Divided Souls

Converts from Judaism in Germany, 1500-1750

Elisheva Carlebach

View Inside Price: $34.00


August 1, 2001
336 pages, 6 x 9
30 b/w illus.
ISBN: 9780300191400
Paper

Also Available in:
Cloth
e-book

This pioneering book reevaluates the place of converts from Judaism in the narrative of Jewish history. Long considered beyond the pale of Jewish historiography, converts played a central role in shaping both noxious and positive images of Jews and Judaism for Christian readers. Focusing on German Jews who converted to Christianity in the sixteenth through mid-eighteenth centuries, Elisheva Carlebach explores an extensive and previously unexamined trove of their memoirs and other writings. These fascinating original sources illuminate the Jewish communities that the converts left, the Christian society they entered, and the unabating tensions between the two worlds in early modern German history.

The book begins with the medieval images of converts from Judaism and traces the hurdles to social acceptance that they encountered in Germany through early modern times. Carlebach examines the converts’ complicated search for community, a quest that was to characterize much of Jewish modernity, and she concludes with a consideration of the converts’ painful legacies to the Jewish experience in German lands.

“Carlebach’s reading of autobiographical texts by converts from Judaism is careful, intelligent, and skeptical--a model of how to treat spiritual memoirs.”--Todd M. Endelman,
University of Michigan

“This superb book highlights the ambiguous identities of these boundary crossers and their impact on both German and Jewish self-definitions.”--Paula E. Hyman, Yale University

Elisheva Carlebach is professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of The Pursuit of Heresy: Rabbi Moses Hagiz and the Sabbatian Controversies, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish History, and coeditor of Jewish History and Jewish Memory.



Elisheva Carlebach is professor of history at Queens College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is the author of The Pursuit of Heresy: Rabbi Moses Hagiz and the Sabbatian Controversies, winner of the National Jewish Book Award for Jewish History, and coeditor of Jewish History and Jewish Memory.

"Carlebach’s reading of autobiographical texts by converts from Judaism is careful, intelligent, and skeptical—a model of how to treat spiritual memoirs."—Todd M. Endelman, University of Michigan


“This is a superb book. A pioneering study of Jewish converts to Christianity in early modern Germany, it highlights the ambiguous identities of these boundary crossers and their impact on both German and Jewish self-definitions. It also draws on convert autobiographies to tell a poignant story.”—Paula E. Hyman, Yale University

“Professor Carlebach, in her meticulously researched Divided Souls, takes the ostensibly abstruse subject of German Jewish converts to Christianity between 1500 and 1750 and not only makes it compelling and fascinating, but shows many of the reactions to the process from Jew and Christian alike, and the attitudes to such converts, to be paradigmatic. . . . This book should be compulsory reading for all men and women tempted to convert those already secure in another faith, and shows that in the ongoing Jewish-Christian dialogue there is still much that lurks in the darkness of history for which atonement needs to be made.”—Rabbi Dr. Charles H. Middleburgh, The Expository Times

"Masterful. . . . [Carlebach’s] book is thorough, thoughtful, and sophisticated. Even the illustrations are elegant. . . . Future scholars will stand on the shoulders of Carlebach’s massive research as we continue to pursue answers to some of the questions she has posed."—Deborah Hertz, American Historical Review

"This lively book, drawing on previously unexamined spiritual memoirs, advances significantly our understanding of a somber, complex episode. Scholars of religious studies and of early modern history alike should find it rewarding."—Donald Sullivan, History: Reviews of New Books

“A well-crafted contribution to the study of Christianity and Judaism that contains material of interest to a broad range of historians.”—Scott Hendrix, Journal of American Studies

“In this well-researched and deftly written book, Elisheva Carlebach offers an important portal into the lives and writings of converts from Judaism in early modern Germany. She is quick to apply her findings to broader issues of Jewish and Christian relations and identities. . . . This is an excellent study of an important topic that warrants further attention and integration into more general histories of the Jews and Jewish Christian relations in the early modern period.”—Dean Phillip Bell, Sixteenth Century Journal

“This book deserves a wide audience and should be read by all students of religion, history, and Jewish-Christian relations.”—Stephen D. Benin, Religious Studies Review

Finalist for the 2001-02 National Jewish Book Award