Abstract: The paper provides new data for the presence of Jews from Rus’ in medieval England and contextualizes this presence based on the evidence of contacts between England and Rus’, as well as on the known patterns of Jewish migration between Rus’ and Western Europe and between England and the continent. Knowledge of a Slavic language as demonstrated by Jews from Rus’ in England is witness to Slavic proficiency of remarkable range, from mastering tabooed obscene lexica to literacy in Church Slavonic. The English Cyrillic-Hebrew abecedarium, the earliest piece of evidence, which documents not only political and commercial, but also cultural contacts between England and Rus’, enriches our understanding of the models of Jewish intercultural mediation in the Middle Ages and demonstrates that the wandering and multilingual Jews were thus not only the chief transmitters of Arabic learning in Latin Europe, but may also have been the first attested teachers of Slavic literacy in the West.
Jewish Quarterly Review – University of Pennsylvania Press
Published: Aug 13, 2012
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