A book by Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, received honorable mention for the 2014 Jordan Schnitzer Book Award. The Schnitzer Book Award was established in 2007 to recognize and promote outstanding scholarship in the field of Jewish Studies and to honor scholars whose work embodies the best in the field: innovative research, excellent writing and sophisticated methodology.
Teter’s book, Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation, published by Harvard University Press in 2011, was honored in the Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History category.
In recognizing her book, the Prize Committee wrote:
“In this beautifully written and richly documented work, Magda Teter traces and convincingly demonstrates the interdependence of economic, religious and political motives that animated Polish anti-Semitism in the early modern period. This book also identifies and elucidates significant factors in the history of their formations in East Central Europe, and in the history of the host-desecration charge in early modern Europe.”
In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat.
In the book, Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake. Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime.
To celebrate the honorable mention, Teter is invited to attend the Jordan Schnitzer Book Award Reception Dec. 14 in Maryland.
Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies. She speaks more about the book and her research in this past News @ Wesleyan article.