Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists, Jews, and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe

The genesis of this year’s colloquium goes back to 1996, when David Ruderman, Moshe Idel, Gedalia Stroumsa, and Anthony Grafton began talking about devoting an entire year of study to the subject of Christian Hebraism, especially in Early Modern Europe. The proposed seminar would provide an opportunity to bring together scholars of Jewish history, literature, and thought, with scholars of the Renaissance, Reformation, and Christian thought, to consider a subject of great significance which had been relatively neglected by modern scholarship. It would also energize a field of great import to Jewish and Christian history and to the interstices between the two. In addition, the theme of the Christian origins of the academic study of Judaism was particularly timely given the recent explosion of interest in Jewish studies on the part of non-Jewish scholars.

The diverse community of scholars who came to Philadelphia in 1999 fully fulfilled the hopes of the organizers. It included scholars in diverse fields from the United States, Israel, and Europe. The balance of scholars in Jewish and Christian fields was quite good; so too was the mixture of Jews and non-Jews, from a variety of backgrounds and disciplines. Most importantly, this was indeed a humanistic enterprise, gathering together a group of positive, open, and generous scholars, young and old, who addressed with enormous commitment the subject at hand. The weekly seminars and the culminating conference were joyous occasions of intellectual stimulation and dialogue based on mutual respect and friendship. Those who participated in this year were genuinely transformed by these ongoing and fructifying interactions. The resulting volume, entitled Hebraica Veritas? Christian Hebraists and the Study of Judaism in Early Modern Europe, edited by Allison Coudert and Jeffrey Shoulson, bears eloquent testimony to the success of this year’s venture.

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