Jewish Craftspeople in Medieval Germany
Scholarship on the economic history of the Jews in medieval Germany focuses almost exclusively on moneylending. This Jewish occupation generated a great mass of textual sources and is, therefore, most frequently explored. An economic, social, and legal history of Jewish professional involvement in crafts, however, has yet to be written. Jewish artisans such as goldsmiths, glaziers, or woodcarvers, among numerous other professions, such as messengers, launderers, or water carriers, frequently appear in our sources but are seldom accounted for by scholars. In my talk I aimed to modify this paradigm of historiography by providing a new and broad discussion of Jewish professional occupation that will restructure our understanding of the medieval German-Jewish society and economy. My talk offered a different view of medieval Jewish life in German lands through a more versatile lens. By focusing on different Jewish artisans and otherwise unknown men and women, I revealed more variety in the ways everyday Jews and Christians worked together and distinguished themselves in medieval Germany. I have structured my arguments and overview according to three fields of Jewish professions in crafts, 1) ritualistic crafts (e.g., butchers), 2) Jewish craftspeople in relation to Christian craft guilds, and 3) Jewish specialists in innovative crafts (e.g., mechanics). This structures also provided a chronological study of Jewish craftspeople. In my talk, I therefore tried to enhance our understanding of Jewish integration and distinction in medieval Germany and lay the groundwork for further in-depth analyses of economic and social structures between Jews and Christians in medieval urban settings.