to gamble, to visit gentile friends, to give instruction to gentile students, to appear in court at St. Marks . . .'.2 Personal and even cordial interactions notwithstanding, however, relations between Modena and his Christian contemporaries led him to devote much of his literary workto polemical writings defending rabbinic Judaism.
Relations between Jews and Christians in the early modern period as well as the attitudes each community held towards the other defy easy generalization. Broad parameters can, nevertheless, be described and delineated. Significantly, and in spite of the trauma of a pseudo-Messianic movement of global proportions, Jews sustained their Messianic belief in an ultimate redemption and ingathering. As members of a Jewish nation to which they belonged both by birth and religious obligation, they brought meaning to their lives through Jewish tradition, law, and history. The Christian world represented literally a world apart, offering little if any temptation spiritually, socially, or morally. That Jews retained their own languages, Yiddish or Ladino, and often did not speak the language of those among whom they lived, served to reinforce the particularity of their universe just as it strengthened their ties with distant co-religionists.
Popular Christian attitudes towards Jews reinforced this estrangement. Considered a pitiless creditor and an enemy of mankind, believed to possess the magical powers of a sorcerer and the physicality of the devil, Jews were accused of ritual murder, host desecration, and the poisoning of wells. Papal decrees might refute these accusations, but never in question was the belief that Christianity had superseded Judaism and that Jews were to be physically identifiable, geographically segregated, and collectively tainted with the accusation ofdei-cide. Although forced conversions were eschewed, churches often required the presence of local Jews at a monthly Mass. They rarely attended without first putting wax in their ears.
Within these broad parameters existed both extraordinary diversity and an ambiguity reinforced by distinctions among the Jews themselves. The most notable were those between Sephardim, whose culture and religious traditions testified to an Iberian past, and Ashkenazim, whose centuries of cultural and linguistic development took place within small German towns and villages. These distinctions led to the creation of communities as different, given their rights and obligations, as they were similar because of their Jewish identity. One need only compare the communities of Bordeaux and Alsace.
In his determination to populate Bordeaux with enterprising foreigners, Henri II chose to overlook the possible crypto-Judaism of those fleeing the Inquisition. For more than a century and a half, 'Portuguese merchants' or
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