TALK: Fences: Jews as Dealers in Stolen Goods in Early Modern Poland
Thursday, January 18, 2018, 12:00 pm - 1:20 pmFree
About this talk
There is a great deal of evidence that Jews had a prominent role in the trade in stolen goods in Early Modern Poland. Most Jews had more prosaic occupations but of the limited numbers of fences, most of the male fences were Jewish. The background of female fences was quite different. The active presence of Jews among fences is also well documented in other Ashkenazi communities as well though it was absent in Sefardic communities.What is worthy of note are the reasons for Jews to enter and succeed in the field and the ways Jewish communities dealt with this activity. There was a great deal of self supervision by communal elders. On the other hand, differing legal concepts among Jews and non Jews about the legal status of a stolen object changed over time and explain why Jews regarded fencing in different ways than non-Jews and why over the course of time, the definitions of the legal status became closer to each other. The Christian authorities could have clamped down on fencing had they wanted to but it seems that the benefits to society outweighed the negative consequences of fencing – even though no one could ever say this explicitly. What would appear to be a simple topic turns out to be complex and quite revealing about the realities of inter-group relations.
This will be a “brown bag” lunch event: please bring your own lunch and learn while you eat!
Prof. Stampfer grew up in Portland Oregon, went to college in New York and continued Eastward. He earned his Ph.D. at the Hebrew University and has since stayed in Jerusalem – except for two years in Moscow in 1989-91.
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