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The Real Lives of Jews in the Traditional World

Insights from the Jewish Theological Seminary Library

Evening Lecture/Seminar

Thursday, June 22, 2023 - 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
Code: 1M2268
This online program is presented on Zoom.
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Full-page miniature from the Sister Haggadah, Barcelona, 1350

According to what might be described as the “official version” of Jewish history, Jews through the ages were pious and thoroughly immersed in Jewish life, standing apart, often by force, from their non-Jewish neighbors. But many of the rare materials in the Jewish Theological Seminary Library in New York City—home to one of the greatest and most extensive collections of Judaica in the world—offer a different picture.

It’s a more nuanced one, based on how specific communities of Jews lived with their neighbors, experiencing life first as human beings and then as Jews. In general, they spoke the same languages as those neighbors, wore the same clothes, and related to the world in similar ways—imagining dragons where their neighbors saw dragons, admiring chivalry where it was admired by all. 

In a richly illustrated talk, David Kraemer, the library’s director, shares evidence from the magnificent collections that offers surprising—and perhaps even shocking—correctives to commonly repeated historical “truths.”

Kraemer is the Joseph J. and Dora Abbell librarian at the Jewish Theological Seminary, where he has also served as professor of Talmud and Rabbinics for many years.

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