As a follow-up to last month’s shot about violence, this month I have an interview with Abigail Agresta talking about a series of anti-Jewish riots that hit numerous cities in Spain in 1391, starting with Seville and spreading across most of Spain. We focused mostly on the interpretations of one of the worst riots in the city of Valencia. On the way, we talk quite a bit about how scholars think about anti-Jewish violence in the medieval period, what relationship that violence has to modern anti-semitism, and the changing character of Christianity’s relationship to Judaism.
These riots in 1391 offer a great way to think about inter-faith relationships in part because Spanish Jews have often been seen (and not without good reason) as being quite well treated by both Catholic and Muslim majorities during the medieval period. However, even this good treatment was never a perfect guard against the possibility of violence against minorities. In Valencia, even as the violence broke out, the city leaders attempted to quell it first and then later attempted to explain to the king why they had been unsuccessful at protecting the Jews – something they readily acknowledged as their normal responsibility.
This is also the first podcast in this series with incidental music. There are three selections all from the group “Cinco Siglos” and their disc Sones de Sefarad.
Excerpt 1: “La Fuente Fría”
Excerpt 2: “Ahot Ketana”
Excerpt 3: “Está Raquel lastimosa”
For food, I recommend a nice dish of Bamyas. It’s an Arabic name but a common food in the Sephardi diaspora. It’s a dish of Okra in tomato sauce (and the tomatoes should tip you off that this is not a medieval dish…) Like the Sephardi themselves, okra was probably part of medieval Spain, but today it’s actually quite hard to find. However, there are good recipes for it (and many Sephardi grandmothers surely have their own version) in several traditional Jewish cookbooks. It’s really quite simple, though – well chosen soft ripe Okra pods, light tomato sauce, and a ton of olive oil and garlic. Fry the pods in the oil, add the garlic and then simmer for 15 minutes or so in the tomato sauce. If it were more Spanish, you’d pour some extra oil and salt right on top at the table before mopping it up with bread.
David Nirenberg, Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today (University of Chicago, 2014).
David Nirenberg, “Massacre and Miracle in Valencia 1391,” in La Corona catalanoaragonesa, l’Islam i el món mediterrani (CSIC, 1013).
Mark Meyerson, Jews in an Iberian Frontier Kingdom: Society, Economy, and Politics in Morvedre, 1248-1391 (Brill, 2004).
Mark Meyerson, A Jewish Renaissance in Fifteenth Century Spain (Princeton University Press, 2010).