On the Word of a Jew

On the Word of a Jew

Religion, Reliability, and the Dynamics of Trust
Edited by Nina Caputo and Mitchell B. Hart
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 01/14/2019
Format: Hardback 1 black & white illus.
ISBN: 978-0-253-03739-8
Bookmark and Share

Other formats available:

Buy from Amazon


What, if anything, does religion have to do with how reliable we perceive one another to be? When and how did religious difference matter in the past when it came to trusting the word of another? In today's world, we take for granted that being Jewish should not matter when it comes to acting or engaging in the public realm, but this was not always the case. The essays in this volume look at how and when Jews were recognized as reliable and trustworthy in the areas of jurisprudence, medicine, politics, academia, culture, business, and finance. As they explore issues of trust and mistrust, the authors reveal how caricatures of Jews move through religious, political, and legal systems. While the volume is framed as an exploration of Jewish and Christian relations, it grapples with perceptions of Jews and Jewishness from the biblical period to today, from the Middle East to North America, and in Ashkenazi and Sephardi traditions. Taken together these essays reflect on the mechanics of trust, and sometimes mistrust, in everyday interactions involving Jews.

Author Bio

Nina Caputo is Associate Professor in the Department of History at the University of Florida. She is author of Nahmanides in Medieval Catalonia: History, Community, Messianism and Debating Truth: The Barcelona Disputation of 1263, a Graphic History and editor (with Andrea Sterk) of Faithful Narratives: The Challenge of Religion in History.

Joshua Curk received his doctorate from the University of Oxford in 2015. He teaches high school history in Toronto.

Hasia Diner is the Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Goldstein-Goren Center for American Jewish History at New York University. She is author of Roads Taken: The Great Jewish Migration to the New World and the Peddlers Who Forged the Way.

Stefanie Fischer is a post-doctoral research fellow at Potsdam University. She is author of Ökonomisches Vertrauen und antisemitische Gewalt: Jdische Viehhändler in Mittelfranken.

Rachel Furst is a research fellow in medieval Jewish history at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich, where she also lectures on Jewish history and Jewish law.

Shaina Hammerman is the author of Silver Screen, Hasidic Jews: The Story of an Image. She teaches Jewish studies, cultural history, and literature at the University of San Francisco and San Quentin State Prison.

Mitchell B. Hart is Professor of History and the Alexander Grass Chair in Jewish History at the University of Florida. He is editor (with Tony Michels) of The Cambridge History of Modern Judaism, volume 8: The Modern Period, 1815-2000.

Robert S. Kawashima holds a joint appointment in the Department of Religion and the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of Florida. He is author of Biblical Narrative and the Death of the Rhapsode.

Lisa Leff is Professor of History at American University. Her research focuses on the Jews of modern France. She is author of The Archive Thief.

Robert Leventhal is Associate Professor of German Studies in the Department of Modern Languages at the College of William and Mary. He is author of The Disciplines of Interpretation and editor of the volume Reading after Foucault.

Mitch Numark is Associate Professor in the Department of History at Sacramento State in California.

Derek J. Penslar is the Samuel J. Zacks Professor of European Jewish History at the University of Toronto and a Visiting Professor of History at Harvard. He co-edits The Journal of Israeli History and he is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and of the American Academy of Jewish Research.

Ephraim Shoham-Steiner teaches Medieval Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His is author of On the Margins of a Minority: Leprosy, Madness, and Disability among the Jews of Medieval Europe.

Joshua Teplitsky is Assistant Professor in the Department of History at Stony Brook.



Highly readable and compelling, this volume marks a broadly significant contribution to Jewish studies through the underexplored dynamic of trust.


 (Rebekah Klein-Pejšová, author of Mapping Jewish Loyalties in Interwar Slovakia)


An exemplary compendium on how to engage with a major concept—trust—while providing load of gripping new information, new theorization of otherwise well-covered material, and meticulous attention to textual and sociological sources.


 (Gil Anidjar, author of Blood: A Critique of Christianity)

"The book is scrupulously documented allowing the reader to follow up with further information on any given aspect of this topic. Highly recommended for all adult and secondary school Judaica collections"


Customer Reviews

There are currently no reviews
Write a review on this title.

Table of Contents

Introduction: On the Word of a Jew, or Trusting Jewish History / Nina Caputo and Mitchell B. Hart

Section One: To Swear an Oath

1. Oaths, Vows, and Trust in the Bible / Robert S. Kawashima

2. "And in most of their business transactions they rely on this": Some Reflections on Jews and Oaths in the Commercial Arena in Medieval Europe / Ephraim Shoham-Steiner

3. The Oath of a Jew in the Thirteenth Century English Legal Context / Joshua Curk

4. What is an Infidel?: Jewish Oaths and Jewish History in the Making of English Trust and Tolerance / Mitchell B. Hart

5. Trusting Adolphe Crémieux: Jews and Republicans in Nineteenth-Century France / Lisa Leff

Section Two: The Business of Trust

6. "A kind of republic and neutral nation:" Commerce, Credit, and Conspiracy in Early Modern Europe / Joshua Teplitsky

7. Jewish Peddlers and Non-Jewish Customers in the New World: Between Profit and Trust / Hasia Diner

8. Belonging and Trustworthiness: Jewish Businessmen in the Public Rhetoric around the "Trustworthy Businessman" in Post-World War I Germany / Stefanie Fischer

Section Three: Intimacy of Trust

9. The Voice of a Jew? Petrus Alfonsi's Dialogi contra judaeos and the Question of True Conversion / Nina Caputo

10. A Return to Credibility? The Rehabilitation of Repentant Apostates in Medieval Ashkenaz / Rachel Furst

11. The Jewish Physician as Respondent, Confidant, and Proxy: The Case of Marcus Herz and Immanuel Kant / Robert Leventhal

Section Four: The Politics of Trust

12. Perspectives from the Periphery: The East India Company's Jewish Sepoys, Anglo-Jewry, and the Image of "the Jew" / Mitch Numark

13. Between Honor and Authenticity: Zionism as Theodor Herzl's Life-Project / Derek Jonathan Penslar

14. The Most Trusted Jew in America: Jon Stewart's Earnestness / Shaina Hammerman