¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 At the time of the exodus from Palestine, after the destruction of the second temple by Titus, Jews were largely farmers and skilled craftsmen.10 Prior to its destruction, the temple with its sacrificial practice was at the centre of all religious observance. Its loss was compensated by a shift in focus from physical sacrifice to the communal reading of holy books over a period of some two hundred years. This transition was accompanied by educational reforms that made basic literacy an essential component of Jewish piety.11 Literacy brought other benefits besides the ability to actively participate in religious service at a time when the surrounding gentile population was mostly illiterate.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 In the early Middle Ages, European land ownership was largely tribal, gradually morphing into a feudal pattern. Most working farmers did not own the land they tilled.12 A free market in farms and other agricultural land did not exist,13 thus preventing immigrant Jews from returning to a farming existence. Over the centuries, Jews lost their farming skills and attitudes and became used to an urban lifestyle. But they remained largely unmolested up to the turn of the first millennium.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 Three developments then radically changed Jewish existence: the Crusades, the AD 1240 invasion of the Mongols, resulting in intolerance and pogroms,14 and the emergence of urban craft guilds.15 The pogroms forced the Jews progressively into a pernicious dependence on protection by the German emperors. The guilds, as quasi-religious institutions, gradually excluded Jews from the skilled trades and interregional commerce. These two developments together gave the Jews the stark choice either to migrate to the largely underpopulated lands in Eastern Europe or to exchange gradually their preferred urban existence for a mainly rural one in Germany.16
10Abrahams, “Jewish Life in the Middle Ages,” 230–44.
11Botticini and Eckstein, “Jewish Occupational Selection,” 922–48.
12Postan, “Essays on Medieval Agriculture,” 3 – 27.
13Innes, “Land, Freedom and the Making of the Medieval West,” 39 – 74.
14Schneidmüller, “Eine Pfalzstadt in der Krise,” 18; Graetz, “Geschichte der Juden”, 18.
15Kieser, “Organizational, Institutional, and Societal Evolution.”
16Battenberg, “Aus der Stadt auf das Land?”