The early modern period—spanning roughly from the late fifteenth through the late eighteenth centuries—is distinguished by several remarkable developments that are often associated with the modern world: it was an age of scientific discoveries, of the unprecedented dissemination of ideas through the newly-invented printing press, of the emergence of new national political structures, and of the breakdown of traditional sources of authority. Jews and Christians alike were transformed by these dramatic changes. Jews traveled and migrated more frequently and farther than ever before; boldly challenged the authority of their rabbis; used the press to spread Hebrew books, new and old, to ever wider-audiences; and mingled with Christians and others in unforeseen ways. In the 2014 Penn Lectures in Judaic Studies, Moving into Modernity: The Shaping of Jewish Culture in Early Modern Europe, Katz Center fellows will explore many different aspects of this fascinating period.
Jerusalem of the North: The Jews of Amsterdam in the Seventeenth Century
Anne O. Albert (University of Pennsylvania)
In the Dutch “Golden Age,” the city of Amsterdam was renowned for its religious toleration, cosmopolitanism, and mercantile strength, making it an ideal destination for Jews seeking a place to build new lives. Spanish and Portuguese conversos escaping the Inquisition and, later, Ashkenazi Jews fleeing poverty and instability in Eastern Europe, came to Amsterdam and established communities that would soon be admired across Europe. This lecture will tell the story of the rapid rise of these unique congregations (and point toward their inevitable decline), offering a taste of Jewish life in the seventeenth century.