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The Jewish Community

Conclusion and Sources

Elka Klein

The Jewish community remained central to the organization of Jewish life in Europe until the Emancipation. Neither modern nation states nor the Jews who sought citizenship in them desired the autonomous status which the Jews of the Middle Ages worked so hard to preserve. The durability of the institution can be attributed in part to its flexibility. Based on a combination of talmudic precedent and practical needs, it grew and developed in response to the particular needs of each community. In the later middle ages, efforts would be made to create intercommunal organizations, with varying degrees of success, but the basic kernel remained the local community. We have only been able to skim the surface of a few of the most important issues faced by medieval Jewish communities, in very general terms. There remains much that we do not know about particular communities, about the earlier stages of development, and about the interaction of tradition with local circumstances. Nevertheless, understanding the medieval Jewish community still remains for us the first step in understanding the medieval Jewish experience.


Efforts were made to cite primarily English language sources in this article. Some works in Hebrew have English titles; in such cases, the English title is given with the notation [Hebrew]. Citations from the Mishnah, the Tosefta, and the Talmud were my own translations; for the convenience of the general reader, generally available translations of the Mishnah and the Babylonian Talmud are indicated below.

Back to The Jewish Community: Introduction  Parameters of Communal Autonomy  Modern Scholarship   Major Issues

Copyright (C) 1998, Elka Klein. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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