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Poverty and Welfare among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam (Littman Library of Jewish Civilization) Hardcover – 5 Jul 2012

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 576 pages
  • Publisher: The Littman Library of Jewish Civilization (5 July 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1904113575
  • ISBN-13: 978-1904113577
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16.3 x 4.3 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,228,114 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


'This volume offers the first systematic study of the poor and poor relief among the Sephardi Jews of early modern Amsterdam. It is a rich, thorough, and often touching exploration of the topic, and goes far in correcting the impression that all Jews in this community belonged to wealthy merchant families. Levie Bernfeld has given a voice to a largely silent but important population, in a work of meticulous scholarship.' Miriam Bodian 'The wealthiest Jewish community in the early modern period has finally received a comprehensive and detailed study of its poor, based on a meticulous analysis of a broad variety of sources. Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld has painted a colourful and fascinating historical portrait of the poor and ordinary people of the Sephardic community of Amsterdam, with their social and cultural profile, their distress, and the ways that the community leadership and its social elite dealt with their disturbing presence. This is one of the most important contributions in recent years to historical research on Dutch Jewry as well as on the western Sephardic diaspora.' --Yosef Kaplan

'I consider this to be one of the best and most important theses I have had the privilege of examining in my career and one of fundamental importance not just for early modern Dutch Jewish history but for all early modern Jewish history. I have no doubt at all that her book, which is well written and clearly set out, will be a landmark in Jewish historiography, an outstanding work of research which will at the same time be very widely referred to by Jewish historians of many different kinds. The book is also impressively erudite, showing a good working knowledge of virtually the entire primary and secondary published literature pertaining to the Portuguese Jewish community of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Amsterdam, whether in English, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, or Hebrew. No one has systematically researched the problem, dimensions, and history of poor relief in the Portuguese Jewish community of Amsterdam before, and Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld has carried out this task carefully, thoroughly, and convincingly. She has skillfully utilized the data she has extracted from the community records and other archival materials to expand and (in a number of cases) importantly correct our knowledge of the general demographic, organizational and financial history of the congregation. Since a majority of those in receipt of poor relief in the Amsterdam Sephardi community were female, the thesis also makes a relevant and notable contribution to the history of gender, and of the family, within a Jewish context.' --Jonathan Israel

About the Author

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld was born in Rotterdam and studied history at the University of Amsterdam, at Brandeis University, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she earned her doctorate. As an independent scholar she is involved in research on different aspects of Dutch Sephardi history during the early modern period and has written several articles on the subject. She is the co-editor of Dutch Jewish History: Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands (1984). A former curator of the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam and visiting curator at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, she has also been involved in various exhibitions and publications, such as Wonen in Amsterdam in de 17de en 18de eeuw (1980), and Êxodo: Portugezen in Amsterdam 16001680 (1987), published in Portuguese as Portugueses em Amsterdam 1600-1680 (1988). She lives in Amsterdam.

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