Constructing Borders & Crossing Boundaries: Social, Cultural, & Religious Change in Early Modern Jewish History

The Penn Libraries, in partnership with the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, have launched a new web exhibition. To see the exhibition, go to:


Scholars working in a wide variety of disciplines have long identified the late fifteenth through the late eighteenth centuries as a discrete historical period called “Early Modern.” Only in recent years have historians adopted this time frame to explore and define the specific cultural experience of Jews in Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. This past year’s research group came together to bridge often disconnected areas of scholarship and to probe the meaning of an early modern era of Jewish history on its own terms. Borders and boundaries were understood geographically, but also as social, cultural, legal, political, and economic realities. Recognizing these connected histories helped us understand the internal divisions and new cultural movements and practices within Jewish society; careful study also revealed unexpected new relationships among Jews and non-Jews. In this year’s web exhibition, we highlight the boundary as both a dividing line and a place of meeting and mixing between different groups (Jewish and non-Jewish) in an attempt to shed light on the nature of early modern Jewry and the early modern period in general.
David Ruderman
Joseph Meyerhoff Professor of Modern Jewish History
Ella Darivoff Director, Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies University of Pennsylvania

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