The fourth annual Early Modern Workshop in Jewish History, entitled “Jewish Consumption and Material Culture in the Early Modern Period,” took place at the University of Maryland at College Park in August, 2007.

The topic of material culture inJewish historiography has been explored predominantly in the context of ancient Jewish history. In contrast to early modern European history, or early American history, both of which have explored material culture and consumption, the study of Jewish history has been predominantly based on texts. Scholars of early modern Jewish history have tended to see the minhagim (customs) and responsa literatures as a particularly valuable source of information about daily life, but have tended to focus on specific data rather than to explore the significance of Jewish material culture. Similarly, few studies based on other types of sources such as memoirs (see the recently published edition of Gluckel of Hameln's memoir by Chava Turniansky), travel accounts, and the "ethnographic" descriptions of non-Jewish observers such as the Buxtorfs (father and son) and converts from Judaism such as Samuel Nahmias (Giulio Morosini, Via della Fede) reflected on questions related to material existence of early modern Jews. It is only recently that questions of the transformation of Jewish culture through consumption and material culture have been raised by scholars such as Elliott Horowitz, Zeev Gris, Shifra Baruchson, Shalom Sabar, or in art history Vivian Mann and Richard Cohen. The 2007 workshop intended to open up a new venue for inquiry and, in the process, foster links between historians and museums and their curators.

Speakers discussed the representation of Jews and their way of life in art and the use of various types of images and objects by scholars trying to learn about Jewish rituals, customs, and culture: images from Christian sources (Shalom Sabar), beakers (Vivian Mann), cloth and textiles used to make parokhet (Rachel Greenblatt). Can symbols used in synagogues and books tell us much about the values of the Jewish community? What role did ideology play in public representations of the Jewish community (Limor Mintz-Manor)?  Scholars discussed the usefulness and pitfalls of using inventory records, focusing on what is behind the significance ascribed by historians to material objects (Flora Cassen, Benjamin Ravid/Bernard Cooperman, Miriam Bodian). Can descriptions of rituals and processions in Christian cities tell us anything about material culture and clothing of the Jews (Nadia Zeldes)? Finally, what about the underclass? What can crime records tell us about the relationship to material possessions of the poorer strata of society (Magda Teter)?

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2007
Sunday, August 19th
4:00 PM

Jewish Consumption and Material Culture in the Early Modern Period

EMW 2007

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

4:00 PM - 4:00 PM

5:00 PM

Keynote Address: Possessions: The Material Culture of Early Modern Italy

Paula Findlen, Stanford University

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

5:00 PM

Monday, August 20th
9:00 AM

The Image of the Jewish Wedding in the Works of Eighteenth Century German Hebraists

Shalom Sabar, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

9:00 AM

10:00 AM

The Phoenix, the Exodus and the Temple

Limor Mintz-Manor, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

10:00 AM

11:00 AM

Jewish Display Silver After the Age of Exploration

Vivian Mann, Jewish Theological Seminary

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

11:00 AM

12:00 PM

The Zaks Parokhet from Prague (1602): Sacred Object, Local Liturgy, and Familial Memory

Rachel Greenblatt, Harvard University

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

12:00 PM

2:00 PM

The Possessions of Two Italian Jews at the end of the 16th Century

Flora Cassen, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

2:00 PM

3:00 PM

An Inventory of an Inquisitorial Prisoner's Possessions

Miriam Bodian, University of Texas at Austin

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

3:00 PM

The Estates of a Jewish Merchant and of a Rabbi in Seventeenth Century Venice

Bernard D. Cooperman, University of Maryland - College Park
Benjamin Ravid, Brandeis University

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

3:00 PM

Tuesday, August 21st
9:00 AM

Symbolic Clothes Marginality and otherness of Jews and New Christians as Reflected by Their Dress in Two Christian texts

Nadia Zeldes, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

9:00 AM

10:00 AM

Material Possessions and Religious Boundaries in Early Modern Poland

Magda Teter, Wesleyan University

University of Maryland, College Park, MD

10:00 AM