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Poverty and Welfare Among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam
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Poverty and Welfare Among the Portuguese Jews in Early Modern Amsterdam (Hardback)

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Early modern

Amsterdam was a prosperous city renowned for its relative tolerance, and many

people hoping for a better future, away from persecution, wars, and economic

malaise, chose to make a new life there. Conversos and Jews from many countries

were among them, attracted by the reputed wealth and benevolence of the

Portuguese Jews who had settled there. Behind the facade

of prosperity, however, poverty was a serious problem. It preoccupied the

leadership of the Portuguese Jewish community and influenced its policy on

admitting newcomers: the struggle to keep poverty under control and ensure that

finances were available for welfare was paramount.


Levie Bernfeld looks at poverty and welfare from the perspective of both

benefactors and recipients. She analyses benefactors' motives for philanthropy

and charts its dimensions; she also examines the decision-making processes of

communal bodies and private philanthropists, identifying the cultural

influences that shaped their commitment to welfare. At the same time her

detailed study succeeds in bringing the poor to life: she examines what brought

them to Amsterdam, aspects of their daily life in the petitions they sent to

the different welfare institutions, and the survival strategies offered by

work, education, and charity. She also considers the related questions of

social mobility and the motivation of the poor for joining the Amsterdam

Portuguese community. Her research takes her, finally, beyond the margins of

the established community to the small but active groups of Sephardi bandits

who formed their own clandestine networks. Special attention is also paid to poor

women, whether arriving alone or left behind and sometimes heading small family

units, who were often singled out for relief. In this way the book makes a

much-needed contribution to the study of gender, in Jewish society and more



ground-breaking, multi-faceted study of the dynamics of the relationship

between the rich and the poor adds a nuanced new dimension to our understanding

of Jewish life in the early modern period.

History & PoliticsHistory: specific events & topicsSocial & cultural historyHistory & PoliticsRegional & national historyEuropean historyPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesSocial groupsReligious groups: social & cultural aspectsJewish studiesPhilosophy, Psychology & Social SciencesSocial issues & processesPoverty & unemployment Publisher: Liverpool University Press Publication Date: 05/07/2012 ISBN-13: 9781904113577  Details: Type: Hardback Format: Books
Availability: To Order. Estimated despatch in 1-3 weeks.  

Tirtsah Levie Bernfeld was born in Rotterdam and studied history at the University of Amsterdam, at Brandeis University, and at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she earned her doctorate. As an independent scholar she is involved in research on different aspects of Dutch Sephardi history during the early modern period and has written several articles on the subject. She is the co-editor of Dutch Jewish History: Proceedings of the Symposium on the History of the Jews in the Netherlands (1984). A former curator of the Jewish Museum in Amsterdam and visiting curator at the Amsterdam Historical Museum, she has also been involved in various exhibitions and publications, such as Wonen in Amsterdam in de 17de en 18de eeuw (1980), published in Portuguese as Portugueses em Amsterdao 1600-1680 (1988), and Exodo: Portugezen in Amsterdam 1600-1680 (1987). She lives in Amsterdam.

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