘Islam Is Your Birthright’: Conversion, Reversion and Alternation: The Case of New Muslimas in the West,” in Cultures of Conversions, ed. J.  N. Bremmer, W. J. van Bekkum, and A. L. Molendijk (Leuven, 2006), 151–64. See also Monica


Notes to Pages 149–152

Juneja and Kim Seiebenhüner, “Introduction,” Medieval History Journal 12.2 (2009): 173, on the Islamic conception of conversion compared with the Jewish and Christian. 55. Deirdre Meintel, “When There Is No Conversion: Spiritualists and Personal Religious Change,” Anthropologica 49.1 (2007): 150. 56. James, The Varieties of Religious Experience; Arthur Darby Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (London, 1933). 57. The timing of these developments corresponds roughly to the disappearance of the term conversion in the historiography of Judaizing conversos. It may be the case that the bloom of conversion scholarship with such emphasis on transformation, concurrent with the debate over the “Jewishness” of the conversos (as in Netanyahu’s study, Marranos of Spain), made the term newly problematic for Jewish historians. 58. Lewis Rambo, “The Psychology of Conversion,” in Handbook of Religious Conversion, ed. H. N. Maloney and S. Southard (Birmingham, Ala., 1992), 159–77. 59. John Lofland and Rodney Stark, “Becoming a World-Saver: A Theory of Conversion to a Deviant Perspective,” American Sociolog ical Review 30.6 (1965): 862, n. 2. 60. Gooren notes that the vast majority of studies treated primarily young converts to either Christian or New Age churches, mainly in the United States. Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation, 41. 61. James, Varieties of Religious Experience. 62. David Snow and Richard Machalek, “The Sociology of Conversion,” Annual Review of Sociology 10 (1984): 167–90. 63. Richard  V. Travisano, “Alternation and Conversion as Fundamentally Different Transformations,” in Social Psychology Through Symbolic Interaction, ed. G. Stone and H. Farberman (Waltham, Mass., 1970), 237–48. For Travisano, conversion is by definition a negation of the old identity and a totalizing change, not a subtle shift. 64. See Ryan Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative: Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (Philadelphia, 2013); Dana Anderson, Identity’s Strategy: Rhetorical Selves in Conversion (Columbia, S.C., 2007); Erin Dufault-Hunter, The Transformative Power of Faith: A Narrative Approach to Conversion (Lanham, Md., 2012); Massimo Leone, Religious Conversion and Identity: The Semiotic Analysis of Texts (London, 2004); and Patrick Riley, Character and Conversion in Autobiography: Augustine, Montaigne, Descartes (Charlottesville, Va., 2004). 65. Leone, Religious Conversion and Identity, x–xiii. Also see idem, Saints and Signs: A Semiotic Reading of Conversion in Early Modern Catholicism (Göttingen, 2010). 66. Ronnie Perelis, “ ‘ These Indians Are Jews!’: Lost Tribes, Crypto-Jews, and Jewish Self-Fashioning in Antonio de Montezino’s ‘Relación’ of 1644,” in Atlantic Diasporas: Jews, Conversos, and Crypto-Jews in the Age of Mercantilism (1500–1800), ed. R. L. Kagan and P. D. Morgan (Baltimore, 2009), 195–211. 67. Daniel Swetschinski, “Un refus de mémoire: Les juifs Portugais d’Amsterdam et leur passé marrane,” in Benbassa, Mémoires juives, 69–77. Yerushalmi also pointed out that the gulf between the two cultures was not so large in Re-education of Marranos. 68. Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation, 46–48. 69. Cecil Roth, “Quatre lettres d’Elie de Montalte,” Revue des Études Juives 87 (1929): 137–65; idem, “Les Marranes à Rouen: Un chapitre ignoré de l’histoire des juifs de France,” Revue des Études Juives 88 (1929): 113–55; idem, “Immanuel Aboab’s Proselytization”; Yosef Kaplan, “The Role of R. Moshe d’Aguilar in His Contacts with Refugees from Spain and

Notes to Pages 152–155


Portugal in the Seventeenth Century” [in Hebrew], in Proceedings of the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies (Jerusalem, 1976), 95–106; Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court. 70. Sometimes individuals or families took Jewish ancestral names, but they more typically kept the Iberian surname and took the name of a significant biblical figure as the first name. Notably, women also did this. 71. For example, Cristobal Mendez/Abraham Franco de Silveira reported to the Inquisition in 1649 that when he arrived in Venice he had been received by an uncle, who gave him a Spanish Bible. Circumcision took place a couple of months later, and then he received a tallit and tefillin and a Spanish prayer book. Yerushalmi, Re-education of Marranos, 4–5. Bodian indicates that this “cluster of events became a life-cycle event for a male converso.” Bodian, Hebrews, 99. 72. Snow and Machalek, “Sociology of Conversion,” 172. 73. See Bodian, “The Rejudaization of ‘the Nation,’ ” chap. 5 in Hebrews, 96–131. 74. Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation, 47. 75. David  L. Graizbord, “A Historical Contextualization of Sephardi Apostates and Self-Styled Missionaries of the Seventeenth Century,” Jewish History 19 (2005): 290. 76. See especially his discussions of the work of John Lofland and Rodney Stark, David Snow and Richard Machalek, James Richardson, and Lewis Rambo. Gooren, Religious Conversion and Disaffiliation, 20–24, 30–33, 33–5, and 37–40. 77. It may be derived from a reading of Paul in Gal. 5:3: “And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.” Kaplan, “ ‘First and Most Essential Commandment.’ ” And see Bodian, Hebrews, 97–98. 78. Alexander Altmann, “Eternality of Punishment: A Theological Controversy Within the Amsterdam Rabbinate in the Thirties of the Seventeenth Century,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 40 (1972): 1–88; Aaron Katchen, Christian Hebraists and Dutch Rabbis: Seventeenth Century Apologetics and the Study of Maimonides’ Mishneh Torah (Cambridge, Mass., 1984); Giuseppe Veltri, “Body of Conversion and the Immortality of the Soul: The ‘Beautiful Jewess’ Sara Copio Sullam,” in The Jewish Body: Corporeality, Society, and Identity in the Renaissance and Early Modern Period, ed. M. Diemling and G. Veltri (Leiden, 2009), 331–52. 79. Snow and Machalek, “Sociology of Conversion,” 170. 80. Donald Taylor, “Conversion: Inward, Outward, and Awkward,” in Religious Conversion: Contemporary Practices and Controversies, ed. C. Lamb and M.  D. Bryant (London, 1999), 35–50. 81. Diane Austin-Broos, “The Anthropology of Conversion: An Introduction,” in The Anthropology of Religious Conversion, ed. S. Glazier and A. Buckser (Lanham, Md., 2003), 1. 82. Carole M. Cusack, “ Towards a General Theory of Conversion,” in Religious Change, Conversion and Culture, ed. L. Olson (Sydney, 1996), 19. 83. Juneja and Seiebenhüner, “Introduction,” 178–79; James Muldoon, “Introduction: The Conversion of Eu rope,” in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. J. Muldoon (Gainesville, Fla., 1997), 1–10; Guyda Armstrong and Ian N. Wood, eds., Christianizing Peoples and Converting Individuals (Turnhout, 2000). 84. On conversion as a form of violence and the general reconception of cultural interaction, see Brian Sandberg, “Beyond Encounters: Religion, Ethnicity, and Violence in the Early Modern Atlantic World, 1492–1700,” Journal of World History 17.1 (2006): 1–25; and Mark Meyerson and Edward English, eds., Christians, Muslims, and Jews in Medieval and Early Modern Spain: Interaction and Cultural Change (Notre Dame, Ind., 1999). And see


Notes to Pages 155–157

Marc David Baer, “History and Religious Conversion,” in The Oxford Handbook of Religious Conversion, ed. L. Rambo and C. Farhadian (Oxford, 2014), 25–47. 85. Kenneth Mills and Anthony Grafton, introduction to Conversion: Old Worlds and New, ed. Kenneth Mills and Anthony Grafton (Rochester, N.Y., 2003), ix–x. 86. Swetschinski, Reluctant Cosmopolitans, 278.

CHAPTER 8 This chapter was originally presented as a paper during the conference “Taking Turns: New Perspectives on Jews and Conversion,” held at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies of University of Pennsylvania on May 2–3, 2011. An Italian version of this chapter has been published with the title “Raccontare per persuadere: Conversione e narrazione in Via della Fede di Giulio Morosini,” in Non solo verso oriente: Studi sull’ebraismo in onore di Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini, ed. Maddalena del Bianco and Marcello Massenzio (Florence, 2014), 85–118. I wish to thank Benjamin Ravid for his many excellent and insightful comments on the first draft of this work. To him also goes the credit for improving my English translations of Morosini’s Derekh Emunah. I also thank the editors of this volume and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful remarks and revisions. Epigraph: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. with and introduction and notes by Douglas Smith, 2nd ed. (Oxford, 2008), 126. 1. I refer particularly to Patricia Caldwell, The Puritan Conversion Narrative: The Beginnings of American Expression (Cambridge, England, 1983); Natalie Zemon Davis, Fiction in the Archives: Pardon Tales and Their Tellers on Sixteenth-Century France (Stanford, Calif., 1987); Gerald Peters, The Mutilating God: Authorship and Authority in the Narrative of Conversion (Amherst, Mass., 1993); Lucetta Scaraffia, Rinnegati: Per una storia dell’identità occidentale (Rome, 2002); and Bruce Hindmarsh, The Evangelical Conversion Narrative (Oxford, 2005). On the methodological approach to conversion histories, see Peter Manzur and Abigail Shinn, “Introduction: Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World,” Journal of Early Modern History 17 (2013): 427–36. On conversion from Judaism to Christianity in the medieval and early modern period, the following are particularly significant for their novelty of approach: Anna Foa and Lucetta Scaraffia, “Introduzione: Le conversioni tra costruzione dell’identità e intrecci di culture,” in “Conversioni nel Mediterraneo,” special issue, Dimensioni e problemi della ricerca storica 2 (1996): 7–14; Kevin Ingram, ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond, vol. 1, Departures and Changes (Leiden, 2009); idem, ed., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond, vol. 2, The Morisco Issue (Leiden, 2012); Kevin Ingram and Juan Ignacio Pulido Serrano, eds., The Conversos and Moriscos in Late Medieval Spain and Beyond, vol. 3, Displaced Persons (Leiden, 2015); Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500–1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001); Nadia Zeldes, The Former Jews of This Kingdom: Sicilian Converts After the Expulsion, 1492–1516 (Leiden, 2003); Natalie Zemon Davis, Trickster Travels: A Sixteenth-Century Muslim Between Worlds (New York, 2006); Jean-Claude Schmitt, The Conversion of Herman the Jew: Autobiography, History, and Fiction in the Twelfth Century (Philadelphia, 2010); Ryan  W. Szpiech, Conversion and Narrative: Reading and Religious Authority in Medieval Polemic (Philadelphia, 2012); Jeffrey S. Shoulson, Fictions of Conversions: Jews, Christians, and Culture of Change in Early Modern England (Philadelphia, 2012); Peter Mazur, The New Christians of Spanish Naples, 1528–1671: A Fragile Elite (Houndmills, England, 2013). On conversion to Islam in the European territories of the Otto-

Notes to Pages 157–158


man Empire, see Tijana Krstić, Contested Conversion to Islam: Narratives of Religious Change in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Stanford, Calif., 2012); and Marc D. Baer, Honored by the Glory of Islam: Conversion and Conquest in Ottoman Europe (New York, 2008). See also “Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe Project: A Cross-Confessional and Comparative Study, 1550–1700,” Center for Renaissance and Early Modern Studies of the University of York, accessed March 6, 2019, /crems/conversion/. 2. Karl Frederick Morrison, Understanding Conversion (Charlottesville, Va., 1992), xii. 3. The role of language in conversion has been investigated from the psychological and anthropological perspectives, particularly in American and postcolonial studies such as, among others, Peter  G. Stromberg, Language and Self-Transformation: A Study of the Christian Conversion Narrative (Cambridge, England, 1993); and Webb Keane, “From Fetishism to Sincerity: On Agency, the Speaking Subject, and Their Historicity in the Context of Religious Conversion,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 39.4 (1997): 674–93. A novel and insightful analy sis of the conversion narrative with the tools of semiotic is by Massimo Leone, Religious Conversion and Identity: The Semiotic Analysis of Texts (London, 2004). 4. On him, see Giulio Bartolocci, Bibliotheca magna rabbinica (Rome, 1683, 1693), 3:755– 56, 4:404n1800; Carlo G. Imbonati, Bibliotheca latino-hebraica (Rome, 1694), 126, 149; Johann Christoph Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebrea (Hamburg, 1727), vol. 3, fol. 1126; Paolo  S. Medici, Catalogo de’ neofiti illustri (Florence, 1701), 33–35; Jacques Basnage, Histoire de la religion des Juifs (Rotterdam, 1707), 5:2034; Giovanni B. De Rossi, Dizionario storico degli autori ebrei e delle loro opere (Parma, 1802), 2:15; Julius Fürst, Bibliotheca Judaica (Leipzig, 1863), 2:391, 3:8; Moritz Steinschneider, “Letteratura italiana dei Giudei,” Vessillo Israelitico 30 (1882): 372; idem, “Die italienische Litteratur der Juden,” Monatsschrift für Geschichte und Wissenschaft des Judenthums 43 (1899): 514–15; Hermann Vogelstein and Paul Rieger, Geschichte der Juden in Rom (Berlin, 1853), 2:287; David Simonsen, “Giulio Morosini’s Mitteilungen über seinen Lehrer Leon da Modena und seine jüdischen Zeitgenossen,” in Festschrift zum siebzigsten Geburtstage A. Berliner’s gewidmet von Freuden und Schülern, ed. A. Freimann and M. Hildesheimer (Frankfurt am Main, 1903), 337–44; Cecil Roth, “L’accademia musicale nel ghetto veneziano,” Rassegna Mensile di Israel 3 (1928): 152–62; Cecil Roth, “Forced Baptisms in Italy: A Contribution to the History of Jewish Persecution,” Jewish Quarterly Review, n.s., 27 (1936–37): 122; Ignatio Guidi, The Jewish Encyclopedia (New York, 1907), 9:29–30, s.v. “Morosini, Giulio”; François Secret, Le Zôhar chez les kabbalistes chrétiens de la Renaissance, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1964), 33, 99, 120; Umberto Cassuto and editorial staff, Encyclopaedia Judaica, 2nd ed. (Detroit, 2007), vol. 14, col. 508, s.v. “Morosini, Giulio” (same entry, unfortunately flawed with several imprecisions, as the first edition); Fausto Parente, “Il confronto ideologico tra l’ebraismo e la Chiesa in Italia,” in Italia Judaica I: Atti del I Convegno internazionale (Bari 18–22 maggio 1981) (Rome, 1983), 354–57; Benjamin Ravid, “ ‘Contra Judaeos’ in SeventeenthCentury Italy: Two Responses to the ‘Discorso’ of Simone Luzzatto by Melchiore Palontrotti and Giulio Morosini,” AJS Review 7/8 (1982–83), 301–51; Julie-Marthe Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia nella rivisitazione polemica e nostalgica di Giulio Morosini già Samuel Nahmias (1612– 1687)” (Doctoraalscriptie, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 1989); and Pietro Ioly Zorattini, I nomi degli altri: Conversioni a Venezia e nel Friuli Veneto in età moderna (Florence, 2008). Further bibliographical references on Morosini will be given later in this chapter. 5. Giulio Morosini, Derekh Emunah: Via della Fede mostrata a’gli Ebrei (Rome, 1683), [6]. Similar concerns were shared by Giulio Bartolocci, a colleague of Morosini at the Vatican Library, who in his Bibliotheca Magna Rabbinica (Rome, 1675–93) devoted much space to the


Notes to Page 158

issue of whether the Christians also had to be compelled to attend the sermons directed at the Jews. One of the reasons Bartolocci gives in support of his positive answer to the question is the everyday interaction between Christians and Jews and the opportunity that this provided for apparently widespread discussions on the contents of their respective religions. On this, see Marina Caffiero, Legami pericolosi: Ebrei e cristiani tra eresia, libri proibiti e stregoneria (Turin, 2012), 284. Unless other wise noted, translations are my own. 6. On this, see Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini, ed., Processi del S. Uffizio di Venezia contro ebrei e giudaizzanti, vol. 11, 1642–1681 (Florence, 1993), 15n39. According to the baptismal certificate, Morosini’s godfathers were Andrea Contarini, cavaliere and procurator of Saint Mark, and Alvise Mocenigo. The baptism was administered by Gerolimo Pastricio, at the time prior of the Venetian House of the Catechumens. 7. After his conversion, Morosini was summoned by the Venetian Inquisition in at least three different trials in which Jews, New Christians, or Venetian commoners suspected of Judaizing were involved, included a trial for magic against Isaac Min Ha-Leviim, the grandson of Morosini’s former teacher rabbi Leon Modena. During this last trial, held in 1659, Morosini reported on the inspection he carried out on several printed and manuscript books that had been sequestered at Min Ha-Leviim’s house in the Ghetto Novo. On this, see Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:9–11, 107–23; on this trial and Min Ha-Leviim’s interest in magic, see also Federico Barbierato, Nella stanza dei circoli: Clavicola Salomonis e libri di magia a Venezia nei secoli XVII e XVIII (Milan, 2002), 310–11. Morosini was also involved in the trial against Francesco Carraton, a Christian workman employed in a bookshop located in the Venetian Ghetto who had been persuaded— allegedly by his Jewish employers—to travel to Amsterdam in order to convert to Judaism. After living for a period in the Dutch city among the Jews, Carraton had developed an inner strife, finally deciding to return to Italy. He then went to Rome, where he was convinced by Morosini to acknowledge his apostasy and spontaneously appear in front of the Roman Holy Office to plead for reconciliation. On this episode, one of the fewest documented cases of a Christian converting to Judaism, see Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini, “La conversion des chrétiens au Judaïsme dans la République de Venise à l’époque moderne,” in La conversion et le politique à l’époque moderne, ed. Daniel Tollet (Paris, 2005), 64–66; and Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:125–36. 8. Alberto Tenenti, Naufrages, corsaires and assurance maritimes à Venise, 1592–1609 (Paris, 1959), 622, s.v. “Namias,” with a list of records of maritime travel insurances based on the protocols of Venetian notaries in which members of the Nahmias family appear in the capacity of either merchants subscribing to a policy or insurance providers; see also Ravid, “ ‘Contra Judaeos,’ ” 330n60). Further evidence of commercial and legal transactions in which members of the Nahmias family were involved is recorded in Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 28n19. An inventory of the assets of Isaac ben David Nahmias, likely Morosini’s grandfather, the one who had moved the family business from Salonika to Venice, is still preserved in the archive of the Giudici di Petizion in Venice. See Ravid, “ ‘Contra Judaeos,’ ” 331n61. The testaments of two members of the Nahmias family—David, Morosini’s father, and Rachel, the widow of Morosini’s uncle Samuel— are still preserved in the State Archives of Venice. On this, see Carla Boccato, “Testamenti di Israeliti nel fondo del notaio veneziano Pietro Bracchi Seniore (secolo XVII),” Rassegna Mensile di Israel, 3rd ser., 42.5–6 (1976): 281– 97. Cohen mentions having also seen in the archive of the Giudici di Petizion the inventory of the assets of the aforementioned uncle of Morosini, Samuel. Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 25n9.

Notes to Pages 158–159


9. Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:74; Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini, “Altre storie di Adriatico: Ebrei e giudaizzanti a Ragusa, nelle isole ioniche e sulla costa dalmata nei Processi del S. Uffizio di Venezia,” Archivio Veneto 6.2 (2011): 25–26, 40–41. 10. Impor tant details on Morosini’s marriage are included in the stenographic summary of the civil litigation in which he and his wife were involved after his conversion, still extant at the Renato Maestro Library and Archives of the Jewish Community in Venice. According to the summary, the ceremony of the betrothal (kidushin) had been celebrated on June 17, 1631. On this, see Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 27. 11. Cohen quotes the death register preserved at the Renato Maestro Library and Archives of the Jewish Community in Venice, in which the death of a child of about two years of age, named Joseph, son of Samuel Nahmias, possibly a son of Morosini, is recorded on March 5, 1641. Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 25n6. Another son of Morosini, David, probably Joseph’s elder, was baptized with him. On this, see the discussion later in this chapter. 12. On the sociopolitical aspects of Venetian conversion, see E. Natalie Rothman, “Becoming Venetian: Conversion and Transformation in the Seventeenth-Century Mediterranean,” Mediterranean Historical Review 21.1 (2006): 39–75, and the bibliographical references given there. 13. See n. 10. In 1676 Morosini addressed a written memorial to the Holy Office in which he referred to the civil suit that his wife brought against him because he had refused her the divorce she was entitled to according to Jewish law, which would have allowed her to remarry. Morosini, who in the memorial stated that he had refused to do so in observance of ecclesiastical prohibitions, was eventually obliged by the Venetian courts to return the dowry and the counterdowry to his wife. The woman had successfully claimed that because of her husband’s conversion, their marriage was dissolved and he was civilly dead to her. On this, see Marina Caffiero, Forced Baptisms: Histories of Jews, Christians, and Converts in Papal Rome, trans. Lydia G. Cochrane (Berkeley, 2012), 228–30. 14. See Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:15n39. 15. In his Derekh Emunah, Morosini states that he first reached Rome during the pontificate of Alexander VII Chigi—i.e., sometime between 1655 and 1667. In 1661, though, Morosini was still in Venice, summoned by the local Inquisition as a witness in the trial against the Portuguese Agostino Fonseca. From the trial transcripts we learn that at the time, he was affiliated with the “parochia Sancti Martialis” (the parish of Saint Marcilan), in the sestiere of Cannaregio. On this, see Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:120 and 120n29. According to Morosini’s account included in Derekh Emunah, the purpose of his first visit to Rome was to entreat a special papal dispensation in order to enter the order of the Capuchins. Dissuaded from his resolution by the pope himself, in view of his relatively advanced age and poor health, Morosini would then pursue a lay career in the church. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele della presente cattività,” in Derekh Emunah, 16. 16. On Jona, see Parente, “Il confronto ideologico,” 340–45; and Saverio Campanini, “Wege in die Stadt der Bücher: Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der hebräischen Bibliographie: Die katholische bibliographische ‘Dynastie’ Jona-Bartolocci-Imbonati,” in Reuchlin und seine Erben, ed. Peter Schӓfer and Irina Wandrey (Ostfildern, 2005), 61–76. Morosini would hold the post until his death in 1687. He had two assistants: Nicola Carlo Petit and, from 1675, his nephew Lorenzo Morosini, the son of his brother Joseph-Ottavio. See Antonino Bertolotti, “Le tipografie orientali e gli orientalisti a Roma nei secoli XVI e XVII,” Rivista Europea–Rivista Internazionale 9 (1878): 257; and Jeanne Bignami Odier, La Bibliothèque


Notes to Pages 159–161

Vaticane de Sixte IV à Pie XI (Vatican City, 1973), 145, 155n94, 297. In Derekh Emunah, Morosini states that the promotion to the post was at the initiative of Pope Clemens IX, who succeeded Pope Alexander VII. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” 18. For a few years Morosini happened to share the position of scrittore with Giulio Bartolocci, the author of Bibliotheca Rabbinica, toward whom he warmly expresses his regard and appreciation in Derekh Emunah (see, for example, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” [7], 105). On Bartolocci and his monumental bibliographic project, see Campanini, “Wege in die Stadt der Bücher.” 17. The work, consisting of a collection of readings collated from two printed editions of the Pentateuch (Antwerp, 1569, and Basel, 1619) and a Vatican manuscript dated 1295, was completed on February 1, 1677. Morosini copied the variant readings recorded by Jona (extant at the Vatican Library in MS Urb. Ebr. 58) and completed his work, though without acknowledging Jona’s contribution on the manuscript’s title page. Besides being preserved in the autograph MS Vat. Urb. Ebr. 59, Morosini’s work is also extant in a copy in the MS 2341 of the Bodleian Library in Oxford. On the manuscripts, see Benjamin Richler, ed., Hebrew Manuscripts in the Vatican Library: Catalogue (Vatican City, 2008), 637–38; Stefano E. Assemani and G. S. Assemani, Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae codicum manuscriptorum catalogus (Rome, 1756), 1:448–49, nos. 58–59; and Adolf Neubauer and Arthur E. Cowley, Catalogue of the Hebrew Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library and in the College Libraries of Oxford (Oxford, 1886), 815n2341. 18. Cecil Roth, [History of the Jews in] Venice (Philadelphia 1930), 118. 19. The only attempt to provide an initial analy sis and evaluation of the work by placing it in the wider context of Christian anti-Jewish literature in Italy is the one by Parente, “Il confronto ideologico,” 354–57. As Parente points out, the only known polemical response to Morosini’s work by a Jewish author is the one included in Yehoshua Segre’s anti-Christian work, Asham Taluy, on which, see David Malkiel, The Jewish-Christian Debate on the Eve of Modernity: Joshua Segre of Scandiano and His “Asham Talui” (Jerusalem, 2004). On Morosini, see esp. ibid., 58–62. 20. On political dissimulation in the early modern period, see Rosario Villari, Elogio della dissimulazione: La lotta politica nel Seicento (Bari, 1987). On cultural dissimulation as theorized in moralizing and philosophical literature, see Jon R. Snyder, Dissimulation and the Culture of Secrecy in Early Modern Europe (Berkeley, 2009). The convergence of cultural and religious dissimulation still waits to be studied. It would be interesting to know, for example, what part dissimulation, a pervasive and expected social skill, played in the shaping and durability of the Marrano phenomenon in the early modern period. 21. On conversionary policies and the debate on them, see Kenneth Stow, “Church, Conversion, and Tradition: The Problem of Jewish Conversion in Sixteenth Century Italy,” Dimensioni e problemi della ricerca storica 2 (1966): 25–34, reprinted in Kenneth Stow, Jewish Life in Early Modern Rome: Challenge, Conversion, and Private Life (Aldershot, England, 2007), chap. 5; and Renata Segre, “La Controriforma: Espulsioni, conversioni, isolamento,” in Storia d’Italia: Annali, vol. 11, Gli ebrei in Italia, pt. 1, Dal Medioevo all’età dei ghetti, ed. Corrado Vivanti (Turin, 1996), esp. 753–66. 22. On the central role attributed to rhetoric within the Jesuit order, see Ignatius of Loyola’s famous letter to Diego Laínez, his immediate successor in the capacity of general of the company, in Monumenta Ignatiana, vol. 1, Epistolae et Instructiones (Madrid, 1903), 519– 26. On rhetorical studies as part of the Jesuit curriculum studiorum, see Andrea Battistini, “La retorica nei manuali per i collegi,” in Galileo e i Gesuiti: Miti letterari e retorica della scienza

Notes to Pages 161–164


(Milan, 2000), 180–281. On the Jesuit model of education, see François de Dainville, L’éducation des Jésuites: XVI e–XVIII e siècles, ed. Marie-Madeleine Compère (Paris, 1978); Gian Paolo Brizzi, ed., La “ratio studiorum”: Modelli culturali e politiche educative dei Gesuiti in Italia tra Cinque e Seicento (Rome, 1981); and Aldo Scaglione, The Liberal Arts and the Jesuit College System (Amsterdam, 1986). 23. On this, see Andrea Battistini and Ezio Raimondi, Le figure della retorica: Una storia letteraria italiana, 2nd ed. (Turin, 1990), esp. 167–72. 24. On this, see C. Mouchel, “Les rhétoriques post-tridentines (1570–1600): La fabrique d’une société chrétienne,” in Histoire de la rhétorique dans l’Europe moderne (1450–1950), ed. Marc Fumaroli (Paris, 1999), 431–97. 25. Morosini, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” in Derekh Emunah, [4]. 26. On Catholic homiletics directed to the Jews, particularly in Counter-Reformation Rome, see Caffiero, Legami pericolosi, 269–95, and the bibliography provided there; and Piet van Boxel, Jewish Books in Christian Hands: Theology, Exegesis and Conversion Under Gregory XIII (1572–1585) (Vatican City, 2016), 7–55. 27. Morosini, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” [4]. The unnamed person was the Bolognese Carlo Vizzani, a councillor and secretary of the Holy Office at the time of Pope Alexander VII, whom Morosini mentions in a previous partial draft of the introduction extant in MS Borg. Lat. 483 at the Vatican Library. For a description of this manuscript, see Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 55–65, esp. 57, where it was first brought to notice. On other reasons that drove Morosini to write the manual, see n. 35. 28. Morosini, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” [4–5]. 29. Though incomplete, a list of the sources quoted or mentioned in the work is provided at the end of the book. Morosini, “Indice degli autori e de’ libri qui citati,” in Derekh Emunah, [189–96]. 30. A native of Dalmatia, Pastritio was eventually appointed scriptor hebraicus at the Vatican Library in 1694. On him, see Bignami Odier, La Bibliothèque Vaticane, 144. An epistolary exchange between him and Morosini on subjects related to or included in Derekh Emunah is preserved in the MS Borg. Lat. 503 of the Vatican Library, fols. 27r–62v, on which, see Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 58–62. Along with the aforementioned MS Borg. Lat. 483, this manuscript allows us to gain insights into Morosini’s working practices, such as his methods of note taking and composition. 31. Morosini, “Agli Eminentissimi e Reverendissimi Signori,” in Derekh Emunah, [2]. 32. Ibid., [1]. 33. Giovanni Della Casa, “Galateo, ovvero de’ costumi” and “Trattato degli uffici comuni,” in Opere, by Baldassar Castiglione and Giovanni Della Casa, ed. Giuseppe Prezzolini (Milan, 1937), 547–636, 741–72. For the original Latin text of the Trattato (the Italian translation is by Della Casa himself ), see “De officiis inter potentiores et tenuiores amicos,” in Prose di Giovanni della Casa e altri trattatisti cinquecenteschi del comportamento, ed. Arnaldo di Benedetto (Turin, 1970), 136–89. 34. Hebrew also features conspicuously in the book itself, as Morosini refers frequently to Hebrew sources and often incorporates them by means of quotation. 35. Besides the encouragement received from various personages within the Vatican circles and his previous activity as a preacher to the Jews, to which I already referred, Morosini significantly mentions his desire to make a public profession of faith, particularly in front of his former coreligionists. Morosini, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” [4].


Notes to Pages 165–171

36. Ibid., [3]. 37. Ibid., [6]. 38. Georges Snyders, “Rhétorique et culture au XVIIe siècle,” Dix-septième siècle 80–81 (1968): 79–87. 39. Morosini, “Al Cortese Christiano Lettore,” [8]. 40. Ibid., [5]. 41. Adriano Prosperi, “Fantasia versus intelletto: Strategie missionarie per la conversione dei popoli,” in Docere delectare movere: Affetti, devozione e retorica nel linguaggio artistico del primo barocco romano: Atti del convegno organizzato dall’Istituto Olandese a Roma e dalla Bibliotheca Hertziana (Max-Planck-Institut) in collaborazione con l’Università Cattolica di Nijmegen (Roma, 19–20 gennaio 1996) (Rome, 1998), esp. 17–18. 42. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [10]. 43. On the baroque idea of the individual as an existential metaphor, see José Ortega y Gasset, “Idea del teatro,” in Obras completas (Madrid, 1964), 7:495. 44. The Nahmias’ crest depicts an armed man standing at the top of a tower and holding in his right hand a flag unfurled in the wind, symbolizing the biblical Nehemiah, the eponymous family ancestor. As Morosini mentions in the introduction for the Jewish reader (“À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [10–11]), the crest appeared also on the frontispiece of the 1625 Venetian edition of the Talmudic compilation Ein Ya‘akov by Ya‘akov ibn Habib (referred to as Ein Yisra’el in seventeenth-century Italy), published together with Leon Modena’s annotated index to it, Bet Lehem Yehudah. The brothers David and Joseph Nahmias, sons of Isaac Nahmias (respectively, Morosini’s father, uncle, and grand father), who sponsored the publication, are acknowledged in both the editor’s preface of Ein Yisra’el and Modena’s introduction to Bet Lehem Yehudah in Ya‘akov ibn Habib, Ein Yisra’el (Venice, 1625), fol. [2r]. 45. On emblems and their prominent place in early modern culture, see Mario Praz, Studies in Seventeenth-Century Imagery (Rome, 1964); Arthur Henkel and Albrecht Schöne, eds., Emblemata: Handbuch zur Sinnbildkunst des XVI. und XVII. Jahrhunderts (Stuttgart, 1967); and Ayers L. Bagley, Edward M. Griffin, and Austin J. McLean, eds., The Telling Image: Explorations in the Emblem (New York, 1996). 46. Stephen  A. Shapiro, “The Dark Continent of Literature: Autobiography,” Comparative Literature Studies 5 (1968): 445. According to Shapiro, the reshaping of the individual’s identity must be seen as the very motive for writing autobiography. 47. On this, see Roman Schnur, Individualismus und Absolutismus: Zur politischen Theorie vor Thomas Hobbes (1600–1640) (Berlin, 1963). 48. On metaphor as the dominant figure of speech in the literary discourse of the age and more generally as a forma mentis, a sort of frame through which to interpret reality, see Giuseppe Conte, La metafora barocca: Saggio sulle poetiche del Seicento (Milan, 1972). 49. Torquato Accetto, Della dissimulazione onesta, ed. Salvatore S. Nigro (Genoa, 1983), 70. On Accetto, see Villari, Elogio della dissimulazione; and Snyder, Dissimulation, esp. 59–67. The other great theorist of dissimulation was the Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián (1601–58), whose works went through several Italian editions. Brief remarks on dissimulation with reference to Venetian society are included in James H. Johnson, Venice Incognito: Masks in the Serene Republic (Berkeley, 2011), 86–101. 50. On this, see Adriano Prosperi, Tribunali della coscienza: Inquisitori, confessori, missionari (Turin, 1996), esp. 542–48.

Notes to Pages 171–177


51. Gary Wills, Augustine’s Confessions: A Biography (Princeton, N.J., 2011), 25. 52. On Modena as Morosini’s teacher, see Simonsen, “Giulio Morosini’s Mitteilungen”; and Leon Modena, The Autobiography of a Seventeenth-Century Venetian Rabbi: Leon Modena’s “Life of Judah,” trans. and ed. Mark R. Cohen (Princeton, N.J., 1988), 240. In another place in Derekh Emunah, Morosini recalls having heard positive remarks about Christians from his former teacher, who—he states—was even ready to admit the possibility that Jesus was indeed the Messiah so much waited for, a statement that clearly sheds more light on Morosini’s own convictions and apologetic discourse than on Modena’s real opinions on the matter. Morosini, Derekh Emunah, 104–5. Clearly opposed to his former teacher on both intellectual and religious grounds, Morosini openly admits having written Derekh Emunah also as a polemical reaction to Modena’s own description of Jewish customs in Historia de’ Riti Ebraici (Venice, 1638). Though invariably marked by a polemical tone and often merely instrumental to Morosini’s arguments, the accurate examination of the passages from the Historia de’ Riti quoted in Derekh Emunah, which still waits to be undertaken, would certainly help explain the role that Modena and his works played in shaping Morosini’s own treatment of Jewish rites and customs. 53. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [13–14]. 54. Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, From Spanish Court to Italian Ghetto: Isaac Cardoso: A Study in Seventeenth-Century Marranism and Jewish Apologetics (Seattle, 1981), 201n4, suggests that they might have been Fernando and Miguel Cardoso, who both had arrived in Venice in the same year. The Portuguese identity of the arguing brothers is openly referred to by Morosini in the first draft of the introduction extant in MS Borg. Lat. 483. Cohen, “Il ghetto di Venezia,” 28n20. On the equation of Portuguese and Marranos in common perception, see the classic essay by Arturo Farinelli, Marrano (storia di un vituperio) (Geneva, 1925). 55. On the symbolism of the silencing finger and its link to the practice of dissimulation, see Snyder, Dissimulation, 10–12. 56. On this, see Georges Gusdorf, “Conditions and Limits of Autobiography,” in Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical, ed. James Olney (Princeton, N.J., 1980), 38. 57. I am not aware of other former conversos who decided to publicly commemorate their experience by using this epithet. The image of the repentant, though, was a common literary theme among poets of Marrano descent and is used, for example, by Daniel Levi (Miguel) de Barrios in his poem “Word of a Penitent Sinner.” On this, see Yosef Kaplan, From Christianity to Judaism: The Story of Isaac Orobio de Castro, trans. from the Hebrew by Raphael Loewe (Oxford, 2004), 330. 58. The title Ba‘al teshuvah appears along with Isaac Nahmias’ name in the document sanctioning the institution of the Portuguese confraternity Maritar donzelle in 1613. On this, see Aldo Luzzatto, La comunità ebraica di Venezia e il suo antico cimitero (Milan, 2000), 1:366n4. The title was also mentioned in the Hebrew epitaph engraved on Isaac’s tomb, which was still extant in the Venetian cemetery on Lido Island at the end of the nineteenth century. On this, see Abraham Berliner, Luhot avanim: Hebraeische Grabschriften in Italien: Erster Theil, 200 Inschriften aus Venedig, 16. u. 17. Jaharhundert (Frankfurt, 1881), 93–94, no. 188. 59. On the idea of conversion as return in the Gospels, see Beverly Roberts Gaventa, From Darkness to Light: Aspects of Conversion in the New Testament (Philadelphia, 1986). 60. Adriano Prosperi, “Fantasia versus intelletto,” 20. 61. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [11]. 62. On this, see Caffiero, Legami pericolosi, 199–205.


Notes to Pages 177–183

63. Morosini, Derekh Emunah, 1412–13. On this passage, see also Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini, “Derekh Teshuvah: La via del ritorno,” in L’identità dissimulata: Giudaizzanti iberici nell’Europa cristiana dell’età moderna, Pier Cesare Ioly Zorattini (Florence, 2000), 242. 64. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [18]. 65. A study of Derekh Emunah in the context of early modern ethnographic works describing Jewish customs still remains to be done. See Yaacov Deutsch, Judaism in Christian Eyes: Ethnographic Descriptions of Jews and Judaism in Early Modern Europe, trans. Avi Aronsky (Oxford, 2011). Insights into Morosini’s work would prob ably be offered also by a comparison with contemporary missionary publications by Jesuit writers in which religious practice similarly played a central role in the discourse on conversion. 66. See n. 35. 67. Morosini, “À i dispersi figliuoli d’Israele,” [17]. 68. Arthur Darby Nock, Conversion: The Old and the New in Religion from Alexander the Great to Augustine of Hippo (Oxford, 1933), 7. 69. On this, see Renata Segre, “Neophytes During the Italian Counter-Reformation: Identities and Biographies,” in Proceedings of the Sixth World Congress of Jewish Studies (the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 13–19 August 1973), ed. Malka Jagendorf and Avigdor Shinan (Jerusalem, 1975), 2:131–42; and Kenneth Stow, “A Tale of Uncertainties: Converts in the Roman Ghetto,” in Shlomo Simonsohn Jubilee Volume, ed. Daniel Carpi et al. (Tel Aviv, 1993), 257–81, reprinted in Stow, Jewish Life, chap. 6. In the proceedings of the trials held by the Venetian Inquisition in which Morosini was involved as a consultant or witness in the late 1650s and early 1660s, the label neophitus always accompanies his Christian name. 70. In several places in Derekh Emunah, Morosini laments the suffering he endured as a result of the “persecution” to which he was subjected by his former coreligionists after he converted. This seems to refer to the long and wearisome lawsuit filed against him by his wife, who—as I already mentioned—had remained Jewish, but probably also to the hostility that his zealous missionary activity in Venice during the first years after his conversion must have aroused within the Jewish community. Moreover, as mentioned earlier, besides preaching and collaborating as a Hebrew expert with the Venetian Inquisition, Morosini was also summoned by the Holy Office as a witness in a few cases of suspected Judaizing among Portuguese New Christians and Christian neophytes from Judaism, to some of whom he himself had treacherously drawn the attention of the authorities. On this, see Ioly Zorattini, Processi, 11:73–76; and Ioly Zorattini, I nomi degli altri, 185–86.

CHAPTER 9 1. Circumcise Me, directed by David Blumenfeld and Matthew Kalman, featuring Yisrael Campbell (Los Angeles, 2007), film. 2. James Shapiro’s Shakespeare and the Jews (New York, 1996) and Christopher Hill’s “Till the Conversion of the Jews,” in Millenarianism and Messianism in English Literature and Thought, 1650–1982, ed. Richard Popkin (New York, 1988), 12–36, discuss earlier literature of Jewish conversion, while Bruce Hindmarsh treats the early modern era in The Evangelical Conversion Narrative: Spiritual Autobiography in Early Modern England (Oxford, 2005). 3. Todd Endelman, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, 1656–1945 (Bloomington, 1990), 43.

Notes to Pages 183–185


4. Ellie Schainker’s essay in this volume offers a compelling look at a somewhat similar phenomenon occurring between the literary and journalistic accounts and real lives of Jewish converts in the imperial Russian provinces at the fin de siècle. 5. Jewishness was not a common term in nineteenth-century England. But it was a common idea. Going beyond Judaism, Jewishness is a sense of being a Jew or being associated with something having to do with Jews or Judaism; words such as Mosaic, Hebraic, Hebrew, and Israelite were sometimes applied to people, habits, and ideas in much the same way. Unlike anti-Semitism or philosemitism, Jewishness avoids automatic value judgment. Given this flexibility, it provides a helpful term for the elisions and category blending of Victorian discourse by and about Jews, which is why it is increasingly used in current scholarship. 6. Converting Cultures: Religion, Ideology, and Transformations of Modernity typifies this trend, asserting the concept of conversion’s relevance to interpreting political and ideological changes, including the “transformation to modernity” itself. Introduction to Converting Cultures, ed. Dennis C. Washburn and A. Kevin Reinhard (Leiden, 2007), xi. See also Gauri Viswanathan’s cross-cultural analysis of conversion as a form of political resistance in Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity, Belief (Princeton, N.J., 1998). 7. Michael Ragussis, Figures of Conversion: “The Jewish Question” and English National Identity (Durham, N.C., 1995), 3. Nadia Valman’s The Jewess in Nineteenth-Century British Literary Culture (Cambridge, England, 2007) has also informed my thinking. Both Valman and Michael Galchinksy (The Origin of the Modern Jewish Woman Writer: Romance and Reform in Victorian England [Detroit, 1996]) detail the way Anglo-Jewish women writers such as Grace Aguilar resisted the discourse of conversion, as well as the influence on their work of Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe, which, like Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, casts a long shadow over depictions of Jewish conversion. 8. In identifying such a shift, I am not suggesting that bibles ceased to have enormous influence on Victorians. Rather, I am looking at the relative decline of the Bible vis-à-vis other texts, a decline corresponding, as scholars of nineteenth-century religious history have long observed, with the relative decline of church authority. See, for instance, Gerald Parson’s introduction to Religion in Victorian Britain: Controversies, ed. Gerald Parson (Manchester, 1997), 13, in which he notes that by the 1880s religious issues were relocated “nearer to the periphery of national life” in part because of the rise of “secular recreational and leisure activities as a (perhaps the) challenge to religious practice and the blurring of the line between the two.” I am also looking at the way novels represent their own role in relation to this decline. 9. Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 31–34. Awareness of reading’s conversionary power famously originates with Augustine. 10. George Eliot, “The Modern Hep! Hep! Hep!,” in Impressions of Theophrastus Such, ed. Nancy Henry (Iowa City, 1994), 156; Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London, 1991). 11. Robert McDonnell, Irish Nationality in 1870, 2nd  ed. (Dublin, 1870), 47; “The Proselytizing Mania,” Allen’s Indian Mail 15 (August  1857): 518–19; Charlotte Elizabeth, Judah’s Lion (New York, ca. 1843), 184. 12. The complex relationship between British imperialism and conversion varied by region, era, and Christian denomination. But even when not endorsed by official colonial policy, Anglo-Protestant missionary efforts intersected with imperial ones and much energy was devoted back home to “converting the heathens” abroad. See, among others, Gauri Viswanthan, Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (New York, 1989);


Notes to Pages 186–188

Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Empire: 1875–1914 (New York, 1989), 71; and Susan Thorne, “ ‘The Conversion of Englishmen and the Conversion of the World Inseparable’: Missionary Imperialism and the Language of Class in Early Industrial England,” Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Frederick Cooper and Ann Laura Stoler (Berkeley, 1997), 238–62. 13. On nineteenth-century endeavors to convert the Jews, see particularly Mel Scult, Millennial Expectations and Jewish Liberties: A Study of the Efforts to Convert the Jews in Britain, up to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (New York, 1978); Robert Michael Smith, “The London Jews’ Society and Patterns of Jewish Conversion in England, 1801–1859,” Jewish Social Studies 43.3/4 (1981): 275–90; and Endelman, Radical Assimilation. 14. Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” (1884), in The Art of Criticism: Henry James on the Theory and Practice of Fiction, ed. William Veeder and Susan Griffin (Chicago, 1986), 166. 15. See appendix 1 of Robert D. Mayo, The English Novel in the Magazines, 1740–1815 (Evanston, Ill., 1962), 359. 16. For more on the anx ieties triggered by the increase of novels and readers, see Patrick Brantlinger, The Reading Lesson: The Threat of Mass Literacy in Nineteenth-Century British Fiction (Bloomington, 1998). 17. Endelman, Radical Assimilation, 7. 18. Ian Watt, The Rise of the Novel: Studies in Defoe, Richardson, and Fielding (London, 1968), 175. 19. See Ian Bradley, The Call to Seriousness: The Evangelical Impact on the Victorians (London, 1976); and Elizabeth Jay, Religion of the Heart: Anglican Evangelicalism and the Nineteenth-Century Novel (Oxford, 1979). 20. Catherine Gallagher explains that novels provided a depth of access to characters’ minds impossible with an actual person by creating “the impression, understood as an illusion, of a preexisting creature with multiple levels of existence, a surface and recesses, an exterior and interior.” “The Rise of Fictionality,” in The Novel, ed. Franco Moretti (Princeton, N.J., 2006), 1:356. 21. Anonymous review, Baptist Magazine 46 (1854): 347, attributed to Christian Witness in advertisements for Leila Ada, including in Heighway’s later novel Adeline, or The Mysteries, Romance, and Realities of Jewish Life (London, 1854), 347. 22. See Valman on Heighway’s attempt to pass off his novels as authentic and the Jewish Chronicle’s critical response. Jewess, 66. 23. On the gendered nature of conversion literature, see Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews, 120. Valman demonstrates that Victorian evangelical writers “regarded the Jewess as the most desirable kind of convert, because she was both a link to the roots of Christianity and an emblem of its supersessionary power.” Jewess, 210. 24. Osborn W. Trenery Heighway, Leila Ada, the Jewish Convert: An Authentic Memoir (Philadelphia, 1853), 18. 25. L. H., Light at Eventide: A Narrative of Lydia M***, a Converted Jewess (London, 1858), 35. 26. Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 38. 27. Review of Leila Ada, Jewish Herald 7 (October 1852): 289, quoted in Valman, Jewess, 66. 28. On the trope of the deathbed scene, see Jay, Religion of the Heart. 29. Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, 36; Endelman, Radical Assimilation, 47. 30. Amelia Bristow, Emma de Lissau: A Narrative of Striking Vicissitudes and Peculiar Trial; with Notes, Illustrative of the Manners and Customs of the Jews, 4th ed. (London, 1837), 48. 31. Watt, Rise of the Novel, 191.

Notes to Pages 188–192


32. Heighway, Leila Ada, 165. 33. Annie Webb, Julamerk; or, The Converted Jewess (London, ca. 1849), 309–10. 34. Orson Squire Fowler, Memory and Intellectual Improvement, 20th ed. (New York, 1847), 40. Fowler, a “practical phrenologist,” like other phrenologists, reads both individuals and groups, including Jews (81–92). 35. Valman, Jewess, 3. 36. This belief, one with a lengthy, convoluted history, is captured by anthropologist Robert Knox’s assertion that “the real Jew has never altered since the earliest recorded period” and could never be “confounded with another race.” The Races of Men: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Influence of Race over the Destinies of Nations, 2nd ed. (London, 1862), 194. 37. Heighway, Adeline, 13–14, 9. 38. Idem, Leila Ada, 110. 39. See, among others, Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews; David Feldman, Englishmen and Jews: Social Relations and Political Cultural, 1840–1914 (New Haven, Conn., 1994); Todd Endelman, “Comparative Perspectives on Modern Anti-Semitism in the West,” in History and Hate: The Dimensions of Anti-Semitism, ed. David Berger (Philadelphia, 1986), 95–114; Anthony Bale, The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 1350–1500 (Cambridge, England, 2006); and Anthony Julius, Trials of the Diaspora: A History of Anti-Semitism in England (Oxford, 2010). 40. Roxann Wheeler argues that as early as the “late eighteenth century, the word race was used by some writers in a recognizably incipient form of its modern sense,” and that “race seemed more fixed and, some suspected, unalterable.” The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture (Philadelphia, 2000), 31–32. Endelman also points out that evidence supports “racial views about the character of Jews” in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. “Comparative Perspectives,” 98. See also Nancy Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain, 1800–1960 (Hamden, Conn., 1982). 41. Tallying the precise number of such novels is extremely difficult, particularly given the lack of clear documentation from publishing companies and the continued reprinting of certain conversion novels originally published in the 1830s–40s. But the evidence we do have is that novels of religious conversion involving Jews declined in the later decades of the 1800s. See Ragussis, Figures of Conversion, along with Endelman, Radical Assimilation and “Comparative Perspectives,” for further discussion. 42. Heighway, Adeline, xi–xii. 43. In fact, Heighway’s praise in Adeline for Jewish talent and taste foreshadows the critique of Englishness’s lack of such qualities in some Victorian texts about Jewishness. 44. Inglis quoted in Todd Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England, 1714–1830 (Ann Arbor, 1999), 10; Thomas Macaulay, “Civil Disabilities of the Jews,” in The Works of Lord Macaulay (London, 1873), 5:464. 45. Viswanathan, Outside the Fold, 5. 46. “Minute on Indian Education” (1835), in Speeches by Lord Macaulay, with His Minute on Indian Education, Selected and with Notes by G. M. Young (London, 1935), 345–61. 47. James Eli Adams, A History of Victorian Literature (Oxford, 2009), 25. 48. Watt, Rise of the Novel, 205. 49. Edward Bulwer Lytton, England and the English (London, 1833), 2:109. 50. Heighway, Adeline, v–vi. 51. Among the many commentators on Robinson Crusoe, see Michael McKeon on its origins in spiritual autobiography (The Origins of the English Novel, 1600–1740 [Baltimore,


Notes to Pages 192–198

2002], 318–19) and Edward Said on why the novel’s status as “prototypical modern realistic novel” is linked to its imperialism (Culture and Imperialism [New York, 1994], xii). 52. Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone (Oxford, 1999), 214. 53. Ibid., 9. 54. Ibid., 459. 55. Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People, ed. with an introduction by Meri-Jane Rochelson (Detroit, 1998), 331. Subsequent quotations from this edition are cited in the body of the essay. 56. Shakespeare’s status as a national figure is discussed by nineteenth-century writers as different at Thomas Carlyle (“On Heroes, Hero-Worship, and the Heroic in History”) and Jane Austen (Mansfield Park); Zangwill himself wrote a story entitled “The Yiddish ‘Hamlet.’ ” For a recent scholarly account of the subject, see Gail Marshall, ed., Shakespeare in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, 2015). 57. Rochelson’s astute reading of the novel’s multiple genres recognizes the way it “plays with elements of the conversion novel in which Jewish survival hinges on a woman’s fate” in its treatment of both Esther and Hannah. Introduction to Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto, 33–34. See also Valman, who emphasizes the way Zangwill echoes conversion texts in making women “spiritual saviours of Judaism.” Jewess, 208. 58. For a fuller analysis of the novel’s intersection of conversion, Jewishness, and Englishness, see Sarah Gracombe, “Converting Trilby: Du Maurier on Englishness, Jewishness, and Culture,” Nineteenth-Century Literature 58.1 (2003): 75–108; and idem, “George Du Maurier and the ‘Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew[s],’ ” in George du Maurier: Illustrator, Author, Critic, ed. Simon Cooke and Paul Goldman (Surrey, 2016), 209–27. Michèle Mendelssohn explores the parallels between Trilby and a different Zangwill novel, The Master. “Beautiful Souls Mixed Up with Hooked Noses: Art, Degeneration, and Anti-Semitism in The Master and Trilby,” Victorian Literature and Culture 40.1 (2012): 179–97. 59. Gracombe, “Converting Trilby,” 107. 60. Heighway, Leila Ada, 201. 61. On novels and cultural portability, see Irene Tucker, A Probable State: The Novel, the Contract and the Jews (Chicago, 2002), xi; and John Plotz, Portable Property: Victorian Culture on the Move (Princeton, N.J., 2008). Plotz describes the novel as “ground-zero for a wideranging exploration of what it meant for an object to travel simulta neously with ineradicable particular meanings, even national ones, attached, and stand simultaneously for the potentially limitless fluidity of the market place” (23). 62. George Du Maurier, Trilby, Oxford World Classics Ed. (Oxford, 1998), 28; Julie E. Fromer, A Necessary Luxury: Tea in Victorian England (Athens, Ohio, 2008), 18. 63. Anderson, Imagined Communities, 7. The mechanisms by which novels produce an imagined community may be less indebted to the structural “meanwhile” Anderson emphasizes and more indebted to the symbolism of narrative closure and habits of consumption that Zangwill and Du Maurier depict. 64. The similar experiences and language of these stories indicate that, while gender affects Anglo-Jews in significant ways, the plot of national conversion is not limited to women. 65. Israel Zangwill, “Anglicization,” in Ghetto Comedies (London, 1907), 62. Subsequent page numbers appear in the body of the text. I have been unable to identify an actual book of this name, but many tales about the Gulf of Pechili (now China’s Bohai Sea) were popular

Notes to Pages 198–209


at the time. Zangwill describes this one as a “penny number,” an inexpensive, sensationalistic story, often featuring adventure, primarily aimed at a young, working-class audience. 66. Plotz, Portable Property, 3–4. 67. Zangwill, “Anglicization,” 101. 68. Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders,” in The Location of Culture (New York, 1994), 145. 69. Zangwill’s work, as illustrated by Esther’s praise of England’s “planted colonies” and Simon’s participation in the Boer War, serves as further evidence for the trend of reading empire and Englishness as mutually constitutive but also exposes how notions of Jewishness were involved in such acts of definition. 70. Quoted in Sarah Lyall, “Booker Prize Winner’s Jewish Question,” New York Times, October 18, 2010. 71. See Ron Charles, “Howard Jacobson’s Booker-Winning Finkler Question,” Washington Post, October 13, 2010; and Roger Boylan, “Seriously Funny: The Jewish Jane Austen,” Boston Review, May/June 2011. 72. Howard Jacobson, The Finkler Question (New York, 2010), 195. Subsequent quotations are cited in the body of the text. 73. The case, about admission criteria for the state-funded Jewish school, is discussed in Sarah Lyall, “Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question,” New York Times, November 7, 2009; and J. H. H. Weiler, “Discrimination and Identity in London: The Jewish Free School Case,” Jewish Review of Books, no. 1 (Spring 2010). 74. Ian Baucom examines the cricket field as a key “location of identity” for Englishness, one subject to postcolonial revision. Baucom, Out of Place: Englishness, Empire, and the Locations of Identity (Princeton, N.J., 1999), 17–18. 75. Quoted in Lyall, “Booker Prize.” 76. Ibid.

CHAPTER 10 1. Jewish Expositor, and Friend of Israel (hereafter JE) 1 (1816): 207–8. The standard, and still relatively reliable, histories of the society are T.  D. Halsted, Our Missions (London, 1866); and W. T. Gidney, History of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Amongst the Jews (London, 1908). See also Mel Scult, Millennial Expectations and Jewish Liberties: A Study of the Efforts to Convert the Jews in Britain up to the Mid-Nineteenth Century (Leiden, 1978); R. M. Smith, “The London Jews’ Society and Patterns of Jewish Conversion in England, 1801–1859,” Jewish Social Studies 43 (1981): 275–90; and T. M. Endelman, Radical Assimilation in English Jewish History, 1656–1945 (Bloomington, 1990), 147–60, 167–72. In the interest of space, references to secondary literature have been minimized. 2. JE 1 (1816): 208. The prayer, as Solomon evidently did not recognize from the German translation, began with Ps. 119:18. 3. Scult, Millennial Expectations, 106–15; Smith, “London Jews’ Society,” 277–78. 4. JE 1 (1816): 209. 5. J. Wolff, Travels and Adventures of the Rev. Joseph Wolff (London, 1861), 81. 6. J. S. Harford, The Life of Thomas Burgess (London, 1840), 449. On Burgess as a Hebraist, see ibid., 235–36.


Notes to Pages 209–215

7. Missionary Register (hereafter MR) (1818): 195. 8. MR 5 (1817): 507; JE 2 (1817): 355. 9. Missionary Herald 15 (1819): 67–68. It was also reported that twelve copies of the 1817 Hebrew New Testament had been presented to the Edinburgh Bible Society, which had participated in the publication costs. Additionally, “three were sent to America, five to Malta, and three to Madras” (67). 10. JE 2 (1817): 79. 11. MR 5 (1817): 67; Historical Catalogue of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society 2 vols. in 4 (London, 1911), 2:724–25; P. E. Lapide, Hebrew in the Church: The Foundations of Jewish-Christian Dialogue, trans. H. Gollwitzer (Grand Rapids, 1984), 78–79. In 1831 the BFBS published its own Hebrew translation of the New Testament by William Greenfield, based on that of the London Society. Historical Catalogue, 2:727. On the BFBS, see William Canton, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society, 5 vols. (London, 1904–10); and more recently Leslie Howsam, Cheap Bibles: Nineteenth-Century Publishing and the British and Foreign Bible Society (Cambridge, England, 1991). 12. Howsam, Cheap Bibles, 3–7. 13. MR 16 (1828): 199. See also ibid., 446. 14. See MR 11 (1823): 98; and Halsted, Our Missions, 95–102. On Becker, see more extensively J.  I. Good, Famous Missionaries of the Reformed Church (Philadelphia, 1903), chap. 2. He is not to be confused with his son and namesake, Ferdinand Wilhelm Becker, who received his BA from Exeter College (Oxford) in 1850 and was ordained the following year. 15. Monthly Intelligence of the Proceedings of the London Society for Promoting Christianity Among the Jews 5 (1834): 81. 16. The Van der Hooght edition was actually itself a revised reprint of the 1667 Leusden-Athias edition. See R. Fuks-Mansfeld, “Everardus van der Hooght (1642–1716), the Last of the Christian Hebraists in the Dutch Republic,” in Omnia in Eo: Studies on Jewish Books and Libraries in Honour of Adri Offenberg Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Bibliotheca Rosenthaliana in Amsterdam, ed. Irene Zwiep et al., Studia Rosenthaliana 38/39 (Leuven, 2006), 256–61. I thank T. Dunkelgrün for this reference. 17. In 1822 editions had appeared in both London and Leipzig, of which the BFBS purchased a total of 3,600 copies. The society purchased another 1,000 copies of the Leipzig 1831 edition. See Historical Catalogue, 2:725–26. 18. Monthly Intelligence 5 (1834): 31. 19. Ibid., 32–33. 20. Both reports were quoted in C. S. Dudley, An Analysis of the System of the Bible Society . . . (London, 1821), 87–89. For the latter, see also JE 4 (1819): 37. 21. JE 4 (1819): 37. 22. JE 3 (1818): 272. The letter was later published in Gidney, History, 95. 23. JE 3 (1818): 395, 398–99, 401–2. 24. Ibid., 273. 25. Ibid., 397. 26. Ibid., 403–4. 27. Ibid., 395. 28. Missionary Herald 15 (1819): 68.

Notes to Pages 215–222


29. See Elisheva Carlebach, Divided Souls: Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500– 1750 (New Haven, Conn., 2001), 166–68; and Aya Elyada, A Goy Who Speaks Yiddish: Christians and the Jewish Language in Early Modern Germany (Stanford, Calif., 2012), 24–26. 30. JE 4 (1819): 396. 31. The Thirteenth Report of the London Society . . . (London, 1821), vi, 63–65. 32. MR 12 (1824): 137. Moritz’s letter was dated November  22, 1822. For a list of conversionary tracts published in Yiddish and other languages by the London Society between 1810 and 1825, see Halsted, Our Missions, 28–30. Those that also appeared in Yiddish included Proofs from the Ancient Prophecies That the Messiah Must Have Come, and That Jesus of Nazareth Is the Messiah (1810), and The Triumphs of Jesus, as Compared with Those of Mahomed (1816). For their distribution, see Scult, Millennial Expectations, 126–27. On the first Yiddish missionary tracts, published in the eighteenth century, see Elyada, Goy Who Speaks Yiddish, 35–38. 33. Missionary Herald 18 (1822): 392; MR 12 (1824): 419; MR 13 (1825): 166, 168; Reports of the British and Foreign Bible Society . . . for the Years 1822, 1823, and 1824 (London, 1824), xxxix, 93, 224. 34. JE 7 (1822): 222. 35. The original English had appeared in JE 1 (1816): 213–28. A German version was published in London under the title Sendschreiben and die Juden (1821) and was also clearly intended for distribution among Eu ropean Jews. 36. JE 5 (1820/21): 441–42. 37. Ibid., 442. 38. Ibid., 443. 39. Ibid., 440. On “John whose other name was Mark” and his abandonment of Barnabas and Paul, see Acts 12–13. 40. JE 5 (1820/21): 440. 41. Ibid., 479. 42. JE 7 (1822): 222. The London Society’s fourteenth report, with its news of Solomon’s defection, was also presented in Missionary Herald 18 (1822) and MR 11 (1823). 43. Joseph Wolff, Missionary Journal and Memoir . . . , rev. and ed. J. Bayford (New York, 1824), 81–82. 44. Missionary Journal of the Rev. Joseph Wolff, Missionary to the Jews (London, 1829), 3:203. 45. Christian Guardian and Church of England Magazine, January 1828, 112. 46. MR 4 (May 1816): 189. 47. The humanistic Lubrański Academy, which had been established in the early sixteenth century, had merged with the Jesuit Collegium in 1780, and later in the eighteenth century it took on a less ecclesiastical identity. It was presumably there that Simon studied. 48. [Barbara Simon], Memoir of Erasmus H. Simon (London, 1837), 13–16, 44–54, 57, 59. I thank Dov Horowitz for making available to me a copy of this rare work. 49. Ibid., 60–62. Other accounts mention two Solomon children at the time of the divorce in 1817, but it is possible that one had died by then. 50. Ibid., 62. 51. Ibid., 67–69. 52. Ibid., 70–77. The English translations from the two letters were presumably prepared by Simon himself, perhaps toward writing his own autobiography.


Notes to Pages 222–232

53. MR 6 (1818): 492. On Anderson, who came to Rotterdam in 1807 and served there for some two decades, see William Steven, The History of the Scottish Church, Rotterdam (Edinburgh, 1832). 54. JE 2 (1817): 398–99. 55. JE 3 (1818): 76–77. 56. Ibid., 223; [B. Simon], Memoir of Erasmus H. Simon, 88–89. 57. See Lewis Way, The Christian Priesthood: A Sermon Preached at St.  Paul’s, Covent Garden, on the Ordination of Benjamin Nehemiah Solomon (London, 1821). It is not clear why the sermon was published only some four years later. 58. JE 3 (1818): 77. 59. Ibid., 224. 60. Ibid., 152–54. 61. Ibid., 156. 62. Ibid., 159–60. 63. Ibid., 158. 64. JE 2 (1817): 478–79. 65. JE 3 (1818): 31. 66. Ibid., 32. The Hebrew was left in the original by the London Society, but an explanatory footnote was added: “One of another nation than the Jews.” 67. Wolff, Travels and Adventures, 81. 68. Idem, Missionary Journal and Memoir, 81–82. 69. JE 7 (1822): 225, 378. 70. It was preceded by Moses Sailman, The Mystery Unfolded, or an Exposition of the Extraordinary Means Employed to Obtain Converts by . . . the London Society . . . (London, 1817). Sailman’s work was evidently heavily dependent on B. R. Goakman’s Brief Account of the London Society Examined. I have not yet been able to consult a copy of either work. 71. Zailick Solomon, An Exposure of Hypocrisy . . . (London, 1822), 5. 72. H. H. Norris, The Origin, Progress, and Existing Circumstances . . . (London, 1825), 152, 169, 180. 73. Ibid., lii. On the rarity of the full beard in early nineteenth-century England, note, for example, Richard Madden’s testimony that his “long black beard was enough” to prove to a Palestinian Arab that he “was not English”—though, in fact, he was! See R. R. Madden, Travels in Turkey, Egypt, Nubia and Palestine, 2 vols. (London, 1829), 2:320. 74. T.  M. Endelman, The Jews of Georgian England, 1714–1830 (Philadelphia, 1979), 123, 335n3. As Endelman further notes, the hazan’s brief suspension shows that his deviation was considered quite understandable. The decision to suspend him was made on May 19—between Lag Ba-Omer and Shavuot—suggesting that the hazan had avoided tampering with his beard, following traditional practice, until the former date.

CHAPTER 11 1. For a further discussion of the history of conversions from Judaism in imperial Russia, see Ellie R. Schainker, Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817–1906 (Stanford, Calif., 2016). 2. Aggregate statistics from the Governing Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church and German missionaries conservatively estimate Jewish conversions to various Christian

Notes to Pages 232–236


denominations in nineteenth-century imperial Rus sia at 84,500. See Iv. Preobrazhenskii, Otechestvennaia tserkov’ po statisticheskim dannym c 1840–41 po 1890–91 gg., 2nd ed. (Saint Petersburg, 1901), esp. 46, 53; and J. F. A. de le Roi, Judentaufen im 19. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1899), 42–45. 3. Paul W. Werth, The Tsar’s Foreign Faiths: Toleration and the Fate of Religious Freedom in Imperial Russia (Oxford, 2014), 77–79, 155–58. 4. See, for example, Michael Stanislawski, “Jewish Apostasy in Russia: A Tentative Typology,” in Jewish Apostasy in the Modern World, ed. Todd M. Endelman (New York, 1987), 189–205. 5. Theodore R. Weeks, Nation and State in Late Imperial Russia: Nationalism and Russification on the Western Frontier, 1863–1914 (DeKalb, Ill., 1996); Robert P. Geraci, Window on the East: National and Imperial Identities in Late Tsarist Russia (Ithaca, N.Y., 2001); Andreas Kappeler, “The Ambiguities of Russification,” Kritika 5.2 (Spring 2004): 291–97. 6. For a further discussion of imperial Russia’s multiconfessional establishment and its impact on Jewish conversion to a variety of Christian confessions, see Ellie R. Schainker, “Jewish Conversion in an Imperial Context: Confessional Choice and Multiple Baptisms in Nineteenth-Century Russia,” Jewish Social Studies, n.s., 20.1 (Fall 2013): 1–31. 7. Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv (Russian State Historical Archive), fond 821, opis’ 8, delo 194, listy 4–7 (1867), “Po pis’mu predsedatelia soveta missionerskago obshchestva kasatel’no uchrezhdeniia otdeleniia missionerskago obshchestva dlia sodeistviia evreiam, obrashchaiushchimsia v pravoslavie.” 8. Brian Horowitz, Jewish Philanthropy and Enlightenment in Late-Tsarist Russia (Seattle, 2009), 135–43. In 1894 the Rabbinical Commission, established by the Ministry of the Interior in 1845, promoted the OPE’s idea for a modern rabbinate to the Ministry of Education, likewise underscoring the need to stem the tide of Jewish conversions (ibid., 139). 9. Erich Haberer, Jews and Revolution in Nineteenth-Century Russia (Cambridge, England, 1995). 10. G. B. Sliozberg, Dela minuvshikh dnei: Zapiski Russkago evreia (Paris, 1933), 2:94. 11. Yehuda Slutsky, Ha-Itonut ha-Yehudit-Rusit ba-Me’ah ha-Tesha-esrei (Jerusalem, 1970), 175–77. 12. Nurit Govrin, “Me’ora Brener”: Ha-ma’avak al Hofesh ha-Bitui (Jerusalem, 1985), 133–39, quote from 137. Unless other wise noted, translations are my own. 13. Ibid., 148. 14. Mendel Goldshtein, Kreshcheniia pered sudom evreiskago intelligenta (publitsisticheskii etiud) (Kiev, 1912). 15. Pauline Wengeroff, Rememberings: The World of a Russian-Jewish Woman in the Nineteenth Century, ed. Bernard D. Cooperman, trans. Henny Wenkart (1908/10; Potomac, Md., 2000). 16. In general, a rich folklore circulated in the imperial period about crypto-Jews in the capital. On this, see Benjamin Nathans, Beyond the Pale: the Jewish Encounter with Late Imperial Russia (Berkeley, 2002), 123. One story circulated that Abram Perets’s daughter Sofia, who converted to Christianity and married Senator Baron Grebnits, continued to light Sabbath candles on Friday evenings. See D. Z. Feldman, O. Iu. Minkina, and A. Iu. Kononova, editors, “Prekrasnaia Evreika” v Rossii XVII–XIX vekov: Obrazy i real’nost (Moscow, 2007), 65–69, esp. 68n28. 17. Lucy Dawidowicz, The Golden Tradition: Jewish Life and Thought in Eastern Europe (New York, 1967), 335. Compare with Shaul Ginzburg, Meshumodim in tsarishn rusland:


Notes to Pages 236–240

Farshungen un zichroynes vegn yidishn lebn in amolikn rusland, vol. 2 of Historishe verk (New York, 1946), 119–56. 18. B. Z. Katz, Zikhronot: Ḥamishim Shanah be-Historiyah shel Yehudei Rusyah (Tel Aviv, 1963), 35–36. I am indebted to David Assaf ’s work for several of the memoir and literary references explored here. See David Assaf, Ne’ehaz basevakh: Pirkei Mashber uMevukhah beToledot haHasidut (Jerusalem, 2006), 59n25. 19. Hillel Zlatopolski, Zionist leader and Hebrew publisher in imperial Russia up through the Bolshevik revolution, notes an ironic debate overheard between two Jewish converts, Konstantin Abba Shapiro and Yisrael Landau, who still deeply identified, respectively, as Misnagidic and Hasidic. They argued over a story about a planned meeting between Shneur Zalman of Liadi and the Vilna Gaon, and which of these historic rivals had snubbed the other. Hillel Zlatopolski, Kitvei Hilel Zlatopolski: Sefer ha-Filitonim (Tel Aviv, 1943), 1:220. 20. B. Z. Katz, Zikhronot, 38. 21. Ibid., 182–83. On Dubnow’s relationship with his daughter Ol’ga and his response to her intermarriage, see Viktor Efimovich Kel’ner, Missioner istorii: Zhizn’ i trudy Semena Markovicha Dubnowa (Saint Petersburg, 2008), 394–96. 22. B. Z. Katz, Ziḥronot, 47. 23. Shemaryahu Levin, Mezikhronot Hayai: Be-Ma’arkhah (Tel Aviv, 1938), 3:172–74. 24. S. An-sky, The Dybbuk and Other Writings, ed. David G. Roskies (New York, 1992), 145–50. 25. In 1835 the Ministry of the Interior’s Department for the Spiritual Affairs of Foreign Confessions ruled that Jews could not stay in Saint Petersburg based on their desire to convert but rather had to convert in places where they had residency rights. See Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv, fond 822, opis’ 1, delo 6685 (1837) [Central Archives of the History of the Jewish People, HM2 7920.17]. 26. Simon Dubnow, The Book of Life: Memoirs and Reflections, trans. Dianne Sattinger, ed. Benjamin Nathans and Viktor Kel’ner (Madison, forthcoming), chap. 7. 27. Chaim Zhitlovskii, Zikhroynes fun mayn Leben (New York, 1935), 1:40. For the full story, see ibid., 39–42. I thank Gabriella Safran for this reference. 28. Hirsz Abramowicz, Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life Before World War II, trans. Eva Zeitlin Dobkin, ed. Dina Abramowicz and Jeffrey Shandler (1958; Detroit, 1999), 65–66. The original anthropological study was published in two separate Yiddish publications in 1937 and 1943. 29. Alter Druyanov, Sefer ha-Bedihah veha-Hidud, 3 vols. (Tel Aviv, 1935–38), 2:154–76. 30. A. Litvin [Shmuel Hurwitz], Yudishe neshomes, vol. 6 of 6, “A tselem in rebn’s kloyz” (New York, 1917). 31. For examples of literature that implicitly links conversion to the quest for higher education and socioeconomic mobility, see Sholem Aleichem, The Bloody Hoax (Der Blutiger Shpas), trans. Aliza Shevrin (1923; Bloomington, 1991); and idem, “The Lottery Ticket,” in The Old Country, trans. Julius Butwin and Frances Butwin (New York, 1946), 347–70. Two scholars have taken brief note of the literary fantasies of erotic attractions between Jews and Christians in provincial eastern Eu rope. See David Biale, “A Journey Between Worlds: East Eu ropean Jewish Culture from the Partitions of Poland to the Holocaust,” in Cultures of the Jews: A New History, ed. idem (New York, 2002), 840; Assaf, Ne’eḥaz ba-sevakh, 59n25. 32. Israel Bartal, “Imagined Geography: The Shtetl, Myth, and Reality,” in The Shtetl: New Evaluations, ed. Steven T. Katz (New York, 2007), 190.

Notes to Pages 240–244


33. For recent attempts to highlight the ethnic and confessional diversity and intimacy of shtetl life, see Samuel Kassow, introduction to Steven T. Katz, Shtetl, 1–28; Annmaria Orla-Bukowska, “Maintaining Borders, Crossing Borders: Social Relationships in the Shtetl,” Polin 17 (2004): 171–95; and Michal Galas, “Inter-religious Contacts in the Shtetl: Proposals for Future Research,” Polin 17 (2004): 41–50. 34. Sholem Aleichem, Tevye the Dairyman and the Railroad Stories, trans. Hillel Halkin (New York, 1987). 35. Hayyim Nahman Bialik, Behind the Fence, in Random Harvest: The Novellas of Bialik, trans. David Patterson and Ezra Spicehandler (Boulder, Colo., 1999), 84–131. 36. Sholem Asch, Ba’al ha-Tehilim: Roman, trans. Y. L. Barukh (Tel Aviv, 1935). Rosa Lehmann’s research on the shtetl of Jaśliska, a small Galician town, uncovered a similar reallife story in which religious tensions in the town following a young Jewish woman’s conversion were sparked by Jewish ire at the local Polish community for helping to facilitate the conversion and thus violate the tacit ethnic boundaries that were generally respected in the integrated shtetl. See Rosa Lehmann, Symbiosis and Ambivalence: Poles and Jews in a Small Galician Town (New York, 2001), 128–29. 37. Ginzburg, Meshumodim in tsarishn rusland; Shmuel Leib Zitron, Avek fun folk: Tipn un silueten funm noyenten ovor, 4 vols. (Warsaw, 1920); Azriel Frenk, Meshumodim in Poyln in 19-ten yohr-hundert (Warsaw, 1923). 38. Shulamit S. Magnus, “Good Bad Jews: Converts, Conversion, and Boundary Redrawing in Modern Russian Jewry, Notes Toward a New Category,” in Boundaries of Jewish Identity, ed. Susan A. Glenn and Naomi B. Sokoloff (Seattle, 2010), 115–40. 39. On the evolutionary assimilation paradigm of “drift and defection,” see Todd M. Endelman, “German Jews in Victorian England: A Study in Drift and Defection,” in Assimilation and Community: The Jews in Nineteenth-Century Europe, ed. Jonathan Frankel and Steven Zipperstein (Cambridge, England, 1992), 57–87. 40. Isaac Remba, Banim Akhlu Boser [The sons have eaten sour grapes] (Tel Aviv, 1973), 82–90. 41. Ibid., 124–62. 42. P—ii, “Iz Bresta Litovskogo,” Pravoslavnoe obozrenie 5 (May 1866): 9–16. For earlier examples of the practice of Jews attempting to abduct prospective converts, see Paweł Maciejko, The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755–1816 (Philadelphia, 2011), 133–36. For a discussion of the many narratives of violence surrounding conversions from Judaism in imperial Russia and their discursive functioning in confessional and imperialist politics, see Schainker, Confessions of the Shtetl, chap. 5. 43. Viktor Il’iashevich, “Iz Umanskago uezda,” Kievskaia Eparkhial’nyia Vedomosti 6 (March 30, 1882). 44. Zari, “Evrei v tserkovno-prikhodskikh shkolakh,” Kievskaia Eparkhial’nyia Vedomosti 1 (January 15, 1882). 45. I. K. Antoshevskii, Evrei Khristiane: Istoriko-genealogicheskiia zametki (Saint Petersburg, 1907), 5. 46. Untitled, Nedel’naia Khronika Voskhoda 46 (1882). For the original report of the Saint Vladimir Brotherhood, see “Iz otcheta Kievskago Sviato-Vladimirskago Bratstva,” Kievskaia Eparkhial’nyia Vedomosti 44 (November 4, 1881). 47. Shmuel Werses, “Hakitsah Ami”: Sifrut ha-Haskalah ba-idan ha-Modernizatsiyah (Jerusalem, 2000), 339–40.


Notes to Pages 244–250

48. “Povestvovanie Marii Leshchinskoi o svoei zhizni i ob obrashchenii iz Iudeistva v Khristianstvo,” Kievskaia eparkhial’nyia vedomosti 25 (June 20, 1879), 6–11. 49. “Fanatizm Evreev,” Volynskiia eparkhial’nyia vedomosti 30 (1886). 50. “Ubiistvo evreiami khristianki,” Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti 103 (1885). 51. “Ubiistvo evreiami khristianki,” Sankt-Peterburgskie vedomosti 107 (1885). 52. “Po liutsinskomu delu,” Nedel’naia khronika voskhoda 23 (1885). 53. Jewish violence was also reported in reaction to conversions that did not entail intermarriage. See, for example, “Sudebnaia khronika: Ubiistvo evreiskago malchika, priniavshago pravoslavie iz religioznago fanatizma,” Kievlianin 215, 221 (1881). 54. “Iz Berdicheva,” Kievskie eparkhial’nie vedomosti 50 (1879), cited in Mikhail Agursky, “Conversions of Jews to Christianity in Russia,” Soviet Jewish Affairs 20.2–3 (1990): 75. 55. “A Martyr’s Death,” Strannik 2 (1876), cited in Agursky, “Conversions of Jews,” 75. 56. “Delo po obvineniiu evreia . . . Shmulia-Abama Prizenta v podstrekatelstve k ubiistvu svoei docheri, priniavshei sv. kreshchenie i vyshedshei zamuzh za khristianina,” Kievlianin 283 (1885); “Sudebnaia gazeta,” Nedel’naia khronika voskhoda 1 (1886). 57. “Na zakonnom osnovanii,” Kievlianin 286 (1884). 58. For archival evidence of male conversion for intermarriage, see, for example, Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi istoricheskii arkhiv, fond 821, opis’ 8, delo 185, listy 64–65ob (1902), regarding Jewish males who converted to Catholicism with the intention to intermarry. 59. “Sudebnaia khronika: Zhertva evreiskago fanatizma,” Kievlianin 6 (1889). 60. The Razsvet article is quoted in Zemshchina, July 24, 1912, as cited in Eugene M. Avrutin, “A Legible People: Identification Politics and Jewish Accommodation in Tsarist Russia” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2004), 203–4. 61. Paula Hyman, Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History: The Roles and Representations of Women (Seattle, 1995); Marion A. Kaplan, The Making of the Jewish Middle Class: Women, Family, and Identity in Imperial Germany (New York, 1991). 62. Rachel Manekin, “The Lost Generation: Education and Female Conversion in Finde-Siècle Kraków,” Polin 18 (2005): 189–220. Over three hundred Jewish women, mostly unmarried and under the age of twenty from outside the city, converted to Catholicism in Kraków between 1887 and 1902. One particular convent in Kraków, the Felician convent, was known to shelter Jewish women who ran away from home and offer instruction in the Catholic religion. The convent was called in the Jewish press a shmad fabrik (apostasy factory). The convent’s reputation even reached Jewish women in Russian Poland, from where 18 percent of the convent’s converts originated (ibid., 202–3).

CHAPTER 12 I would like to express my profound gratitude to my colleagues Yosi Israeli, Ayala Eliyahu, Paola Tartakoff, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Stephen Belsky for their advice and assistance in the production of this article. 1. Menachem Finkelstein, Conversion: Halakhah and Practice (Ramat Gan, Israel, 2006); Avi Sagi and Zvi Zohar, Transforming Identity: The Ritual Transition from Gentile to Jew— Structure and Meaning (London, 2007); David Ellenson and Daniel Gordis, Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa (Stanford, Calif., 2012).

Notes to Pages 251–259


2. For a detailed review of a substantial number of the cases, see Netanel Fisher, “Conversion and the State” [in Hebrew] (PhD diss., Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2011). 3. Sagi and Zohar, Transforming Identity; Ellenson and Gordis, Pledges of Jewish Allegiance. 4. His ideas were presented in his writings at the establishment of the chief rabbinate. See Itamar Warhaftig and Shmuel Katz, Ha-Rabanut Ha-Rashit Le-Yisraʾel: Shivim Shanah Le-Yisudah (Jerusalem, 2002), 19–22. 5. Asher Cohen, Ha-Ṭalit Veha-Degel (Jerusalem, 1998). 6. Religious Community (Change) Ordinance (1927). 7. Menachem Friedman, “The Chief Rabbinate: Dilemma Without Solution” [in Hebrew], Medina U-Memshal 3 (1972): 118–22. 8. Netanel Fisher, “A Jewish State? Controversial Conversions and the Dispute over Israel’s Jewish Character,” Contemporary Jewry 33 (2013): 217–40. 9. Ya’akov Moshe Toledano, excerpt from a speech given at the Second Rabbis’ Conference, Jerusalem, October  4–5, 1953, ISA [Israel State Archives]/GL/5/8581, p.  67. Unless other wise stated, all translations are my own. 10. Ibid. 11. Reuven Katz, Sha’ar Reuven (Jerusalem: Eretz Israel Books, 1953), 56. 12. Asher Cohen, Yehudim Lo-Yehudim (Ramat Gan, Israel, 2006). 13. Issar Yehuda Unterman, excerpt from speech given at the Second Rabbis’ Conference, October 4–5, 1953, ISA/GL/5/8581, p. 10. 14. Benayahu Bruner, “Rabbi Herzog’s Attitude Towards Conversion” [in Hebrew], in Masu’a Le-Yitshak, ed. Shulamit Eliash et al. (Jerusalem, 2009), 376–86. 15. Proceedings of the Chief Rabbinate, December 10, 1951, ISA/GL/17/15794. 16. Takanot Ha-Diyun, 1943, in Paltiel Daykan, Dinei Nisuin Ve-Gerushim (Tel Aviv, 1956), 370. 17. Chief Rabbinate of Israel, Takanot Ha-Diyun (Jerusalem, 1960), ISA/GL/19/449. These regulations already existed in 1954. However, as far as I know, they were not publicized. See the minister of religious affairs’ letter to Israel’s president Ben Zvi, June 8, 1957, ISA/PRES/16/60. 18. Knesset proceedings, query to the minister of religious affairs regarding conversion requests in cases of intermarriage, December 16, 1968, no page. 19. Knesset proceedings, query to the minister of religious affairs regarding conversion, March 9, 1970. 20. Aharon Bachar, “Kashe Lihyot Yehudi,” Yediot Aharonot, February 20, 1970. 21. See, for example, Miriam Peleg, “Ha-Derech La-Osher,” Ma’ariv, October 20, 1960; and Amos Carmeli, “Im Mi Yisha’er Ha-Yeled,” Davar, February 15, 1962. At the end of the 1960s, when these issues arose again, most of the rabbinate’s rabbis denied that there was any problem in their system in regard to matters of conversion. Proceedings of the Chief Rabbinate, December 2, 1968, ISA/GL/3/43551. 22. K. Shabtay, “Tehiyat Ha-Metim shel Mi-hu Yehudi,” Davar, November 24, 1961. 23. Yitzhak Ben Zvi to the deputy of religious affairs, July 10, 1957, ISA/PERS/16/60. 24. See, for example, the suggestion made by Rabbis Yisraeli and Meshorer at the Second Rabbis’ Conference, October 4–5, 1953, ISA/GL/5/8581, p. 47. 25. Rot Bondi, “Teshuka U-Shmah Yahadut,” Davar, July 10, 1959. 26. During my research I found several letters ending with this quotation. Because of issues of confidentiality, I cannot reveal the source of these letters.


Notes to Pages 260–270

27. Proceedings of the Internal Affairs Committee of the Knesset, November 16, 1976, Israel State Archive (ISA)/MP/11/5678. This lenient approach is not described in other conversion responsa by Rabbi Yosef, as analyzed by Ellenson and Gordis, Pledges of Jewish Allegiance, 133–36. However, this is a good example of the contradiction that could be found between public policy statements and reality on the ground. 28. “Introduction to the History of Conversion in the IDF” [in Hebrew], in Safra veSaifa—Jubilee Book in Honor of Rabbi M. Piron, ed. Z. Tal, A. HaCohen, and H. Mack (Jerusalem, 2013), 413–53. 29. Yehuda Dominitz, “Mi-Vea’yot Ha-Aliya Be-Tashaz,” Dapei Aliyah 32 (1958): 36. 30. Rabbi Dov Cohen to the religious affairs minister and the chief rabbis, November 25, 1964, ISA/GL/6/12267. 31. Fisher, “Jewish State?” 32. Shlomo Nakdimon, “Derushim Rabanim,” Yediot Aharonot, March 23, 1971. 33. “Golda Za’ama,” Yediot Aharonot, March 7, 1972. 34. Chief Rabbinate, press notice, January 27, 1970, ISA/GL/15/43550. 35. Isser Yehuda Unterman, “Hilkhot Gerut Ve-Dereh Bitsu’an,” Torah SheBe-Al Pe 13 (1971): 13–20. Interestingly, in his essay he referred to his shift in conversion policy but only mentioned it in regard to his period as a rabbi in England, not in regard to the conservative conversion policy of his first decades in Israel. 36. Proceedings of the Chief Rabbinate, January 6, 1970, ISA/GL/15/43550. 37. Proceedings of the Chief Rabbinate, December 2, 1968, ISA/GL/3/43551. 38. Unterman, “Hilkhot Gerut Ve-Dereh Bitsu’an,” 19. This is based on a halakhic approach according to which the primary significance of acceptance of the Torah’s commandments is the belief in God and not in other gods, repeated by Rabbi Unterman in other places and clarified in the context of his statements in the 1950s in which he claimed that non-Jewish mothers should not be converted because they raise their children with Christian beliefs. 39. Proceedings of the Internal Affairs Committee of the Knesset, November 16, 1976. 40. Proceedings of the Internal Affairs Committee of the Knesset, October 29, 1976, Israel State Archive (ISA)/MP/11/5678, 151. 41. Shlomo Goren, “Kefirah Be-Am Yisra’el Le-Inyanei Giyur,” Shana Be-Shana 5 (1983): 149–56. For further discussion of Rabbi Goren’s conversion doctrine, see Fisher, “Jewish State?” 42. Shlomo Goren to M. K. Haika Grossman, June 10, 1978, Rabbi Goren Archive, Tel Aviv File 3. 43. Meeting about conversion in the Kibbutzim, February 21, 1980, Ha-Shomer HaTsa’ir Archive, Giv’at Haviva, 13.41(20). 44. Sha’aruriyat Ha-Giyurim Ha-Mezuyafim (Jerusalem, 1989). 45. Yossi Klein Halevi, “The Hard Road to Judaism,” Jerusalem Post, May 20, 1993. 46. Untitled report, Rabbi Goren Archive, File 7, 1983. 47. Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Isurei Bi’ah, chap. 13. 48. Shachar Ilan, “Rabbi Bakshi-Doron: Only 1,115 People Requested Conversion in the Last Year and a Half,” Haaretz, September 7, 1995. 49. Shachar Ilan, “Interview with Rabbi Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron,” Ha’aretz, May 3, 1995. 50. Eliyahu Bakshi-Doron, Binyan Av 4 (Jerusalem, 2002), chap. 58. 51. Ilan, “Rabbi Bakshi-Doron.” 52. State of Israel, Supreme Rabbinic Court, Docket No. 5489-64-1, February 10, 2008.

Notes to Pages 270–272


53. Netanel Fisher, The Challenge of Conversion to Judaism in Israel [in Hebrew] (Jerusalem, 2015). 54. On the topic of Religious Zionist halakhah, see Aviad HaCohen, “ReligiousZionist Halakhah—Is It a Reality or Was It a Dream?,” in Religious Zionism Post Disengagement: Future Directions, ed. C. I. Waxman (New York, 2008), 315–69.


Michela Andreatta is Assistant Professor of Hebrew Language and Literature in the Department of Religion and Classics at the University of Rochester. Her publications include Gersonide: Commento al Cantico dei Cantici nella traduzione ebraico-latina di Flavio Mitridate: Edizione e commento del ms. Vat. Lat. 4273 (cc. 5r–54r) (2009), a critical edition of Flavius Mithridates’ Latin translation of Gersonides’ Hebrew commentary to the Song of Songs, and Mošèh Zacuto: “L’inferno allestito”: Poema di un rabbino del Seicento sull’oltretomba dei malvagi (2016), an edition of Moses Zacuto’s Hebrew poem Toftèh ‘arùkh with a parallel Italian translation, an introductory essay, and historical notes. Javier Castaño is Senior Research Fellow in Jewish History at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC), Madrid. His recent publications include “The Orphans’ Portion and the Jews of Miranda do Douro in 1490,” in Portuguese Jews, New Christians, and “New Jews”: A Tribute to Roberto Bachmann, ed. Claude B. Stuczynski and Bruno Feitler (2018), 102–20. He is the editor, with Talya Fishman and Ephraim Kanarfogel, of Regional Identities and Cultures of Medieval Jews (2018). Theodor Dunkelgrün is Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities and Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of History, University of Cambridge. His publications include “The Humanist Discovery of Hebrew Epistolography,” in Jewish Books and Their Readers: Aspects of the Intellectual Life of Christians and Jews in Early Modern Europe, ed. Scott Mandelbrote and Joanna Weinberg, (2016), 211–59, and “The Christian Study of Judaism in Early Modern Eu rope,” in The Cambridge History of Judaism, ed. Jonathan Karp and Adam Sutcliffe, vol. 7 (2017), 316–48.



Netanel Fisher is Senior Lecturer at the Academic Center for Law and Science, Hod Ha-Sharon. He is the author of The Challenge of Conversion to Judaism in Israel (2015) and the editor, with Tudor Parfitt, of Becoming Jewish: New Jews and Emerging Jewish Communities in a Globalized World (2016). Sarah Gracombe is Professor of English and Director of the IDEAS Program at Stonehill College. Her publications include “Picturing Jewish Returns in Victorian Culture,” in “Jews in Britain—Medieval to Modern,” special issue, ed. Kathryn Lavezzo, Philological Quarterly 92.1 (2013): 67–88, and “Du Maurier and the ‘Oriental Israelite Hebrew Jew[s],’ ” in George du Maurier: Illustrator, Critic, Author, ed. Simon Cooke and Paul Goldman (2016), 209–27. Elliott Horowitz (1953–2017) was editor of the Jewish Quarterly Review (2004–17), taught medieval and early modern Jewish history at Bar Ilan University (1989–2014), and was the Oliver Smithies Visiting Fellow at Balliol College, Oxford (2015–16). His publications include Reckless Rites: Purim and the Legacy of Jewish Violence (2006) and “Look to the Rock from Which You Were Hewn”: Hebraica and Judaica at Balliol College (2016). Andrew S. Jacobs is an independent scholar. He is the author of Remains of the Jews: The Holy Land and Christian Empire in Late Antiquity (2004), Christ Circumcised: A Study in Early Christian History and Difference (2012), and Epiphanius of Cyprus: A Cultural Biography of Late Antiquity (2016), which won the Philip Schaff Prize from the American Society of Church History. Sara Japhet is Yehezkel Kaufmann Professor Emeritus of Biblical Studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, former President of the World Union of Jewish Studies, and an Israel Prize laureate. Her many books include The Ideology of the Book of Chronicles and Its Place in Biblical Thought (1977, 1995 [in Hebrew]; 1989, 1997, 2009), I and II Chronicles: A Commentary (1993; also in German, 2002), and From the Rivers of Babylon to the Highlands of Judah: Collected Studies on the Restoration Period (2006). Ephraim Kanarfogel is the E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and Law at Yeshiva University’s Bernard Revel Graduate School of Jewish Studies. His many books include The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz (2012) and Brothers from Afar: Rabbinic Approaches Toward Apostasy and Reversion in Medieval Europe (forthcoming).



Paweł Maciejko is Associate Professor of History and Leonard and Helen R. Stulman Chair in Classical Jewish Religion, Thought, and Culture at Johns Hopkins University. His book, The Mixed Multitude: Jacob Frank and the Frankist Movement, 1755–1816 (2011), was awarded the Salo Baron Prize by the American Academy of Jewish Research and the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award by the Association of Jewish Studies. He also published a critical edition of Rabbi Jonathan Eibeschütz’s kabbalistic tract Va-Avo ha-Yom el haAyyin. His most recent publication is Sabbatian Heresy: Writings on Mysticism, Messianism, and the Origins of Jewish Modernity (2017). Anne Oravetz Albert is the Klatt Family Director for Public Programs at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania. Her publications include “The Rabbi and the Rebels: A Pamphlet on the ‘Ḥerem’ by Rabbi Isaac Aboab da Fonseca,” Jewish Quarterly Review 104.2 (2014): 171–91, and “ ‘A Civil Death’: Sovereignty and the Jewish Republic in an Early Modern Treatment of Genesis 49:10,” in Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe: Essays in Honor of David B. Ruderman, ed. Richard I. Cohen et al. (2014), 63–72. Ellie Schainker is the Arthur Blank Family Foundation Associate Professor of Modern European Jewish History at Emory University. Her first book, Confessions of the Shtetl: Converts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817–1906 (2016), won the 2017 National Jewish Book Award for Writing Based on Archival Material (the JDC–Herbert Katzki Award). Claude B. Stuczynski is Associate Professor in the Department of General History at Bar-Ilan University and board member of the Center for the Study of Conversions and Interreligious Encounters at Ben-Gurion University. His publications include “From Polemics and Apologetics to Theology and Politics: Alonso de Cartagena and the Conversos Within the ‘Mystical Body,’ ” in Conflict and Religious Conversation in Latin Christendom: Studies in Honour of Ora Limor, ed. Ben Shalom and Yuval (2014), 253–77. Paola Tartakoff is Associate Professor in the Departments of History and Jewish Studies at Rutgers University. Her publications include Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250–1391 (2012).


Abraham, 208 (Abram) Abraham son of Abraham our Father (rabbi), 59 Abramovich, Me’ir (son of Mendele Mokher Sforim), 242 Abramovich, Sholem Yankev. See Mendele Mokher Sforim Abramowicz, Hirsz, 239 Accetto, Torquato, 170 Acts of the Apostles, 5, 112 Adler, Marcus (Mordecai), 225 Ahad Ha-am, 236 Alcalá de Henares, 93 Aleichem, Sholem, 240, 245; Tevye the Dairyman, 240–41 Alexander II (tsar), 234 Alexander III (pope), 79 Alfonsi, Petrus, 75, 76 Alfonso X of Castile, 80 Alfred the Great, 194 Altona, 226, 227 Álvaro de Montalbán, 103 Amar, Shlomo (rabbi), 270 Ambrosiaster, 15, 43, 53–57; Liber quaestionum, 54 America, 193, 231, 247 Amiens, 80 Amsterdam, 19, 134–37, 139, 144, 145, 153, 155, 217, 218, 226, 227, 230 Andalusia, 6, 107, 134 Anderson, Benedict, 185, 197 Anderson, James, 222–23 Andrés de Sevilla, 107 Anduze, 78 Angelo. See David, son of Samuel ben David Nahmias (Giulio Morosini) Anglicization, 197–98, 199, 204, 206 Annals of Egmond, 78–79

An-sky, S. (Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport), 237 Antichrist, 112, 131 Antioch, 117 Aragon, 77, 79, 80, 85 Aram, 29, 31 Arax, Abrahaan, 106 Asch, Sholem, 241, 245 Assyria, 29 Augustine, 55, 113, 115, 121, 142, 144, 171, 182 Avignon, 5, 78, 84 Babylon, 145 Báez, Juan, 95 Bakshi-Doron, Eliyahu (Sephardic chief rabbi of Israel), 268–69 Balaam, 146 Baltic, 222 Bandarra, Gonçalo Anes, 131, 132 Barcelona, 78, 84 Barnabas, 218 Bartal, Israel, 240 Basel, Council of, 77 Bataillon, Marcel, 126–27 Bathsheba, 123 Baur, Ferdinand Christian, 52 Beatriz (infanta of Portugal), 95–96 Becker, Ferdinand Wilhelm, 210, 211, 228, 338n14 Beirut, 51 ben David, Avraham (Rabad), 75 Benjamin, Walter, 112 Ben-Zvi, Yitzhak (president of Israel), 259 Berenguer de Cruïlles of Gerona (bishop), 81, 85 Berenguer d’Erill (bishop of Barcelona), 84 Berlin, 212, 215, 225, 226



Bertran de Montrodon (bishop of Gerona), 86, 87 Bethel, 29 BFBS. See British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) Bhabha, Homi, 199 Bialik, Hayim Nahman, 240, 245; Behind the Fence, 240 Bible, 193, 194, 207. See also Hebrew Bible; New Testament; and names of individual books of the Bible Bible Society. See British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS) Bodian, Miriam, 137–38 Boer War, 197, 337n69 Borisov (Barysaw), 212 Bourges, 80 Brenner, Yosef Hayim, 234, 249 Brenner Affair, 234 Brest-Litovsk, 243 Bristow, Amelia, 188, 334 British and Foreign Bible Society (BFBS), 210–12, 215–16, 238n11 British Empire, 21, 221, 232 British Society for the Propagation of the Gospel Among Jews, 185 Brody, 228 Brussels, 135 Buchenwald, 8 Burgess, Thomas (bishop of Salisbury), 209 Burkitt, Francis Crawford, 52 Caesarius of Heisterbach, 82 Cairo, 100 Cambridge, University of, 209, 229; Peterhouse, 229; St. John’s College, 209 Campbell, Yisrael, 182 Canaan, land of, 49 Cardoso, Isaac, 146 Ca ribbean, 199 Casriel, Elias (Elijah) (rabbi), 224 Castile, 17, 76, 80, 89, 98, 100, 105 Catalonia, 76, 78, 86, 106, 302n66 Cave, William, 48, 284; Scriptorum ecclesiasticorum historia litteraria, 48 Chadwick, Henry, 54 Charles VI (king of France), 78, 80 Chortkov, 239 Christiani, Pablo, 76

Chronicles, book of, 37, 39–40, 279, 280nn43–44 Chrysostom, John, 45, 46, 55, 127 Chwolson, Daniel, 23, 235, 236 Çima (daughter of Rabi Symuel Napolitano), 109 Circumcise Me (film), 182 Coffe, Salamó, 82 Cohen, Asher, 256 Cohen, Gerson, 139 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 227 Collins, Wilkie, 192, 193; The Moonstone, 192–93 Cologne, 59, 76–79, 84, 87, 292n14, 300n36 Colossians, Epistle to the, 114, 122, 123, 126, 308n39 Confessions (Augustine), 113, 144, 171, 182 Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, 163 Constance, 78 Constantia, 43 Constantinople, 46, 51 Conversion or Return?, 141 Corinthians, First Epistle to, 112, 116, 120, 122, 123, 126, 127 Corinthians, Second Epistle to, 115, 118, 122 Cota, Rodrigo, 102 Cox, Robert, 209, 220, 222, 223, 225, 226 Cressy, Battle of, 194 Croce, Benedetto, 10 Crucifixion, 114, 124, 132 Cuenca, 106, 118, 312 Cusack, Carole, 154 Cyprus, 43, 46 d’Aguilar, Moses Raphael, 145, 320n33, 320n36 da Imola, Benvenuto, 99 Damascus, 112, 113 Daniel, book of, 131, 172–73, 224 Dante, 99; Inferno, 99 Darwin, Charles, 189 David, King, 28–29, 39, 111, 147, 219, 239, 267 David, son of Samuel ben Da