Jews among Christians explores a corpus of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts of the Lake Constance region produced in the first decades of the fourteenth century. The author Sarit Shalev-Eyni, Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, provides a detailed and insightful study of the content, design, and iconography of the illustrations and decorations of a group of Ashkenahzi codices, thereby uncovering a surprising interface between Jews and Christians in the urban workshops of the time. Here, Christian artists would include midrashic components required by their Jewish instructor while drawing on the iconographic traditions of their Christian education, and artists of both religions were able to represent their own theological attitudes as well as profane tendencies and parody – in short, the various aspects of late medieval culture.
A close comparison with the well-known Gradual of St. Katharinenthal, now in Zurich, and manuscripts such as the Schocken Bible, formerly in Jerusalem, and the Tripartite Mahzor -- originally bound as two volumes, but now split between Budapest, London and Oxford -- places the corpus firmly in the Lake Constance region and all but confirms the instructor to be one Hayyim, the scribe. The author’s discussion of Hayyim's life and work and her historical overview of the relations between Jews and Christians in the final chapters of the book deepens our understanding of the religious and cultural dialogue between the two faiths not only in the production of this group of manuscripts but in the course of every-day life in the Middle Ages.