¶ 1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 Having read Jacob Katz’s Tradition and Crisis, a fundamental social history of the Jewish people at the transition from the Middle Ages to the modern period, I was overwhelmed both by its depth and its level of abstraction. I wondered whether the reality on the ground complied with Katz’s theoretical framework. It is perhaps not surprising that Katz’s deep insights explained many of the phenomena that I ultimately observed in my own study. Thus, this present research may be illustrative, in the context of rural southern Germany, of the concepts explored in Tradition and Crisis. But such a comparison also highlights that Katz’s take on Jewish law and ethics, based as it is on rabbinic literature, describes ideals and norms rather than actual behaviour. His normative description of a Jewish community’s structure and function probably corresponds more closely to the situation that existed in the shtetls of Eastern Europe than to those in rural southern Germany.
¶ 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0 Before beginning to write a book on the Jews of Stühlingen, it seemed prudent first to determine its intended audience. As an amateur, it would be folly for me to attempt to address historians and experts in Jewish history of the Middle Ages and early modern period. They are already familiar with what I am going to write. Perhaps the methodology used to extract the community structure may be of passing interest to them. Conversely, merely to provide recreational genealogists, intent on expanding their “cousin collection,” with grist for their mill would give me little satisfaction. In my cross-hair is the intelligent reader who constantly seeks to expand her or his knowledge and understanding of the world – a person who is aware that our present circumstances are largely determined by the continuous flow of history originating from thousands of years ago.
¶ 3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I chose Amos Elon’s The Pity of It All as a model for this book. By sheer coincidence, it takes up where this book leaves off – in the year 1743. Whereas Elon focuses on the intellectual and social assimilation of Jews in German cities, this book studies the earlier life of Jews in rural southern Germany.