Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 4394
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Klein , Elka
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  • Title: The Widow's Portion: Law, Custom, and Marital Property among Medieval Catalan Jews
  • Source: Viator 31, ( 2000): Pages 147 - 163.
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Journal Article
  • Subject (See Also): Acculturation Catalonia Dower Family Inheritance Jewish Law Jews Ketubbah, Jewish Women's Marriage Portion Property Widows
  • Geographic Area: Iberia
  • Century: 11-12
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  • Abstract: Acculturation between medieval Jews and Christians has received little attention. Klein uses a complex of practices of medieval Catalan Jews relating to widows' control of resources, marital property, and inheritance to argue that although Catalan Jews were in no way assimilated, retaining considerable religious and legal distinctiveness, these practices reveal deeper acculturation than has often been recognized. The article focuses on cases of widows acting along with their husbands' heirs. In Jewish law, widows did not inherit from their husbands; technically, their claims on their husbands' estates implied not cooperation but competition with the heirs. Their collaboration can be viewed in two broader contexts: wives cosigning their husbands' sales, and inheritance patterns which treated the family as a cooperative enterprise, with assets held jointly by the heirs. The participation of Jewish wives in sales was rooted in legal concerns but was expanded by the force of custom. That custom had internal Jewish roots but was reinforced by the parallel practices of Catalan Christian society. In the case of inheritance, Jewish law admitted both options, and Jews shared the local preference for joint heirship. These two contexts--concerns about marital property and ideas about patrimony--were not mutually exclusive but intertwined in a dynamic fashion. The anomalous practices of widows reveal the complex interplay between law and culture, as well as the degree to which Catalan Jews and Christians--religious and legal differences aside--were part of one cultural system. [Reproduced by permission of the University of California Press].
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  • Year of Publication: 2000.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 00835897
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