Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

IAJGS Conference: How did Jews get to Europe?

I know a fair amount of this history, especially as presented in the Bible, but this is another topic I couldn't pass up. It never hurts to have a little more historical background for research. The presentation was by Avraham Groll and was extremely well attended. It looked like every seat in the room was taken. Here is the class description from the schedule:
With the decline of Babylonian Jewry in the 9th and 10th centuries, Jews, in large numbers, immigrated to Europe. Yet there is evidence of Jewish settlement in Europe dating back more than 1,000 years prior to this point. This presentation will focus on early Jewish settlement in Spain, Germany, France and Italy. Using Biblical, Rabbinic and secular sources, we will explore why Jews chose (or were forced) to live in these countries, where they settled, and under what conditions they lived. In addition, we will discuss the dividing line between Antiquity and the Medieval era, and its ramifications on the Jewish settlement. This presentation is designed for beginners, and is not a workshop. Maps, pictures, and documents will be displayed. Handouts with further information and a bibliography will also be distributed.
Avraham Groll is the Director of Business Operations for JewishGen. After studying in Israel at Yeshivat Ohr Yerushalayim, he received a BS from Ramapo College, and an MBA from Montclair State University. He is currently pursuing an MA in Judaic Studies at Touro College. I include this information to illustrate what I perceived from attending the classes so far. Almost uniformly, I have found the same very high standard of education and competence. It is really a privilege to be here at this conference. There is also an intensity here that is not present at any other conference I have attended over the years. 

It would seem to me a very difficult proposition to trace a movement of a people based on a cultural affinity and a religious homogeneity irrespective of the surrounding political boundaries. This challenge is reflected by the controversy in establishing many of the very early locations in the Biblical account. The presentation began with a summary of the status of the Jews at the time of the Babylonian Empire. There are a very large number of books and other reference works on the history of the Jews. I decline to recommend any particular work, although I have several in my personal library. 

I cannot do justice to the details of the history in one blog post. But essentially, as reflected in the Bible, there were waves of conquest in which the resident population in Israel was forcibly removed. Avraham emphasizes the importance of the Jewish schools as a central part of the identity

The fact that a presentation at a genealogy conference is dealing with the history of the people involved should be noticed by other genealogy conferences. I sometimes find too much methodology and not enough history. 

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