This chapter discusses gentile perceptions of Jewish economic difference that were usually hostile, at times admiring, but always influential in the shaping of government policies toward Jews and social interaction between Jews and Gentiles. Throughout much of European history, Jews concentrated in certain occupations and displayed particular characteristics in the practice of their livelihoods and the spending of their earning. The chapter analyzes Jewish response to Gentile critiques of Jewish economic behavior and, more broadly, Jewish thinking about the relationship between Judaism and economic practice. The history of Jewish social policy is a largely unexplored subject, but its intellectual underpinnings are even more poorly understood: not merely feelings of compassion, obligation or anxiety, but also visions of a Jewish political economy, speculation about the nature of Jewish economic difference, and contemplation of the role of economic factors in the shaping of Jewish existence.
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