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Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy Hardcover – Mar 4 1994


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (March 4 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520073509
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520073500
  • Product Dimensions: 15.9 x 2.7 x 23.4 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 635 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,734,075 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"Draws on evidence from economics, population movements, education, literature, philosophy, and the patterns of daily life. [Bonfil's] erudition is apparent on every page. . . . Full of rich details about the life of Italian Jewry."--"Times Literary Supplement

From the Inside Flap

"The first fully developed and sophisticated statement of a position that goes against the main current of Jewish historiography for the past century. . . . The book will be of interest to scholars (beyond the specific field of Italian Jewish history) and to thoughtful general readers."—Marc Saperstein, Washington University

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
THE DEMOGRAPHIC distribution of the Jewish presence in Italy, from the close of the thirteenth century throughout practically the whole of the fifteenth, came about as the result of a process that can be reconstructed with a fair degree of accuracy. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Format: Hardcover
Robert Bonfil's Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (originally published in Italian as Gli Ebrei in Italia nell'epoca del Rinascimento and translated into English by Anthony Oldcorn) seeks to establish a new approach to Italian Jewish history and, indeed, Jewish history in general. His account of the existing historiography on the subject describes two contrasting themes: one that describes the gradual, almost inevitable, assimilation of Jewish culture to mainstream Christian culture (and thus indicative of a willingness on the part of Christians to assimilate Jews to their dominant culture) and one that focuses on the persecution of Jews by Christians. Bonfil sums up his approach in the afterward as "seeking the definition of an identity in the context of a nascent awareness of the Jewish self as organically interrelated with the Christian Other, without for all that becoming confused with the Other and still less annihilated by it." In other words, Bonfil sees the assertion of Jewish identity 1) as necessarily relational 2) involving the same forms, themes, etc. as Christian culture. In some instances, it is difficult to reconcile these two aspects as self-assertion, as it is all too easy to view adoption of what Bonfil insists are "neutral" components of the broader Renaissance culture as assimilation to Christian norms rather than affirming Jewish identity. Bonfil succeeds in demonstrating this process in certain cases and in outlining a new methodology for others to pursue.
Bonfil is most convincing when discussing the how the cultural production of rabbis during the Italian Renaissance imported forms from the broader context of the Renaissance yet still forged a uniquely Jewish identity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 1 review
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
intriguing but ultimately unfulfilling Sept. 30 2003
By Daniel Loss - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Robert Bonfil's Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (originally published in Italian as Gli Ebrei in Italia nell'epoca del Rinascimento and translated into English by Anthony Oldcorn) seeks to establish a new approach to Italian Jewish history and, indeed, Jewish history in general. His account of the existing historiography on the subject describes two contrasting themes: one that describes the gradual, almost inevitable, assimilation of Jewish culture to mainstream Christian culture (and thus indicative of a willingness on the part of Christians to assimilate Jews to their dominant culture) and one that focuses on the persecution of Jews by Christians. Bonfil sums up his approach in the afterward as "seeking the definition of an identity in the context of a nascent awareness of the Jewish self as organically interrelated with the Christian Other, without for all that becoming confused with the Other and still less annihilated by it." In other words, Bonfil sees the assertion of Jewish identity 1) as necessarily relational 2) involving the same forms, themes, etc. as Christian culture. In some instances, it is difficult to reconcile these two aspects as self-assertion, as it is all too easy to view adoption of what Bonfil insists are "neutral" components of the broader Renaissance culture as assimilation to Christian norms rather than affirming Jewish identity. Bonfil succeeds in demonstrating this process in certain cases and in outlining a new methodology for others to pursue.
Bonfil is most convincing when discussing the how the cultural production of rabbis during the Italian Renaissance imported forms from the broader context of the Renaissance yet still forged a uniquely Jewish identity. Unfortunately, he fails to demonstrate how this model of self-assertion held in other contexts of Jewish culture.
Taken as a whole, Bonfil's work is intriguing but ultimately unconvincing. His claim that assertion of Jewish identity took place in relation to Christians and importing aspects of Renaissance culture is a plausible one. Unfortunately, he only succeeds in demonstrating it in limited cases. One cannot help but ask, "What about the Jews who weren't rabbis? What about the average Jew?" In other words, Bonfil's hypothesis needs further exploration from below rather than from above.


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