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Communal, Rabbinic, and Judicial Authority in Flux: Law As Lived in the Early Modern Kehillah

Mon, December 17, 1:15 to 2:45pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Federal 1 Complex

Session Submission Type: Panel Session

Session Sponsor: Jewish Law Association


To what degree and in what ways were authority structures, customary law, and judicial procedures transformed in the early modern period? Focusing on existing norms, mechanisms of change, and emerging patterns of legal culture, this panel proposes a new understanding of Jewish life in the historical context of early modern Europe. To this end, we shall investigate halakhic manuals, DERASHOT, the practices of rabbinic and lay courts, jurisdictional negotiations between Jewish and non-Jewish courts, responsa, communal bylaws, and the role of the Ius Commune. These sources will be considered within the rubric of religious confessionalization, discipline, and the ever-growing intrusion of the state.

The papers in this session will examine how both rabbinic and lay leaders met challenges to their authority, how communal power structures functioned, and how social norms were constructed, especially in light of new religious traditions such as Lurianic Kabbalah. How was elite status established and maintained in the face of such changes? How did this unfold, especially following the Thirty Years War when radical population shifts and rabbinic migration in particular were often in tension with local customs and communal norms? How were economic activity, family life, and religious practice regulated in the new environment?

Our goal is to explore how Jewish law and communal practice were shaped by, and also reflected, societal changes, transiency, and political transformation in Christian Europe.

This panel is co-sponsored by the Jewish Law Association.

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