ABSTRACT In 1222, an anonymous Christian deacon was executed for heresy in Oxford after converting to Judaism and marrying a Jewish woman. The first known execution in England for heresy, this paper explores how devout masculine standards in Judaism had the potential to create incentives and rationales for Christian clerical conversion to Judaism at a time when the Church was showing a new determination to enforce clerical celibacy and eradicate father-son religious relationships. This paper argues that his conversion to Judaism might be understood as a reclamation of a masculine identity that had come to be forbidden by the Church. It further suggests new points of contentions between Jews and the Church during the thirteenth century in that the Church seems to have had reasons to regard Jewish masculinity itself as threatening as it offered secular clergymen something they wanted but which the Church now withheld: legitimacy for married, religious men.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Rebekah Sewell

ABSTRACT A vivid depiction of a jousting scene in an illuminated Hebrew prayerbook allows a unique pictorial representation of a custom common among Jewish young men in Northwestern Europe during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries: jousting-like tournaments at Jewish weddings. The article contextualizes this image more broadly with contemporaneous sources originating in different genres, including rabbinic literature, vernacular documents, illuminated Hebrew manuscripts, frescos that decorated affluent Jewish homes, epitaphs, and archaeological findings, to describe the lives, self-image, and social expectations of medieval Ashkenazic men. Moreover, the article sheds light on the influences of the surrounding culture on medieval rabbinic gender constructs and on the constructions of gendered identities among these young men, and particularly on two indicators of identity: daily conduct and clothing. The article argues that these Jewish young men were navigating two masculinities, and that they internalized complex identities, which enabled them to identify as Jews and at the same time to feel that they were part of mainstream urban culture to some degree.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Eyal Levinson

ABSTRACT This article explores the denigration of Jewish manhood on the English Renaissance stage and the ways that the inherently performative space of the theater and the collective experience of spectatorship created the ideal conditions for reconstructions of Jewish-Christian power relations. I argue that canonical late sixteenth-century plays incorporated emasculating humor about Jewish men to exercise control over those that challenged white Christian dominance. By analyzing a dramatic culture that represented Jewish male figures as being unfit for martial action, humiliatingly emotional, and physically inferior, I show how gendered constructions of Jewishness provide evidence of Renaissance theater’s celebration of Christian supremacy in one of the most popular secular spaces of the day at the same time that it secured associations of Jewish unmanliness in the English cultural imagination for centuries to come.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Becky S. Friedman

ABSTRACT This essay begins by conceptualizing a “kabbalistic masculinity” characterized by pious discipline and a presumption to cosmic influence. This ideal was embodied in the kabbalistic discourse about the sin of “wasted seed,” or improper emission of semen. Kabbalists developed theories and practices intended to prevent the wasting of seed, atone for its spiritual consequences, and neutralize its demonic effects. I then trace these themes in texts from seventeenth-century Poland, beginning with Meir Poppers’ ethical text Or Tzadiqim, which wove theoretical Lurianic kabbalah into everyday routines and embodied practices. Finally, I turn to Poppers’ relative and student Joseph b. Solomon Calahora, the darshan (preacher) of Poznań. Calahora composed and published the first Hebrew book devoted exclusively to the causes, consequences, and cures for wasted seed: Yesod Yosef (Frankfurt an der Oder, 1679). These texts and their contexts show how the kabbalistic discourse on wasted seed played out, both individually and communally, in the bodies of early modern Jewish men in East-Central Europe.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Avinoam J. Stillman

ABSTRACT At the heart of the sodomy trial against Lazarro de Norsa in 1670 before the Modenese Inquisition lies a relationship between the Jewish tailor Lazarro and the son of the household, Cesare Cimicelli. Lazarro sleeps, not in the servants’ quarters, but with Cimicelli. There is nothing unusual or sinister about two men sharing a bed, but when two men of different faiths and status do so it gives rise to gossip and suspicion. This essay focuses on enmity, friendship and homo-sociality among Jews and Christians in an early modern Italian Christian household. It shows how men had a primary role within this domestic space and how relationships between servants could be made and unmade. It also reveals an unusual case in which a Jew appearing before an inquisitorial tribunal was successfully defended by a Christian procurator, paid for by the head of the Christian household, Signor Enrico Cimicelli.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Katherine Aron-Beller

ABSTRACT This essay focuses on the “rhetoric of paternal affliction” that late eighteenth-century Italian Jewish merchant patriarchs employed in letters and supplications addressing threats to their intertwined paternal and commercial authority, particularly when filial disobedience or apostasy was involved. I examine this rhetoric as an emotional style that illuminates Jewish merchant masculinity. Although the image of a suffering father seems to deviate from known early modern models of hegemonic masculinity, within the context of the eighteenth-century culture of sensibility this rhetoric emphasized Jewish patriarchs’ honesty and righteousness, beseeching male compassion and sympathy. By performing vulnerability vis-à-vis Jewish associates, as well as Jewish and state authorities, the vocal expression of paternal affliction was meant to reinforce threatened mercantile patriarchal power. This complicates our understanding of early modern fatherhood, demonstrating that a sentimental display of masculine helplessness went hand in hand with better-known notions of hegemonic paternal authority.

issue 24 / n.2 (2023) by Francesca Bregoli

The article examines the role of “wolvish” characteristics and their association with Jewish identity in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice. Scholars have long noted the tendency of non-Jewish characters in the play to identify Shylock as canine. But this canine character, although fixed in its essence to Shylock, never remains the same, fluctuating between the various designations of “dog,” “cur,” and “wolf.” The essay argues that whereas the “dog” and “cur” designations function as manifestations of Christian typological thinking, the description of Shylock as a “wolf” belongs in a mythic view of humans and their place in the world. Thus, in The Merchant of Venice it is not only the human-animal distinction that remains unstable, but also the category of the “animal” itself. At stake is the accommodation of two different conceptions of animality: one belonging in Christian typology, and the other rooted in a mythical natural history. The distinction between these different categories, far from being trivial, has political, legal, and theological implications.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Noam Pines

Tza’ar ba’ale hayyim is one of the fundamental principles in Jewish law, enunciated in the Bible and then accepted as a mandatory norm in Talmudic tradition, banning any form of unnecessary pain on animals, and requiring people to minimise physical and psychological animal burden, especially, but certainly not exclusively, in ritual slaughtering. Over the hundred years, following the development of meat industry aiming to maximise profits to the detriment of animal’s fundamental rights, and with a dramatic impact on the natural environment, several rabbinical authorities have interpreted this principle in broader terms, recommending people to opt for vegetarian diets that are not only morally preferable, but also ethically more recommendable as environmentally more sustainable. The aim of this paper is to offer a succinct view on the meanings and interpretations of Jewish vegetarianism, from its biblical inception, through the rabbinical debate, to more recent interpretations among religious and secular authorities.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Piergabriele Mancuso

Several canonical works of Modern Jewish literature, written in Hebrew and Yiddish at the turn of the twentieth century, distinctly depict an anti-slaughter stance. Jewish approach to animal slaughter has been largely ambivalent, from the biblical creation story in Genesis 1, where human nutrition was limited to plants only, to various restrictions on the practices of killing and consuming animals—in many cases, due to the religious obligation to care for animals (tza‘ar ba‘ale hayyim). In this article, I seek to critically analyze three literary works, in which the anti-slaughter stance is voiced by children protagonists: Mordecai Ze’ev Feierberg’s “The Calf” (“ha-’Egel,” 1899), Mendele Mocher Seforim’s “The Calf” (“Dos Kelbl,” 1902), and Sholem Aleichem’s Motl the Cantor’s Son (Motl Peyse dem khazns, 1907). These stories will be examined in the light of the religious ambivalence toward animal slaughter and contextualized within relevant socio-historical conditions.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Naama Harel

The essay explores the portrayal of insects in literature, focusing specifically on the representation of ants in Yitzhak Orpaz’s Nemalim (Ants) and Italo Calvino’s La formica argentina (The Argentine Ant). Both stories delve into the dynamics of species interaction, specifically into the response of two married couples whose homes or apartments are invaded by ants. Despite the humans’ efforts, particularly those of the husbands’, to regain control of their territory, they are unsuccessful. Throughout the narratives, the ants, functioning as a superorganism, exhibit a greater degree of agency compared to the human characters. The house or flat transforms into an anthill, effectively reverting the anthropized space into a natural environment. Consequently, the two species intertwine, mingle, and hybridize. This analysis will be conducted through the lens of animal studies, highlighting the themes of animal agency and Otherness, which are particularly significant when considering insects. Additionally, the essay will draw upon the concept of consilience between the humanities and sciences.

issue 23 / n.1 (2023) by Anna Lissa