Levi asked in Arts & HumanitiesHistory · 7 years ago

How did Jews live their daily lives in the middle age?

3 Answers

  • 7 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    Jews were prohibited from owning land for most of the Middle Ages, because landowning meant you might become a landlord over somebody and in medieval society that implied authority over them. Christian society didn't like the idea of Jewish lords having power over Christian peasants. As a result, they were forced into other ways to support themselves, which mostly meant trade, moneylending, and professions like medicine. Traditional Jewish emphasis on valuing literacy and learning made them well suited for this, and the way Jews were scattered around the Mediterranean meant they had ready-made contacts for long-distance trade.

    From about the 9th century onward, Jewish communities spread from Italy and Spain (where most of them had been earlier) into the rest of Europe. Synagogues and the rabbinical studies that drove them were spreading among European Jews about the same time, and came to be the focus on the Jewish community.

    Jews were a tiny minority living among a sea of Christians. Most of the time, relations were peaceful, but the two groups kept separate except for doing business. You couldn't intermarry and weren't even supposed to eat together. Legally, Jews were "serfs of the crown," meaning that kings had direct authority over them (rather than local lords). This both protected Jews but also made them vulnerable to the kings' wishes. In many areas, you had nonlethal ritualized violence to mark the boundaries between Christians and Jews and assert Christian dominance. For instance, during Holy Week (before Easter) Christians would "stone" the Jewish quarter of town; the Jews had to stay in their houses and not go out for a week or they would be attacked. As long as they did stay in, though, nobody got hurt.

    Sometimes, though, catastrophic violence could break out. There was often an undercurrent of hostility, partly because of religion, partly because of moneylending, partly because resentment against the king could be expressed indirectly by attacking the Jews, since they were under his protection. Crusading, in particular, often sparked attacks and massacres of Jews - if you're going to war against Christ's enemies, why not start at home? Some were accused of causing the Black Death by poisoning wells. Kings who wanted to show what righteous Christian rulers they were could make a PR statement by expelling Jews from their kingdoms.

    MOST of the time, none of this was going on - a given Jewish community might have to deal with such a crisis once in a generation, if not once a century. Most of the time you kept up your routine, doing business as a merchant or moneylender or physician and going to synagogue for prayers and looking after your family. But the threat was often there in the background.

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  • 7 years ago

    Same as the rest of the world - daily grind, risk of hunger, disease, old early - only difference was they had a different religion and were mildly persecuted for it (a few rapes and a few murders each year in any region) - so it goes - humans were cruel then and we live in better days now.

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  • Terry
    Lv 7
    7 years ago

    Like every one else with a struggle.

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