The Diaspora, or Exile, refers to Jewish communities living outside the land of Israel. Although there is a temptation to think only of the religious aspects of these exiled communities, the editor of this new reference work points out that what survived the Diaspora was "a civilization, embracing a common history, language, literature, laws and communal structure." This encyclopedia, the latest volume in the Routledge (formerly Garland) Encyclopedias of the Middle Ages series, addresses the interaction of Jewish civilization in the medieval period with the Christian and Muslim worlds.
More than 150 entries are alphabetically arranged and written by a scholarly team of international contributors. Coverage includes important Jews from the period, such as the philosopher Maimonides and the Talmudic commentator Rashi. Non-Jews include political figures whose policies toward Jews were favorable (e.g., Frederick II) or unfavorable (e.g., Philip IV), along with Christian thinkers such as Thomas Aquinas and Bernard of Clairvaux, the entries for which detail their views on Jewry. Spain's importance for medieval Jewry is well known, but entries from England to Egypt and for cities such as Frankfurt and Fustat provide a more complete geographic picture. The discussion of the Hebrew language shows how medieval Jews saved it from oblivion. Other entries describe Jewish poetry and literature in Hebrew and other languages as well as the importance of medieval Jews as translators of biblical, literary, and scientific texts. Contributions to Medicine and Science and mathematics are chronicled, as are Jewish art and music. Also here are treatments of Jewish philosophy and the branch of mysticism called Qabbalah. That daily life of Jews is described in entries such as Clothing, Marriage, and Women.
Medieval Jewish Civilization is a unique addition to reference shelves, providing a focus on the medieval period and contemporary scholarly positions not found in a standard reference work such as Encyclopedia Judaica (Macmillan, 1972). Its coverage of the many aspects of Jewish civilization, from art to science, will make it useful to a diverse audience. Recommended for academic libraries. RBB
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A unique addition to reference shelves, providing a focus on the Medieval period and contemporary scholarly positions not found in a standard reference work... Useful to a diverse audience. Recommended for academic libraries.
Booklist/RBB, April 15, 2003
Entries offer a sensible arrangement and a broad scope. One of the books greatest assets is its thematic list of entries, which classes entries in context... The glossary and index at the end are also useful... Recommended. University libraries.
Choice, April 2003
Informed lay readers and college students will find it especially helpful, as the articles are clear, easy to read, and well summarized... Highly recommended for libraries with larger history or Judaic collections.