Medieval France’s Valentine’s Day Massacre of Jews

In American history, the “St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” refers to a gang killing on February 14, 1929. But the term could just as easily be applied to an event in Jewish history, as Yvette Alt Miller notes in her reflection on what the day signifies for Jews:

The Bubonic Plague was sweeping Europe and, in many locales, Jews were accused of spreading the disease. On St. Valentine’s Day, 1349, a Shabbat, the entire Jewish community of Strasbourg, in France, was massacred, burned alive in the town square while townspeople watched. Afterwards, townspeople searched the corpses, looking for valuables, and the property of Strasbourg’s Jews was distributed to local Gentiles.

Miller also discusses the recent trend to turn the fifteenth day of the month of Av into a Jewish Valentine’s Day, an effort Julian Sinclair wrote about in Mosaic back in 2016.


More about: Anti-Semitism, French Jewry, Jewish history, Medieval Jewry


The Rise of Denominational Judaism in America

For some time, the divisions separating Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Judaism have been basic facts of American Jewish life—although every few years some discussion arises about the possible end or reshuffling of these categories. Zev Eleff delves into the origins of these denominations, and how Jews came to speak of denominations at all, in conversation with Dovid Bashevkin. Among much else, Eleff explains that it was pragmatism, rather than egalitarianism, that motivated early reformers to switch from the traditional sex-segregated synagogue to mixed pews. For one of the first American rabbis to assert his Orthodoxy, the sticking point was his commitment to “congregationalism”—that is the independence of local communities from governing bodies. (Audio, 128 minutes. Interview begins at 49:26.) A transcript can be found at the link below.)

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More about: American Judaism, Conservative Judaism, Orthodoxy, Reform Judaism