Between Christian and Jew: Conversion and Inquisition in the Crown of Aragon, 1250–1391
Published: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012
In 1341 in Aragon, a Jewish convert to Christianity was sentenced to death, only to be pulled from the burning stake and into a formal religious interrogation. His confession was as astonishing to his inquisitors as his brush with mortality is to us: the condemned man described a Jewish conspiracy to persuade recent converts to denounce their newfound Christian faith. His claims were corroborated by witnesses and became the catalyst for a series of trials that unfolded over the course of the next twenty months. Between Christian and Jew closely analyzes these events, which Paola Tartakoff considers paradigmatic of inquisitorial proceedings against Jews in the period. The trials also serve as the backbone of her nuanced consideration of Jewish conversion to Christianity—and the unwelcoming Christian response to Jewish conversions—during a period that is usually celebrated as a time of relative interfaith harmony.
Conversion, Circumcision, and Ritual Murder in Medieval Europe
Published: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2020
In 1230, Jews in the English city of Norwich were accused of having seized and circumcised a five-year-old Christian boy named Edward because they "wanted to make him a Jew." Contemporaneous accounts of the "Norwich circumcision case," as it came to be called, recast this episode as an attempted ritual murder. Contextualizing and analyzing accounts of this event and others, with special attention to the roles of children, Paola Tartakoff sheds new light on medieval Christian views of circumcision. She shows that Christian characterizations of Jews as sinister agents of Christian apostasy belonged to the same constellation of anti-Jewish libels as the notorious charge of ritual murder. Drawing on a wide variety of Jewish and Christian sources, Tartakoff investigates the elusive backstory of the Norwich circumcision case and exposes the thirteenth-century resurgence of Christian concerns about formal Christian conversion to Judaism. In the process, she elucidates little-known cases of movement out of Christianity and into Judaism, as well as Christian anxieties about the instability of religious identity.