Jews and Crime in Medieval Europe

Ephraim Shoham Steiner, author of the new book Jews and Crime in Medieval Europe, in conversation with Nicholas Paul and Magda Teter

Hosted by the Center of Jewish Studies, Fordham University, on February 17, 2021

Abstract: Jews and Crime in Medieval Europe is a topic laced by prejudice on one hand and apologetics on the other. Beginning in the Middle Ages, Jews were often portrayed as criminals driven by greed. While these accusations were often unfounded, at times criminal accusations against Jews were not altogether baseless. Drawing on a variety of legal, liturgical, literary, and archival sources, Ephraim Shoham-Steiner examines the reasons for the involvement in crime, the social profile of Jews who performed crimes, and the ways and mechanisms employed by the legal and communal body to deal with Jewish criminals and with crimes committed by Jews. A society’s attitude toward individuals identified as criminals—by others or themselves—can serve as a window into that society’s mores and provide insight into how transgressors understood themselves and society’s attitudes toward them.


Ephraim Shoham-Steiner is professor of medieval Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, where he is the director of the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters. His book, Jews and Crime in Medieval Europe, is published by Wayne State University Press. To learn more about Ephraim Shoham-Steiner’s research, please visit his page.

Top Image: Meshal ha-kadmoni – Library of Congress


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