The Transformations of Judaism
History of Religion
This chapter addresses the primary transformations in Jewish civilization in the early modern era considering primarily the distinct histories of five large sub-communities—those of Italy, the western Sephardim (descendants of Jewish settlers from the Iberian peninsula who had primarily settled in Amsterdam, Hamburg, and Livorno beginning at the end of the sixteenth century), Germany and Central Europe, Poland-Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire. It traces considers five markers in tracing the major political, social, and cultural transformations of early modern Jewry: mobility, migration, and social mixing; communal cohesion and laicization, a knowledge explosion, primarily the impact of print; the crisis of authority, primarily the impact of the messianic movement associated with Shabbetai Zevi; and mingled identities among Jews, Christians, and in some cases Muslims. These five major transformations allow one to describe a common early modern Jewish culture, one characterized by cultural exchange and interactions between diverse sub-communities.