On the Margins of a Minority: Leprosy, Madness, and Disability among the Jews of Medieval Europe

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Product Details
Wayne State University Press
Publish Date
6.41 X 9.24 X 1.02 inches | 1.35 pounds

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About the Author

Ephraim Shoham-Steiner is a senior lecturer in the department of Jewish history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Shevah, Israel. He teaches medieval Jewish history and is a member of the scientific committee of the Center for the Study of Conversion and Inter-Religious Encounters and Israeli Center of Research Excellence (I-CORE) at Ben-Gurion University.

On the Margins of a Minority is an original work that brings new sources to the scholarly and interested lay reader on a subject that has become vitally important in the study of history. Shoham-Steiner has identified a fascinating topic, for in identifying what a society defines as marginal, we come to understand better what it considers normative and central.--Elisheva Carlebach "Salo Wittmayer Baron Professor of Jewish History, Culture and Society at Columbia University "
Ephraim Shoham-Steiner's work is a most welcome addition to a new scholarly frontier. Given the complexity of the rabbinic literature involved and the fact that large amounts of the relevant secondary literature have been produced only in Hebrew, a translation of Shoham-Steiner's work is a vital addition to the available literature in English on the social history of northern European Jewry during the high middle ages.--Ephraim Kanarfogel "E. Billi Ivry University Professor of Jewish History, Literature, and Law at Yeshiva University and author of The Intellectual History and Rabbinic Culture of Medieval Ashkenaz (Wayne State University Press, 2012) "
What does it mean to be a marginalized member of marginalized community? In this volume, Shoham Steiner examines issues of daily life for Jews in medieval Europe who were outside of the norm because of disease (leprosy or other skin conditions, ) mental deficiency (either mental illness or developmental delays, ) or disability (of mobility, sight, or hearing.) For each of these groups, the author notes the Biblical citations and whether they were part of a legal or narrative passage; the early Rabbinic understanding; the medieval comprehension of the passages and the science available at the time to decipher them; and how the Jews applied all these factors in community life. Shoham-Steiner closely examines the responsa written during this period and points out how the rabbis tried to maintain the cohesiveness of the Jewish community. While geared to scholars, this book is accessible to the layperson. The volume includes extensive notes, bibliography, and index. Highly recommended for academic libraries.-- (12/01/2014)
The book reads very well, and the translation or transliteration of Hebrew terms makes the page accessible to most readers.--Ivan G. Marcus"Speculum" (04/01/2015)

Overall, On the Margins of a Minority provides an excellent model for scholars exploring disability both as medical impairment and social construction. The book is pertinent not only to Jewish Studies but to any genre concerned with the perception of marginalized groups. Shoham-Steiner's readings of the rabbinic literature are particularly important because they make peripheral figures in those works-the disabled-the central focus. On the Margins of a
Minority is the only major study of disability in the Jewish communities of medieval Europe, and as such should create space for scholars to continue this fascinating line of research. To what extent that space grows over the next few years will be the true measure of the book's importance.

-- (07/01/2016)
This is a path-breaking and extremely important book in the field of medieval Jewish religion and history that opens up new areas for research and comparative studies.--Shaul Stampfer"Religious Studies Review" (06/01/2016)
I defy anybody to read this and not take something important from it, and cannot recommend it enough.--Dean Irwin"Towards a Bibliography of Medieval Anglo-Jewry" (11/02/2016)
[. . .] the English translation (by Haim Waltzman) is clear and readable overall, and makes an important Hebrew study accessible to a wider Anglophone audience. Shoham-Steiner's careful historical spadework and finegrained readings of relevant texts and contexts render On the Margins of a Minority a significant contribution, one that will open up previously inaccessible sources and neglected figures to further research and analysis.-- (01/27/2017)