Sanctifying the Name of God
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Sanctifying the Name of God
Jewish Martyrs and Jewish Memories of the First Crusade

Jeremy Cohen

224 pages | 6 x 9 | 8 illus.
Paper 2006 | ISBN 978-0-8122-1956-2 | $28.95s | £19.00 | Add to cart
Ebook 2011 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0163-5 | $28.95s | £19.00 | About | Add to cart
A volume in the Jewish Culture and Contexts series
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"A feast of ideas worthy of our very careful attention."—Speculum

"A major contribution to the study of medieval Jewish history."—Robert Chazan, New York University

"This is an important book, beautifully written and cogently argued. Some of Cohen's readings are daring indeed and will surely arouse dissent. Long live debate!"—American Historical Review

"The sufferings of the Rhineland Jews in 1096 were commemorated in three Hebrew narratives, which Professor Jeremy Cohen reexamines in this beautifully written book. . . . The cumulative effect of Cohen's analysis is overwhelming."—Catholic Historical Review

"The slaughter of the Jews in the Rhineland in 1096 is one of the better-known events of the First Crusade. Cohen analyzes the texts of the Jewish accounts of these massacres in light of the martyrdom tradition of Masada, well-known at that time, and the contemporary Christian cult of self-sacrifice. . . . Recommended."—Choice

"Cohen's fresh reading of the chronicles opens up a new vista to these complicated sources."—Journal of Jewish Studies

"This is a beautifully written and thought-out work that raises valuable questions and draws unprecedented attention to important features of these texts; it is sure to provoke fruitful discussion"—Journal of Religion

How are martyrs made, and how do the memories of martyrs express, nourish, and mold the ideals of the community? Sanctifying the Name of God wrestles with these questions against the background of the massacres of Jews in the Rhineland during the outbreak of the First Crusade. Marking the first extensive wave of anti-Jewish violence in medieval Christian Europe, these "Persecutions of 1096" exerted a profound influence on the course of European Jewish history.

When the crusaders demanded that Jews choose between Christianity and death, many opted for baptism. Many others, however, chose to die as Jews rather than to live as Christians, and of these, many actually inflicted death upon themselves and their loved ones. Stories of their self-sacrifice ushered the Jewish ideal of martyrdom—kiddush ha-Shem, the sanctification of God's holy name—into a new phase, conditioning the collective memory and mindset of Ashkenazic Jewry for centuries to come, during the Holocaust, and even today.

The Jewish survivors of 1096 memorialized the victims as martyrs as they rebuilt their communities during the decades following the Crusade. Three twelfth-century Hebrew chronicles of the persecutions preserve their memories of martyrdom and self-sacrifice, tales fraught with symbolic meaning that constitute one of the earliest Jewish attempts at local, contemporary historiography. Reading and analyzing these stories through the prism of Jewish and Christian religious and literary traditions, Jeremy Cohen shows how these persecution chronicles reveal much more about the storytellers, the martyrologists, than about the martyrs themselves. While they extol the glorious heroism of the martyrs, they also air the doubts, guilt, and conflicts of those who, by submitting temporarily to the Christian crusaders, survived.

Jeremy Cohen is Professor of Jewish History at Tel Aviv University. Among his books are The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism and Living Letters of the Law: Ideas of the Jew in Medieval Christianity.

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