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DONIN, NICHOLAS, OF LA ROCHELLE:

Jewish convert to Christianity; lived at Paris in the first half of the thirteenth century. Having expressed his doubts as to the value of the oral tradition, he was in 1225 excommunicated by R. Jehiel of Paris in the presence of the whole congregation and with the usual ceremonies. Having for ten years lived in the state of excommunication, though still clinging to Judaism, he became dissatisfied at last with his position, and embraced Christianity, probably under the influence of Christian propagandists, who saw the benefit they could derive from such a recruit, embittered as he was against his coreligionists. Donin joined the Franciscan order. His first act of retaliation was to stir up the Crusaders to the bloody persecutions in Brittany, Poitou, and Anjou, in which 3,000 Jews were killed, 500 accepting the alternative of baptism. In 1238 Donin went to Rome, presented himself before Pope Gregory IX., and denounced the Talmud. Thirty-five articles were drawn up, in which Donin stated his charges.

The pope was easily convinced of the truth of the accusation, and despatched to the authorities of the Church transcripts of the charges formulated by Donin, accompanied by an order to seize all copies of the Talmud and deposit them with the Dominicans and Franciscans. If an examination substantiated the charges of Donin, the books were to be burned. This order was generally disregarded, except in France, where the Jews were compelled under pain of death to surrender their Talmuds(March, 1240). Louis IX. ordered four of the most distinguished rabbis of France—Jehiel of Paris, Moses of Coucy, Judah of Melun, and Samuel ben Solomon of Château-Thierry—to answer Donin in a public disputation. In vain did the rabbis disprove the charges of blasphemy and immorality which were the main points of Donin's arraignment. The commission condemned the Talmud to be burned.

Bibliography:
  • Ibn Verga, Shebeṭ Yehudah, ed. Wiener, p. 114;
  • A. Lewin, in Monatsschrift, 1869, pp. 9 et seq.:
  • Isidore Loeb, in Rev. Et. Juives, i. 247 et seq.;
  • Wagenseil, Tela Ignea Satanœ;
  • Grätz, Gesch. vii. 94 et seq.
K. I. Br.
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