Jewish Women’s Adornment in the Medieval Jewish Neighborhood: Cultural Exchanges

Jewish women's practices of adornment provide us with another perspective on relations and cultural exchanges between Christian society and Jewish society in the medieval city. It reveals the deepest daily connections between Jewish women and Christian women. Jewish women practiced the same norms of adornment, they wore the same types of garment, and they used the same accessories and jewelry. Last year Dr. Schnitzer discovered some of the unique practices of Jewish women in Northern France and Germany during the 12th–13th centuries. These practices were meant to create a bridge between their wish to adorn themselves in keeping with Christian women's fashions while still keeping the rules of Halacha. These practices were the result of a most interesting dialogue between women and Halachic sages. Dr. Schnitzer has determined that there were also cases in which Jewish women chose to disregard the Halachic laws, and instead adhere to the fashion of Christian women.

Over the course of her research during the 2016–2017 academic year, it has become clear that the geographic location and socio-economic status of Jewish women of the period influenced their relationship with both the Halakhic laws and the adornment culture and customs of Christian women. Rich women of more privileged backgrounds tried to find a way to blend the adornment practices of Christian women with the Halakhic regulations. Geographic location also played a role – Jewish women living in the regions of Champagne and Île-de-France were more involved in the changing of customs related to women’s adornment. For the past several years Dr. Schnitzer has concentrated on women’s jewelry. However, during the coming year she will expand her study to customs of women’s dress and the influence of fashion practices among Christian women on the styles and norms of dress among Jewish women in the urban milieu. The influence of Eruv laws on Jewish women’s fashion customs of the period will also be considered.

Publications

Rape between Halacha and Reality: Attitudes towards Sexual Coercion of Women in the Medieval Jewish Communities of Northern France and Germany (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University Press, 2017).

Forthcoming Conferences

  • Dr. Schnitzer will represent the Center at the 17th World Congress of Jewish Studies that will take place in Jerusalem. She will present a lecture based on her research entitled “Debating Style: Rabbinic Attitudes towards Women’s Fashion in Medieval Ashkenaz”.

 

Events

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