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2014 Penn Lectures in Judaic Studies
Thirteen scholars from Penn’s Katz Center offer snapshots from Jewish life during the early modern period, an era marked by a dynamic interplay between the perseverance of medieval traditions and the upheavals of the new—the scientific revolution, the printing press, and the rise of new forms of communal and state authority—developments that would transform the lives and cultures of non-Jews and Jews alike in unforeseen ways, bringing their world ever-closer to the modern.
The Penn Lectures are made possible through a generous endowment from the Klatt family and the Harry Stern Family Foundation.
Do Jews Believe in Saints? A Medieval Rabbi and His Early Modern Afterlife
Lucia Raspe (Goethe University, Frankfurt)
The veneration of saints is not a practice one normally associates with Judaism. Nevertheless, hagiography (i.e. the writing of the lives of saints) emerged as one of the most popular genres of Jewish narrative in the early modern period. The talk will trace the posthumous career of one “Ashkenazi saint,” historically among the founding fathers of the Jewish settlement in medieval Ashkenaz, from the Rhineland through early modern Italy and finally to present-day Israel. In so doing, Professor Raspe will shed light on how some of the major transformations of the early modern period shape our sense of the Jewish past even today.
Lucia Raspe authored Jüdische Hagiographie im mittelalterlichen Aschkenas (Jewish Hagiography in Medieval Ashkenaz; 2006) and numerous articles on medieval and early modern memory and identity in Ashkenazic culture. This year at the Katz Center she studies Jewish books of customs from the early modern period.