Bernard of Clairvaux°

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BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX°

BERNARD OF CLAIRVAUX° (1090–1153), French Cistercian, homilist, and theologian. In 1146, when preaching the Second Crusade, he intervened orally and in writing to protect the Jews in the Rhineland from persecution incited by a certain monk Radulph, declaring that an attempt on the life of a Jew was a sin tantamount to making an attempt on the life of Jesus. A letter addressed by Bernard to the Germans implicitly repudiates the policy urged by *Peter the Venerable, abbot of Cluny, against the Jews (although without expressly naming the abbot) by emphasizing the difference between Jews and Muslims; Bernard, while considering it right to take up arms against Muslims, maintains that it is forbidden to attack Jews. While Peter wished to expropriate the wealth of the Jews to finance the Crusade, Bernard limited himself to recommending the abolition of interest on credit they had advanced to crusaders. He finally recalled in his epistle the fate of Peter the Hermit and his followers, who had persecuted the Jews during the First Crusade and led his supporters into such peril that practically none had survived. Bernard warned that the present crusaders might well suffer similar Divine retribution: "It is to be feared that if you act in like manner, a similar fate will strike you." Jewish chroniclers stress Bernard's disinterestedness in his defense of the Jews.

bibliography:

A. Neubauer (ed.), Hebraeische Berichte… (1892), 58ff., 187ff.; Blumenkranz, in: K.H. Rengstorf and S. von Kortzfleisch (eds.), Kirche und Synagoge (1968), 119ff.

[Bernhard Blumenkranz]