The Lorsch pharmacopoeia of 795 and its medical-pharmaceutical content may have been disseminated via the monasteries. For this purpose, information may have been exchanged with Spain, which was still Moorish at the time. There, in Cordoba, the Jewish philosopher, jurist and physician Moshe ben Maimon or (in Greek) Moses Maimonides (born around 1135, died 1204) lived and later worked as one of the most important scholars of the Middle Ages between Orient and Occident. After the occupation of Andalusia by the Muslim Almohads, he fled to Fez (today Morocco), later arriving in Cairo via Jerusalem and Alexandria, where he worked as personal physician to the secretary of Sultan Saladin, the opponent of Frederick Barbarossa in the Third Crusade.

In the High and Late Middle Ages, after the plague pogroms that raged throughout Europe and later after the Inquisition and expulsion from Spain in 1492, Jews and their families had moved mainly to Eastern Europe. They met, as for example in Eastern Poland, communities settled since the 13th century or founded so-called shtetl. Thus, a long tradition of a rather conservative-orthodox Judaism developed in Eastern Europe.

Nevertheless, the shtetls were also subject to changing political conditions, when, depending on the political power, mutual tolerance and acceptance alternated with exclusion and threat. Through the nationalism and anti-Semitism of the 19th/20th century, Jewish life in Eastern Europe was first oppressed, then persecuted, and finally almost completely extinguished by the German Reich. The persecutions and the poor social and economic situation led in the 19th century to extensive emigration to the “New World”, where in the United States of America a liberal Judaism developed alongside Orthodox Judaism.


Fig. 4: Moshe ben Maimon. (Source: Graphic of Maimonides, with his statement of Blackstone’s Ratio, Kaz Vorpal, via Wikimedia Commons)
Fig. 5: Former synagogue of Starejsoli, a shtetl in present-day Poland (Source: Stara Sól, synagoga, Unknown author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons).