Jewish Communities in Europe

Sergio DellaPergola

in The Oxford Handbook of Global Religions

Published in print October 2006 | ISBN: 9780195137989
Published online September 2009 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology

Jewish Communities in Europe

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  • Religion
  • Interfaith Relations
  • Judaism and Jewish Studies



The Jewish presence in Europe dates back to the second or third centuries BCE. Between the twelfth and the twentieth centuries, the overall course of the European Jewish community can be summarized as one of demographic rise, hegemony, and decline. During the Middle Ages, the number of Jews in Europe increased substantially. So did their share of a global Jewish population that previously was mainly concentrated in the Middle East and neighboring areas. The major exodus from Spanish and Portuguese domains between the end of the fifteenth century and the first half of the sixteenth, and the conversion of many Jews who chose not to leave their countries, caused a significant downturn in the Jewish presence in Europe, although many of those who left the Iberian peninsula eventually resettled in other parts of the continent. The cultural contributions of Jews to Europe's history and culture cannot be reduced to a single pattern, but rather reflect the widely contrasting range of different options and constraints that characterized the Jewish experience in the continent. Paradoxically, modern antisemitism rose along with the process of emancipation of the Jews allowed by a liberalization of European politics.

Keywords: Jews; Europe; conversion; Iberian peninsula; politics; antisemitism

Article.  2503 words. 

Subjects: Religion ; Interfaith Relations ; Judaism and Jewish Studies

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