Medieval Jewish Community of Cologne: History, Memory, Archaelogy – hosted by Howard Schickler

Monday, February 28, 7:00 pm

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Professor Ephraim Shoham-Steiner opened up the unique aspects of a medieval Jewish community and its people based on a variety of archeological as well as literary sources. Over the past century, and particularly in recent years, archeological projects have yielded a treasure trove of material artifacts that yield rich new insights into the Jewish community in the German city of Cologne. By incorporating the material finds of archaeologists into his scholarship, Professor Shoham-Steiner methodologically extends the work of the late Professor Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi, who grappled with the complexities of the relationship between history, historiography, and memory. In one of his most memorable contributions to this discussion, his brief book Zakhor (1982), Yerushalmi argued that the primary pre-modern Jewish vessels for memory of the past were liturgical and ritual. It was only from the sixteenth century that history writing, he argued, began playing a more significant role in remembering the Jewish past. One of the media that Yerushalmi passed over in his analysis was the role of archeology and the emergence of Jewish material artifacts from the past, especially during the twentieth century. In this lecture Professor Shoham Steiner addresses that lacuna with fascinating examples from medieval Cologne that make its medieval Jews spring to life.

Prof. Ephraim (Effie) Shoham-Steiner, is a historian specializing in Medieval Jewish History and an associate professor at the Department of Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be’er-Shevah Israel (BGU). From 2018-2021 he served as director of The Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters (CSOC) at BGU. In 2021-2 he is a research fellow at the New-York Public Library and the Center for Jewish Studies at Fordham University.

His research focuses on the social aspects of Jewish history with a special interest in social information that can be extracted from rabbinic source material from medieval Western Europe, the real and imagined “margins of society”.