Donin, Nicholas

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DONIN, NICHOLAS (13th century), apostate to Christianity; of La Rochelle. A pupil of R. *Jehiel b. Joseph of Paris, whose yeshivah he attended, he was excommunicated by his teacher for his heretical (Karaite?) ideas and repudiation of the Oral Law. Turning apostate and informer, he joined the *Franciscan Order, seeking revenge on his former coreligionists. Along with other converts, Donin compiled a list of 35 accusations against the Talmud – an indictment based on charges that the Talmud teaches that the Oral Law is superior to the Written Law, and that it is full of gross anthropomorphisms, obscenities, and blasphemies against Jesus, Mary, and Christianity. Donin was the main instigator of the famous disputation of Paris (1240), which in reality was a trial of the Talmud, himself appearing as the accuser with four rabbis called to be the defendants. Only two of them were given the opportunity to defend the Talmud: R. Jehiel and R. Judah b. David of Melun. As a result of the disputation the Talmud was condemned to be burned; 24 cart loads of talmudic works were burned in Paris in 1242. Donin was also said to be responsible for the spread of the *blood libel, although this accusation was not raised during the disputation. He is, however, not identical with the convert who instigated massacres of the Jews of *Anjou, *Poitou, and *Brittany in the year 1236. Although Donin continued his anti-Jewish activities for a long period, he was basically a rationalist who never became a good Christian. His name was mentioned in 1287 when he was condemned by the general of the Franciscans for a pamphlet attacking the order, which he wrote in 1279.


M. Braude, Conscience on Trial (1952), 33–68; S. Grayzel, Church and the Jews in the xiii Century (19662), 29–32, 238–41, 276–7, 339–40; Baron, Social2, 9 (1965), 80ff., 278; J.M. Rosenthal, in: jqr, 47 (1956/57), 58–76, 145–69; Dinur, Golah, 2 pt. 2 (19662), 521–34.

[Judah M. Rosenthal]