Associate Professor, Departments of History and Religious Studies, and Crown Family Center for Jewish and Israel Studies
Project: Jews, Animals, and Jewish Animals in Medieval Europe
"My book-in-progress explores the overlapping ways in which Jewish and Christian authors and artists distinguished humans from animals, and Jews from Christians, over the course of the Middle Ages. Specifically, it shows that in Europe during the high Middle Ages, both Jews and Christians increasingly equated Jews with animals. For Christians, the linkage was meant disparagingly—claims that Jews were fundamentally animalistic served to 'de-humanize' them by highlighting their inferiority and irrationality. But a wide range of medieval Jewish authors and artists self-consciously celebrated their 'beastly' identity, and sought to efface the conceptual and theological boundaries between humans and animals altogether. My book project explores this paradoxical convergence between Christian and Jewish discourses of animality, and traces the motif of the 'beastly Jew' in a wide array of theological, scientific, and artistic sources. The counter-intuitive overlap between Christian polemic and ostensibly 'internal' currents of Jewish thought speaks to the complexities of medieval interreligious relations, and, more broadly, to the shifting and contested status of 'the animal' in medieval European culture."