Judaica Online Exhibitions

Taking Turns:
New Perspectives on Jews & Conversion

An Online Exhibition from the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies 2010-2011 Fellows at the University of Pennsylvania
David Satran
"Ecclesia ex circumcisione" and "Ecclesia ex gentibus"

At the heart of the "crisis of identity" of emergent Christianity lies the question of the relationship of the new faith with the Jewish community from which it emerges. While the earliest followers of Jesus were Jews in terms of ethnic descent and ritual practice, the survival of the early Church (and the fortunes of Christianity in the Roman world ) ultimately depended on the rapidly growing number of converts from "the nations" gentiles or pagans, in Christian discourse. Eloquent witness to this tension can be found already in the letters of the apostle Paul and its reverberations in subsequent theology and exegesis.

Visual testimony to this seminal ideal of a dual source of new believers may be offered by a very intriguing pair of female figures in the Church of Santa Sabina all'Aventino in Rome. Over the cypress doors of the church, there is a dedicatory mosaic (recording the building of the church by Peter the Illyrian in the early fifth-century C.E.) which is flanked by two women who bear the titular subscriptions ecclesia ex circumcisione ("The Church from the Circumcision") and ecclesia ex gentibus, ("The Church from the Nations"). Though some scholars have suggested that these figures are the Old and New Testaments, it seems far more likely that they are intended to represent the two sources of the Church: Christians of Jewish origins and the Christians who were converts from pagan backgrounds. What these striking female figures most definitely should not be confused with is the later medieval representation of the antinomy between Church and Synagogue.

Ayala Eliyahu
Maimonides, Dalalat al-Ha'irin, "The Guide of the Perplexed"

This manuscript from the CAJS collection was found in the Cairo Genizah, a unique collection of manuscripts found in Fustat (old Cairo) in the second half of the 19th century. These manuscripts, mostly written in Judaeo-Arabic (Arabic in Hebrew letters with many Hebrew expressions), come essentially from the 9th to the 13th century. They belong to various literary genres, thus revealing unknown aspects of the daily life and literary creation of the Jewish communities represented in the Genizah.

Fustat was the home of the author of this manuscript, one of the leading figures of Judaism - Moses Maimonides (Cordoba 1138 - Fustat 1204). His Dalalat al-Ha'irin, "The Guide of the Perplexed," is one of the most important books of medieval Jewish philosophy. Written in Judaeo-Arabic, it aims to present a philosophical interpretation of Judaism to the intellectual Jewish reader.

Despite Maimonides' central place in Jewish thought and Halacha, some historical sources have reported that he had been forced to convert to Islam in his youth, when living under the rule of the Almohads, who ruled Spain and North-Africa. After living openly as a Muslim and secretly as a Jew for several years, Maimonides left the Almohad lands, visited Erez Israel and finally settled in Fustat.

The case of Maimonides, if he indeed converted, was not isolated: many Jews converted to Islam in the Islamic lands. Some of them were forced to convert, others converted out of belief in Islam, and others probably found it more comfortable to be Muslims. The philosopher and physician Abu'l Barakat al-Baghdadi, an older contemporary of Maimonides (d. 1164-5), was one of these converts. The historical sources give contradictory reports of his conversion, which was probably motivated by convenience reasons. Like Maimonides, Abu'l Barakat does not refer to his conversion in his writings. However, further research of the relationship between his philosophical book (Al-Kitab Al-Mu'tabar) and his commentary to Kohelet might shed some light on his attitude towards philosophy and religion, and perhaps give a clue for understanding his conversion.

Ephraim Kanarfogel
R. Eleazar ben Judah of Worms and his Regimens of Reconversion

Rabbi Eleazar ben Judah of Worms (d. c. 1230), a leading figure among the German Pietists (Haside Ashkenaz), authored a series of treatises that prescribed exceedingly strict physical regimens (tiqqunei teshuvah) in order to atone for various sins. In a treatise entitled Moreh Hattaʾim/Sefer Kapparot, which was reproduced in the parallel early fourteenth-century Provencal compendia, Sefer Orhot Hayyim le-Aharon ha-Kohen mi-Lunel and in the anonymous Sefer Kol Bo (extant in some fifteen manuscripts), Eleazar presented a penitential regimen for a Jew who had converted to Christianity and now wished to return to the Jewish community.

In order not to dissuade this reverting Jew, Eleazar is relatively mild in the physical discomforts and afflictions that he recommends. Crucial to this regimen, however, are two highly symbolic and suggestive acts: the reverting Jew must restrain himself from entering a church and even from talking to priests and clergymen at the entrance way, and he must immerse himself in a ritual bath. These actions were intended by Eleazar to serve as a kind of "unbaptism," and to sever substantive ties with the Christian community, as an essential part of the process of expiation and re-acceptance into the Jewish community.

Claude Stuczynski
A Converso Theologian: Alonso de Cartagena

Contemporary scholarship has endorsed with increasing frequency the claim that sincere and fervent converts from Judaism to Christianity on the Iberian Peninsula developed a distinctive Converso theology. By this account, Converso theology, even as it completely accorded with Catholic faith and ritual, also emphasized the positive and central role played by Jews and Christians of Jewish descent in the history of Mankind's Salvation, as represented by figures like the Virgin Mary, Jesus Christ and St. Paul. Converso theologians have been recognized for diminishing the responsibility of the Jews in the crucifixion, claiming that Romans were also to be blamed. Moreover, the crucifixion was described as part of God's plan to redeem humanity, a reading based on St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, chapter 11.

Alonso de Cartagena (1384-1456), the distinguished Bishop, diplomat, historian, courtier and precursor of Spanish humanism, was one of the major figures among these Converso theologians. As the second son of the converted Rabbi Salomon Halevi of Burgos / Pablo de Santa Maria, he was baptized with his father and his brethren at the age of five, and became one of the most illustrious members of the Santa Maria clan that included writers, historians, soldiers, courtiers, theologians and churchmen. Cartagena continued his father's path as Bishop of Burgos and also elaborated on the idea that Santa Maria family were scions of both the tribe of Levi and of the Virgin Mary. His Converso theology was mainly expressed in his Defensorium unitatis christianae (1449-50): a tract that successfully reacted against anti-Converso measures adopted by 1449's Toledo rebels. Cartagena, elaborated on the Pauline-based theological-political concept of the "Mystical Body" (Corpus Mysticum), claiming that Conversos are to be considered as full members of the Church, and that any attempt to segregate them on an ethnic or racial basis is an un-Christian "pagan heresy." Nonetheless, a close reading of Cartagena's writings shows that he had difficulties reconciling theological views such as St. Paul's ideas on inclusive Christian equality "neither Jew nor Greek" Galatians 3:28) with beliefs in collective common traits (e.g., the mildness of the Jews vs. the courage of the Goths), as well as regarding St. Paul's recognition of Jewish Christ believers as a distinct part of the Christian body (I Corinthians 12:12-14).

Yosi Israeli
Pablo de Santa María and his Scrutinium scripturarum,

Pablo de Santa María (or Shlomo Halevi by his prior name) is regarded as one of the most radical and astonishing examples of Jewish conversion to Christianity in the Middle Ages. The conversion of this celebrated Rabbi from Burgos, who joined the Christian clergy and became the bishop of his own home town, captures in many ways the sudden breakdown and mass conversions of Iberian Jewry that followed the riots of 1391. In the early 1430s, already as a bishop he wrote a twofold dialogue between a Christian and a Jew and between a magister and his recently converted disciple - The Scrutinium scripturarum (Scrutiny of the Scriptures) - in which he presented the theological path that leads from Judaism to Christianity. The Scrutinium provided its readers not only with a scholarly Latin account of the Christian and the Jewish polemical strategies of that crucial time, but also with a bold attempt to use rabbinical literature and Hebrew scholarship as legitimate means for crystallizing Christian truths and with a defense of the spiritual and carnal Israelite origins of Jewish converts to Christianity. Thus, while it was following the guidelines of a catechesis or a missionary handbook, it eventually turned into a best seller mostly because of its contribution to the awaking interest in Hebraic studies in the late 15th century. It was therefore printed during the 1470s in six different editions, including this 1475 Mantua edition by Johannes Schallus. In this sense, the Scrutinium serves as an example to the long-term cultural and intellectual impact that the mass conversions in the Iberian Peninsula and its products had on the Christian world well beyond the Spanish kingdoms.

Javier Castaño
The Invisible Printer: The Hijar Hebrew Bible Incunable and the Changing Attitudes toward Iberian Conversos*

Five out of ten Hebrew incunabula from the Aragonese print shop at Hijar are editions of the Bible printed between 1486 and 1490. They barely provide us with the names of the printer Eliezer Alantansi, its financier, and the proof-reader, all Jews. We search in vain in the colophons for any reference to the wandering printer and type-cutter Alfonso Fernandez de Cordoba, a Castilian silversmith, whose early known footsteps place him in 1476 Valencia, despite the fact that according to some clues he would have been instrumental in the development of the Hijar print shop.

Fernandez de Cordoba's case may not have been exceptional. As is true for the Hebrew humanist printer Juan de Lucena, we must rely on external documentary sources for indirect hints of Fernandez de Cordoba's association with Jews involved in printing activities. However, in sharp contrast with Lucena, we still lack conclusive evidence concerning the fact that Fernandez de Cordoba was a converso. Both may well exemplify the cultural and social predicament of a generation of conversos in a transitional period after the establishment, after 1480, of inquisitional courts that attempted to set clear-cut religious boundaries and taxonomies through the control of the social body and individual consciousness.

Documentary sources frequently associate conversos (though not exclusively) with Bible reading in the vernacular, in connection with new forms of religious devotion, and, thus, from an early date we find several initiatives for the printing of vernacular Bibles by conversos. In 1476, Fernandez de Cordoba associated with a German craftsman for the production of the Biblia Valenciana, a not exceptional case. Two years later, three Aragonese merchants and a notary, all conversos that assiduously socialized with their Jewish relatives, contracted with Pablo Hurus in Saragossa for the printing of another Bible in the vernacular. Inquisitorial persecution hampered these initiatives and the copies were promptly destroyed.

Some developments in the early summer of 1483 in Valencia may be taken into consideration for understanding the background for the establishment, two years later, of a Hebrew print shop at Hijar. For several weeks, the editors in charge of the Biblia Valenciana, among them Daniel Vives, the converso proofreader, had been interrogated by the inquisitors. Key for the latter was to determine if the proofreader or someone else had checked the vernacular translation with a Hebrew original, or if he knew of any Christian holding a Hebrew Bible. Fernandez de Cordoba had been absent from the city in the previous months, and therefore was not included among those under arrest. However, another source specifies that local authorities were looking after him, and in fact he was surreptitiously in Valencia signing, together with a notary and the Jewish financier Zalmati, the terms for the publication of the works of Bishop Jaime Perez de Valencia. Interestingly enough, the latter's work was clearly anti-Jewish. Whether this printing was done under duress or not is uncertain, though, in any event, the publication may have contributed to mollifying some ecclesiastical attitudes toward the editors.

In addition to securing the financial resources for such a venture, Zalmati appears later on as the financier of the Hijar Hebrew print shop. Collaboration between Fernandez de Cordoba and him was not exceptional, and, thus, in 1484 both appear in charge of the printing of another ecclesiastical work, the Breviarium Carthaginense (which, for the first time, contains the seal that will be associated later on with the Hijar Hebrew incunables).

About the same time, the printer Eliezer Alantansi, scion of a prominent family of Huesca and trained professionally as a physician, had been sent by his relatives to the small town of Hijar in order to prevent his youthful intention of converting to Christianity, according to a testimony brought before the inquisitors some years later. Whether or not we grant any reliability to this information, it is not out of the question that Alantansi's transfer to Hijar may have contributed to strengthening his Jewish religious convictions.

In contrast with the Christian type-cutter mentioned in the Guadalajara 1476 Hebrew incunable colophon, Alfonso Fernandez de Cordoba as well as Juan de Lucena were invisible printers. Following the advent of the Inquisition, the participation of conversos in Hebrew print shops became a problematic issue not lacking risks, due to the heretical nature attached to Hebrew culture. Thus, transition to print coincided with a change in the attitudes towards conversos that forced them to find new ways to ease their participation in cultural and social common spaces shared by Jews and Christians, among them, printing and reading. Under these new circumstances, invisibility became an advantage.

Robert Jütte
Fraudulent converts: The linguistic evidence

The Rare Book & Manuscript Library at the University of Pennsylvania holds a rare copy of Die Rotwelsch Grammatic printed in Basel around 1540. It describes Rotwelsch, a secret language prevalent amongst beggars, vagabonds, pedlars and itinerant craftsmen from the Middle Ages onwards. This cant is based on German but has a large proportion of words from Hebrew, Italian, Romani ("Gipsy") languages, Latin and other languages. The first references to Rotwelsch can be found in a text in Medieval High German dating from around 1250. From the 15th century onwards this cant became identified as the language of false beggars and thieves. Rotwelsch vocabulary became part of the so called "literature of roguery." The most famous example of this type of popular literature is the Liber Vagatorum (Book of Vagrants) which was first printed in 1510 and went through many editions and translations. No other than Martin Luther wrote the preface to the 1528 German edition of the Liber Vagatorum.

About the same time, copycats of this book of rogues appeared under the title Die Rotwelsch Grammatic. The copy in the Van Pelt Library consists of 28 printed pages. The title page shows a woodcut of a man and a woman, clearly dressed as wayfarers. The text is in early modern German. There is a short vocabulary of Rotwelsch as well as notes on grammar and language. The text then introduces different types and groups of vagrants. Each carries a Rotwelsch name. A special type of fraud already mentioned in the Liber Vagatorum is fraudulent conversion. Especially Christian women were reputed to be such impostors, claiming to have been converted from Judaism. These female cozeners are called veranerin in Rotwelsch. In French and Italian pamphlets on roguery, fraudsters of this type are known as convertis and iucchi respectively. The first Hebrew sources on these rekim (ריקים, empty people), as Rabbi Meir ben Baruch of Rothenburg (c. 1215-1293) called them, date back to the middle of the 13th century. His contemporary, Rabbi Solomon ben Abraham Adret (c. 1235-c.1310), reports that the French rabbinical authorities also had to address the problem of Jews wandering from town to town, posing as Christians to Christians and as Jews when entering the homes of Jews. Since the 15th century, just as the number of fraudulent converts from Judaism began to rise noticeably, the economic condition of converts became linked to the larger discourse on poverty and on crime committed by socially marginal groups. Jewish impostors became part of literary descriptions of the "dangerous classes" (Gaunerbüchlein), as in the Liber Vagatorum or the Rotwelsch Grammatic.

Theodor Dunkelgrün
Johannes Isaac Levita (1515-1577), New-Christian Hebraist

Ytzig ha-Levi, a rabbi from Wetzlar in Hesse, converted to Christianity in 1546 after coming to read the Man of Sorrows in Isaiah 53 as a prophecy of Jesus Christ. He was baptized shortly after Luther's death in 1546, along with his young son Jacob, by the Lutheran theologian and biblical scholar Johannes Draconites (Drach). Christened Johannes Isaac Levita, he entered the University of Marburg. The Rabbi from Hesse became a Christian in an age of flourishing German Humanism, but also in the midst of a deepening confessional divide that was tearing apart Europe. When Hesse fell to the armies of Charles V in the Schmalkaldic War, Johannes Isaac was brought to the Netherlands to teach Hebrew at Louvain, and converted again, this time to Catholicism. In the early 1550s Johannes Isaac took up the chair of Hebrew at Cologne, where he would teach until his death in 1577. He entered a world hungry for Hebrew learning, but was also cast upon waves of religious warfare, especially when his gifted son Stephan (Jacob), abandoned Catholicism and converted a third time, to the Reformed Church.

Some forty years before, Cologne had been a mighty fortress of resistance against the study of Hebrew by Christians and its chief advocate, Johannes Reuchlin. Another Jewish convert, Johannes Pfefferkorn, had infamously tried to persuade the Emperor to round up and burn all Hebrew books in his realm. But Johannes Isaac was a different kind of convert. Rather than fiercely turning on his former coreligionists, as Pfefferkorn had done, Johannes Isaac worked tirelessly to persuade the world of Christian Humanists that the traditions of Hebrew and Jewish scholarship were important, even necessary, to the understanding of Sacred Scripture, of Christianity itself. Johannes Isaac's appointment to the chair of Hebrew at Cologne was a testimony to the victory of Catholic Biblical Humanism, as an ideal of learning and as a program of education.

Johannes Isaac would publish Hebrew grammars of his own as well as revised and expanded editions of grammars of others. He would also translate classics of Hebrew literature such as Maimonides' Letter on Astrology and the Sefer Ruah Hen into Latin, serving as a vital intermediary, bridging two different and distant worlds: the Jewish philosophy of Medieval Spain and Egypt, and the Republic of Letters of the Renaissance Humanists. In 1563-64, he was granted a year's leave of absence to help Christopher Plantin, a French printer established in Antwerp, to put to use the Hebrew types that he had been given on loan by the heirs of the Netherlandish printer in Venice, Daniel Bomberg. These were the very types with which such monuments of Jewish learningand of Christian Hebrew printingas the editio princeps of the complete Babylonian Talmud and the Rabbinic Bibles had been set. In teaching Hebrew and Aramaic to a generation of Catholic Hebraists at Cologne, and in teaching the staff of a printing shop which would go on to become one of the most important Christian printers of Hebrew in the latter half of the sixteenth century, Johannes Isaac played a pivotal role in the world of Northern Humanism.

Unlike crypto-Jews, who continued to secretly observe Judaism while living outwardly as Christians, Johannes Isaac's Christian faith, to all appearances, seems to have been real and sincere. If he remained loyal, it was not to the Law of Moses, but to the textual tradition of the Hebrew Bible in a wide and deep sense of the term. In sixteenth century Europe, Johannes Isaac, and like him a small set of deeply learned converted Jewish scholars such as Alfonso de Zamora in Castile, Felix Pratensis and Jacob ben Chaim ibn Adoniya in Venice and Paul Paradis in Paris, played an indispensable role, both in establishing Hebrew as part of the scholarly curriculum of European universities, and in editing editions of the Hebrew Bible printed by Christian printers for a Christian scholarly readership.

The Hebraica and Judaica Collections at the University of Pennsylvania preserve two copies of the Tabulae in Grammaticam Hebraeam, one of the most popular Hebrew grammars of the Early Modern period, composed by the path breaking Netherlandish scholar of Greek, Hebrew and Arabic, Nicolas Clenardus or Cleynaerts (1493-1542), in editions that were revised and expanded with commentary by Johannes Isaac. The oldest copy (Cologne, 1567) is at the Library at the Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. The second copy, in the Van Pelt Library Rare Book and Manuscript Library, once belonged to a Jean Merlin, possibly a relative of Jean-Raymond Merlin, the founding professor of Hebrew at the Calvinist Academy of Lausanne (though the latter died three years prior to this publication).

Alegacion en que se funda la justicia,  Martin de Zellorigo, 1619 Discursos sobre los comercios de las dos indias..., Duarte Gomes  Solis, title page, 1622
Jesuit, Father António Vieira (1608- 1697)
Claude Stuczynski
Portuguese Conversos, Economy and Politics

The mass conversion of Jews in Portugal to Catholicism in 1497, which led to the creation of a Converso or New Christian social group within that society, evolved at the precise moment when Portugal became a seaborne empire. Many Conversos prospered in this emerging merchant class, becoming dominant in international trade and banking. From the sixteenth century onwards, they were called: "businessmen" or "men of commerce" ("hómens de negócios"), adding a socio-economic stereotype to the religious accusation of being judaizers or "potential Jews." However, that cliché also served Conversos and their sympathizers to claim that Portugal's prosperity depended on these "men of commerce. " Therefore, to avoid economical collapse Conversos have to be integrated, they argued, into the "Old Christian " society, including the elites. To attain that goal, prejudices against them, the biased procedures adopted by the Portuguese Inquisition and the juridical ethnic segregation inspired by the "laws of purity of blood " would have to disappear.

During the seventeenth century, several tracts imbued with Mercantilism subsumed Iberian economic restoration to Converso integration. These pro-Converso writings were far from being homogeneous, since beyond diversity of approach, all of them had to reconcile their calls for integration with the recognition that Christians of Jewish descents could be perceived as a separate group, since they were gifted in commerce. Thus, while the Spanish licenciado Martín González de Cellorigo (1565?-1630?) [fig. 1] advocated a royal policy of integration of the group, the PortugueseConverso merchant Duarte Gomes Solis (c. 1561- c. 1630) [fig. 2] called to reduce it to a small group of rich New Christian merchants. The great preacher and missionary Jesuit, Father António Vieira (1608- 1697) [fig. 3], was the most persistent and brilliant advocate on behalf of the Portuguese Conversos. For him, a real integration of the New Christians into Catholic society was needed both to ensure Portugal's economic prosperity and to enable that kingdom to fulfill the role of promoting Christian messianic salvation.

Jeffrey Shoulson
Richard Bernard, Ruths Recompense: Or A Commentarie upon the Book of Ruth, 1628

Richard Bernard (1568-1641) was a moderate Puritan clergyman. Though he flirted at times with separatism, he spent most of his career preaching and practicing a kind of nonconformity within the established English church. He was a prolific writer, publishing more than thirty tracts, treatises, and collected sermons during his lifetime, many of which went through several more printings after his death. His most influential work, a handbook for ministers entitled The Faithfull Shepheard and his Practice, was published first in 1607 and then again, in revised form, in 1621. His allegorical work, The Isle of Man, went through seventeen separate editions between the time of its first publication in 1627 and the end of the eighteenth century. It is believed to have exercised significant influence on, and served as an important precedent for, John Bunyan's allegorical conversion narrative, The Holy War (1682).

Bernard had several connections with the recently established English colonies in North America, as well. During his time in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, he associated with William Brewster and John Robinson, separatists who were involved in the voyage of the Mayflower. His daughter Mary married Roger Williams in 1629 and emigrated with him to New England in 1631, where they eventually founded the colony of Rhode Island.

Ruths Recompense is a verse-by-verse commentary on the book of Ruth, collated from sermons Bernard composed and delivered over several years. Like many of his contemporaries, and indeed like Jewish and Christian readers through the centuries, Bernard regarded Ruth as a paradigmatic convert, exemplary in her self-sacrificing faith and commitment to her mother-in-law, Naomi, and to the people of Israel. What made Ruth especially important to Christian readers, of course, was her role within the Davidic line and, therefore, her function as a living ancestor of Christ. Both through her body and through her faith, Ruth's conversion paved the way for the salvation of the Gentiles. In so doing, however, she also became a critical figure within Christian theories of supersession and the increasingly intense arguments in the 1620s about whether English Protestants should expect, and work for, the "calling of the Jews," their recovery as God's (first) chosen people.

Bernard dedicated the volume to Lady Frances, the Countess Dowager of Warwick, who had been his patron when he was a young and promising scholar, paying his way at Christ's College, Cambridge. Christ's happened to be the college where the most influential Puritan theorist of conversion, William Perkins, served as fellow while Bernard was a student there. Bernard's reading of Ruth exhibits a significant influence by Perkins, who had developed a morphology of conversion, an approach to conversion as a progression through various inner states of despair and reassurance. In his discussion of Ruth's conversion it is possible to see Bernard applying Perkins's ordo salutis, "order of salvation," which was noteworthy for its departure from the rigidly Calvinist idea that man's will could play no role in his conversion. Bernard celebrates both Ruth's "calling out of her own people" and her voluntary choice to live a "virtuous life," in which she exhibited the hallmarks of salvation by being joined "together with members of Christ's mystical body."

Anne Oravetz Albert
The 1661 Amsterdam Edition of the Ferrara Bible: Made for a Market of New Jews

This Spanish Bible is an example of the many books produced especially for newcomers to Judaism in the Sephardi community of seventeenth-century Amsterdam. Most of these immigrants were former conversos, descendants of Jewish converts to Catholicism who were escaping from the Inquisition in Spain and Portugal. Although they were not required to convert because they identified themselves as Jewish by ancestry, the adoption of a Jewish lifestyle and participation in the Jewish community required a significant adjustment. Upon arrival, most lacked basic knowledge of Hebrew and Jewish law, and vernacular Bibles like this one were just one element of the copious literature published in Spanish and Portuguese to guide them in their new Jewish practice.

The printer of this 1661 edition of the Bible, Joseph Athias, was himself a former converso, having been born in Spain and arriving in Amsterdam only as an adult. He is best known for his well-received Hebrew edition produced in the same year, but this edition, a version of the earlier Ferrara Bible newly corrected by Samuel de Càceres, was explicitly intended for returnees to Judaism. The prologue noted that it would benefit those who were "returning from Spain to the company of the Blessed God," and the title page, shown here, includes an illustration acknowledging the edition's intended readers' status as former conversos and their new lives as Jews. It depicts a phoenix, a symbol of the Amsterdam community since it had risen, like the mythical bird, from the ashes of its previous incarnation, i.e., Iberian Jewry. Inside this phoenix appear two groups of travelers embracing, as if they had completed a long journey apart from each other. Just as these estranged travelers met within the breast of the phoenix, so was the Spanish-speaking reader of this Bible presumed to find fellowship with other former conversos in Amsterdam.

Pawel Maciejko
Der Jude: Conversion and the Popularization of Jewish Literature

Der Jude was possibly the first periodical entirely devoted to Jews and Judaism. It was published by the convert Gottfried Selig (1722-1792?), who following his conversion in 1738 served as a lector of Hebrew at the University of Leipzig. In 1768, Selig founded Der Jude, which appeared in weekly installments (every quarter bound into a single volume) till 1772.

All in all, nine quarterly volumes appeared. Numerous scholars and libraries subscribed to the periodical and it fulfilled an important role as a prime means of transmission of knowledge of Jews and Judaism to the learned public. As such, it popularized the accounts of Jewish literature and lore beyond the academic circles of Christian Hebrasists. Selig saw his task as a scientific presentation of Judaism to the wider public; he claimed to have based his publication solely on Jewish sources and devoted considerable attention to correcting mistakes and inaccuracies of Christian scholars.

Sarah Gracombe
Reflections on Ruth in Grace Aguilar's The Women of Israel, 1887

Part literary biography, part midrash, part conduct book, The Women of Israel likely became the best-known work of the Victorian era's best-known Anglo-Jewish woman writer, Grace Aguilar. It had a transatlantic life long after its first publication in 1844, as demonstrated by this American edition from 1887, and was praised by both Jewish and Christian reviewers. Indeed, the Methodist periodical Ladies' Repository particularly lauded this edition for its beauty, something evident in the frontispiece's delicately entwined lettering and pensive yet strong female figure. The Women of Israel argues for what Aguilar views as the long overlooked importance of such women in the Bible and earlier Jewish history. But it also serves as a "warning" and "example" for Victorian Jews; as Aguilar asserts, "The women of the bible are but mirrors of ourselves."

Reflections of contemporary debates about the compatibility of Jewishness and Englishness are particularly evident in Aguilar's explication of the Book of Ruth, one that perfectly embodies the opportunities and challenges Ruth's ambiguous conversion posed in the nineteenth century. On the one hand, Aguilar claims that Ruth "does not properly belong by birth and ancestry to the women of Israel," a lineal or racial belonging that cannot be erased even after conversion and marriage. On the other hand, Aguilar recognizes that Ruth is "so entwined" with the people she joins that she cannot be ignored.

Reading against the grain, to use an apt harvest metaphor, illuminates how The Women of Israel employs Ruth to consider whether Anglo-Jews can "convert" to Englishness while still preserving ties to their ancestral and religious pasts. Aguilar subtly inverts the original story, aligning the non-Jewish Ruth with Victorian Jews and the Jewish Naomi with Protestant England. This inversion is evident in Aguilar's repeated emphasis on Ruth's choosing to become a Jew, which makes her "as worthy if not even more so to be the ancestress of David than the lineal descendants of Abraham." Aguilar lauds the way Ruth "voluntarily engrafted herself upon the children of God . . . her acceptance of, and obedience to, the Law were entirely voluntary; not merely received from education and as heritage." For Aguilar, Victorian Jews are like Ruth in that they voluntarily chose England and accepted English laws and habits; thus they could be viewed as not only equally but even more worthy of Englishness than those who have "merely" inherited it.

What Aguilar's interpretation reminds us is that representations of Ruth in Victorian cultureand there were manywere written against the backdrop of an expanding England, one struggling with immigration and empire, conversion and emancipation. By privileging choice and faith over blood and race, Aguilar attempts to transform the potentially unsettling fact that Ruth continues to be seen as simultaneously Israelite and Moabite into a model for Anglo-Jews to be both English and Jewish. Her Ruth maintains a degree of difference, yet is emphatically part of the national family, "entwined" with Englishness.

Ellie Schainker
Conversion in Tsarist Russia

Published by the Institutum Judaicum in Berlin for missionary work among Jews under the leadership of H. L. Strak (founded 1883), de le Roi's pamphlet is the commonly cited source for statistics on Jewish conversions to Christianity in nineteenth-century Europe. This work is particularly valuable, though not necessarily exhaustive, for arriving at a conservative guesstimate of the number of Jewish conversions in imperial Russia to Christian denominations other than Russian Orthodoxy, the legally "preeminent and predominant" church in the empire. De le Roi calculates that 3,136 Russian Jews converted to various Protestant confessions and 12,000 converted to Catholicism. According to this seemingly low estimate, of the approximately 84,500 converts from Judaism, 18% took place outside of the state church, and this percentage can rise as high as 28% if we focus exclusively on civilian conversions.

This book is significant for the study of Jewish conversions in the Russian empire for two main reasons. First, though conversion records of Jews abound in imperial archives in the Former Soviet Union, no institution in the empire aside from the Russian Orthodox church maintained yearly statistical records of converts. The Holy Synod, the lay governing body of the Russian Orthodox church, published yearly reports on converts categorizing them by province and former confession. As we lack such aggregate data from the Protestant and Catholic churches in the empire, de le Roi's work is at least a starting point for considering the extent to which Jews looked outside of the state church for religious conversion. Second, de le Roi's focus on all Christian conversions is a sound reminder that we risk oversimplification if we understand conversion in the self-consciously multi-confessional and multi-ethnic empire of Russia as a radical expression of Jews becoming "Russian." Russian Orthodoxy was not identical with imperial subjecthood, and official religious tolerance and institutional supports for the "tolerated foreign confessions" granted Jews a measure of confessional choice when converting. Thus, de le Roi's statistics on non-Orthodox conversions reminds us that Jewish conversion was not just an act of assimilation to some undefined imperial mainstream devoid of religious significance, and that it pays to consider the ways in which conversion in such an imperial setting was a local, individual affair, influenced by daily inter-confessional sociability and religious influence and access, rather than a "national" and purely instrumental act.

Fabrizio Lelli
Hymns of the Converts of Sannicandro Garganico

Music played a significant role in the conversion to Judaism of a small group of Catholics in Sannicandro Garganico, a village located in Northern Apulia, Italy. At the end of the 1920s, Donato Manduzio (1885- 1948), a quasi illiterate cobbler, decided to start a new religious movement, possibly inspired by the revelatory and prophetic nature of Protestant confessions that had made proselytes in early twentieth century Southern Italy.

In spite of its very strong messianic orientation, Manduzio soon rejected the Christological tradition and stressed instead the literal observance of most of the prescriptions contained in the Pentateuch. When in 1946 his followers and he officially converted to Judaism, a proper ritual had already been established and put into practice in Sannicandro. Services were performed in Italian, and hymns were written either by Manduzio or by the women of the group. After most of the Jews of Sannicandro made aliyah in the aftermath of the establishment of the State of Israel, the ritual in Sannicandro came to be performed exclusively by women.

The songs of the Sannicandro Jews were recorded in the 1950s in Israel by Leo Levi (1912-1982). A new recording has been made available by Francesco Lotoro and Paolo Candido, who, in their volume, offer a transcription of the autograph manuscripts of the "Hymnal" of Donato Manduzio and provide new and interesting insights into the importance of music in the Sannicandro community.

Netanel Fisher
The State of Israel's Law of Return

The Law of Return is a symbol and one of the most important laws of the State of Israel. It testifies to the fact that the State perceives itself to be the State of the whole Jewish People. In accordance with this law, the State allows any Jew in the world to enter its territory and almost automatically become a citizen. However, this short and well-known law also embodies the great struggle which has been going on in the Zionist movement for the past hundred years regarding the national Jewish identity:

The Law, which was passed in 1950, declared that "Every Jew is eligible to immigrate to Israel." However, it did not specify how "Jew" was to be defined. One of the reasons for this omission was the secular-national worldview, held by the State's founders, such as David Ben Gurion, according to which everyone who was willing to be part of the new State of Israel and had either Jewish roots or relatives, could be considered a Jew. One could join the Jewish people by undergoing a period of social and territorial integration.

However, since the 1970s the political landscape has changed. The secular-nationalist ideology has weakened, and stronger ties between religion and nationality have taken its place. As a result, the Law of Return was changed, and a Jew was defined as someone whose mother was Jewish or who has converted to Judaism, without clearly stating whether the conversion need be in accordance with Jewish religious law (halakhah) or not. This change has given rise to unending conflicts and disputes, also known as the question of conversion to Judaism, namely: "Who is a Jew" or "Who is a Convert."

Contemporary voices calling for yet another change in the Law of Return, in light of societal and ideological changes in Israel and the Diaspora, reflect the fact that the struggle over the definition of "Jew" and "conversion" to Judaism is still alive and relevant.