Jewish Resistance to Conversion in Fourteenth Century Spain

Our topic discussion of Wednesday Forum this week is “Jewish Resistance to Conversion in Fourteenth Century Spain”, that will be articulated by the speaker, Kristine T. Utterback, Ph. D. We invite you to join this forum. Some information about the forum can be read as follows.

Date: Wednesday, 20 May 2009
Time: 12.30 pm ? 2.30 pm (free lunch)
Venue: Room 306, UGM Graduate School Teknika Utara Pogung
Speaker: Kristine T. Utterback, Ph. D


Jews, Christians and Muslims co-existed more or less amicably on the Iberian Peninsula, in what is now Spain, from about the eighth to the thirteenth century, a situation often called convivencia (living together). By the middle of the thirteenth century, however, convivencia was breaking down, and Jews came under increasing pressure to convert to Christianity: in 1391 a pogrom throughout Spain fatally weakened the Jewish communities there; in 1492 King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, whose marriage united the two largest kingdoms of the peninsula into Spain, required Jews to convert to Christianity or leave the newly unified country.

The eventual destruction of Judaism in Spain may give the impression of the inevitability of Jewish disappearance from the region, but it was anything but inevitable. Jews did not sit idly by and wait for the dissolution of their communities through conversion. They no doubt assumed that this was simply another threat to Jewish survival, and they employed resistance tactics that had worked before. This essay examines some of the tactics that Jews in the Kingdom of Aragon, now northern Spain, used to resist conversion to Christianity. These tactics included various sorts of polemical writings, appeal to support from the king and attempts to rejudaize converts, that is, bring them back to Judaism. The Jews eventually failed, but between the mid-thirteenth and mid-fourteenth centuries they had no reason to expect failure, and their tactics indicate a community concerned but far from defeated.

About the speaker:

KRISTINE T. UTTERBACK, PhD, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and History, University of Wyoming Visiting Fulbright Scholar, General Education Centre, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Hong Kong.


The forum is free of charge and on a first-come-first basis.

Contact Person:

Elis Z. Anis (ICRS):,; Lina Pary (CRCS):; Mustaghfiroh Rahayu (CRCS):


This post is also available in: Indonesian


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