Me at Pennsic 2012.
|Resides: Harrisburg, PA (Shire-Marche of Blak Rose)|
|Awards: Order of Precedence|
|Award & Office Badges|
I am Reb Eleazar ha-Levi. The word “reb” is a Jewish equivalent to the title “lord.”
I joined the SCA in September or October 1973, while I was a grad student at Rutgers University. A friend of mine was forming a chapter in north central New Jersey, and the campus I lived on fell in her territory (if she expanded it slightly). I went to her house for the organizational meeting and was introduced to other SCAdians – and to Master Master Duke Sir Cariadoc’s quick mead. What can I say, I joined.
When I graduated and moved to Harrisburg, PA, I found that there were no chapters closer than Baltimore (Mirkwood), Philadelphia (Bhakail), or Pittsburgh (BMDL). That didn’t give me much opportunity to participate, and I let my membership lapse in 1976.
In 1983, a friend of mine told me that he and his wife were forming a Harrisburg chapter (Dawnfield), and I rejoined. I’ve been a member ever since.
My first Pennsic was 1988. I took my daughter, Rose, who was originally known in the Society as Osnah Rachel bat Eleazar ha-Levi. Rose is still a member, only she is now known as Leonilla Kalista Kievlianina.
When I was designing my device, I wanted to have Jewish elements. What I came up with is Per pale dovetailed Or and azure, three mullets of six points in pale and a date palm tree, eradicated and fructed, all counterchanged. The date palm, FYI, is an old Jewish symbol for a pious man.
In 1987, I wrote up the research for my device (and a bit more) as a research paper entry for Ice Dragon. Master Arval Benicoeur, who was Brigantia Herald at the time, offered to work with me on the paper for possible publication in the Proceedings of the Known World Heraldic Symposium (now the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposium). The paper, “Jewish Heraldry” was published in the 1989 Proceedings. I’d been doing a bit of research on period Jewish culture, and this really got me into it.
In 1990, the man who was herald for the Shire of Dawnfield stepped down. It was suggested that I take the job, since, if I had gotten published in the KWHSS Proceedings, I must know something about heraldry. I took the job, and I’ve held it most of the time since then.
Award of Arms -- 05/09/87
Order of the Silver Crescent -- 09/16/95
Orderof the Maunche -- 03/09/96
I was born in Toledo in the Year of the World 4908. To those good gentiles who follow the calendar set many years ago by their Pope Julius, this was the year 1148. My place of birth was and is Toledo, the capital of the Kingdom of Castile, now under the rule of His Majesty, Alfonso VIII Sánchez, "the Noble" (11/11/1155-10/05/1214). It is now the year 4973, by that same calendar of their Pope Julius, 1213.
My full name is Eleazar Tzvi ben Shmuel Aharon ben Eleazar Tzvi ben Saul Yosef ha-Levi. My father, Shmuel Aharon (of blessed memory), was a grower and seller of herbs and flowers and a ceremonial gardener. My mother, Rivka bat Noach Dovid ha-Levi (also of blessed memory) was a sometimes midwife and one of the leaders of the women at our synagogue. I have a younger sister, Pesichaya, now married with two grown children, Rafiel ben Yosef and Michal bat Yosef. Their oldest son, Daniel ben Yosef (of blessed memory) died some years ago of a wasting disease.
I received a good Jewish education and discovered a love of knowledge, especially history, which could only be satisfied by study and travel. In 4914 (1162), I met the famous Rabbi Abraham ben Meir ibn Ezra (of blessed memory), who was married to a distant cousin, Cipporah bat Yehudah ha-Levi. Rabbi ibn Ezra had spent some years in Angle-Land, and he encouraged my interest in that far country. I travelled to that land in my twenty-third year and spent two years living in a town called Ox-Ford, which was a growing center of knowledge after their own King Henry had banned study at the University of Paris.
My feet, as they say, itched to travel, and I left Ox-Ford and travelled to Italy. I stayed a short time in the free commune of Bologna, also a center of learning, before I moved on to Rome. That city is under the rule of the Catholic Pope, whose steward at that time was a fellow Jew, Reb Jechiel ben Yakov, the head of the Jewish community and leader of “the wise men of Rome” a group whose knowledge of Jewish Law was of great renown in that country.
I lived for a time in the home of one of these men, Reb Chizikia ben Natan. Amongst his servants was an Italian maiden, Donna, who had converted to our faith, taking the name Yaphe bat Yisrael. I grew to love Yaphe, and took her as my wife. A year and half later, she died in childbirth. The baby, my daughter, Rosa (Asnat Rachel), survived and flourished. I lived in Reb Chizikia’s home for some years after that, studying under him and the other wise men and learning to care for Rosa.
In time, I began to long for my home city. In addition, the Pope Alexander had spoken out against employing Jewish servants. Reb. Jechiel was no long his steward, and life in that city was growing harder. Rosa was old enough to travel with me, so we returned to Toledo.
The King wisely employed Jews in his court as scholars, and I sought service there. I was well qualified by my time in Angle-Land and Italy. In addition to the language of Castile, I can read and speak Ladino, Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic, English, and Italian.
Still, there were some who felt that there were already too many of my faith in the court. As it happened, Rachel bat Dovid ha-Levi, also known as Rahel la Fermosa, whose father was brother to my own, was the king’s… friend. Her word in the king’s ear was a help, and I was offered a position as a translator of documents.
My efforts, if I may be immodest, have more than proved my worth, and I have found a position that has suited me. My efforts have been praised, and I have produced a number of works that have been deemed of use to the great men of His Majesty’s court.
Rosa has married a travelling bookseller, Micah ben Avraham, and lives somewhere in the East. I enjoy my life and my work, but I live, as any father would, for the letters from my daughter. So far, none of these have spoken much of grandchildren, but they are both young, and – Ha-Shem be praised – healthy and prospering.
Offices & Positions
Herald of the Shire of Dawnfield 1990-1995. At that time, the Shire merged with the Shire-Marche of Blak Rose, which had a herald. Herald of the Shire-Marche of Blak Rose 1997-2020 (Term limited out). Deputy Herald of Blak Rose (2020) Replacement Herald (2020-present)
In 2010, at the Shire's request, I registered the title Rose Noire Pursuivant for the Shire Herald. I also designed and registered a citizenry badge: (Fieldless) A rose sable, barbed and charged with the letters "B" and "R" argent in 2008 and a badge for the Shire's archers: Argent, four arrows in saltire, heads outward, and four roses in cross, a bordure sable in 2012.
From 2015 to 2017, I also served on the Committee to re-write the Shire By-Laws. I served as a primary writer, usually submitting the first draft of each section.
From 1985 through 1994, I was autocrat or co-autocrat of the Dawnfield Purim Event, an event based on the medieval celebration of the Jewish holiday of Purim. This included running the competitions: the Damosels' Race (race a set track while trying to thread a needle) and Dueling Rabbis (a fast talking contest). Each year, I also constructed a pinyata (containing candy) to be destroyed by the competitors. The second year of the event I also wrote a play, The King's Choice, a bawdy farce, as was the custom of medieval Purim gatherings, based on the events of the biblical Book of Esther. A copy of the pay may be found among the files of the  SCA-Judaica Yahoo group.
I autocrated another Purim event in 2010 and a "Wake for Richard III" in March 2015, the weekend his bones were re-buried. In 2017, I attempted to organize an Autocrats' Colloquium, based on a similar event held the year before in Carolingia. This event had to cancelled due to low pre-registration.
In February 2020, I was named Event Steward for Shire Wars IX, a weekend long, multi-shire event held in October. When that event was postponed a year by COVID, I became event steward of Shire Wars IX.i, an online event held in November 2020. I am still event steward of Shire Wars IX, which has been reduced to a one-dy event by SCA BoD restrictions, but which MAY be expanded if those restrictions lift in time.
I also "autocrated" the Hey, Nonny Non-Event. This was a fundraiser for the East Kingdom Travel Fund masquerading as an event. With His Majesty's permission, it was an RP and there was a contest for best male and best female garb. The contest winners were chosen by lot, since we were certain that everyone would have worn excellent garb if they had actually come. The winners each got a bolt of black cloth; a bolt, a nut, and a screw, actually, all cut from scrap cloth. Everyone who registered got a booklet about the event.
The booklet began "Court was held, but you weren't called in, and neither was anyone you knew. You did read the gossip of the Court. For example, "The eldest son of the Baron of Far-Far-Away has the brains of a turnip, and this is confirmed by both his tutors and the keeper of the baronial gardens. There was also:
• Instructions on how to play the board game Tablero
• Instructions on how to use a pair of dice to simulate shooting a royal round
• The names of the winners of the garb contests
• A description of the feast, with the instructions for cooking all of the food
• Instructions for dancing the horses bransle, which was danced after dinner
Cost of my creating, printing, and mailing out these pamphlets were minimal, and we netted some fifty dollars for the fund.
Most frequently at events held by Blak Rose or by other groups, I teach classes and run a herald's point. I have run the herald's point for the regional Shire Wars event for every year that event was held.
Projects & Publications
“An SCA Guide to Jewish Persona” Compleat Anachronist #110, January 2001
Proceedings of the Known World Heraldic and Scribal Symposiums (KWHSS)
• “Jewish Heraldry” 1989 KWHSS
• “Jewish Naming Conventions in Angevin England” 1991 KWHSS 
• “Hebrew Equivalents of SCA Titles” 1993 KWHSS
• “Hebrew Equivalents of SCA Titles Taken from Three Period Texts” 1996 KWHSS
• “Names found on List of 11th to 16th Century Italian Jewish Scribes” 1997 KWHSS
• “Heraldry Aids” 2003 KWHSS
• “A Jewish Memory Book: Nuremburg, 1349” 2004 KWHSS 
• “Jewish Names from the Roman Catacombs” 2007 KWHSS 
• “Names from The Itinerary of Benjamin of Tudela” 2008 KWHSS 
• “A Step Towards Period Practice: Medieval Jewish Use of Biblical Names” 2011 KWHSS
• “A Heraldic Coloring Book” 2011 KWHSS
• “Jewish Physicians in Southern France in the 13th and 14th Centuries 2012KWHSS 
• "On the Evolution of Jewish Names" 2014 KWHSS 
• "Viking Style Heraldry and Heraldry at Hastings" 2018 KWHSS
• "111 Italian Towns" 2019 KWHSS
• "Heraldry in The Adventures of Robin Hood 2022 KWHSS
• "Charoset” TI#90 Spring 1989 – redaction of a medieval recipe for a dish served at Passover
• "The Medieval Seder" TI#98, Spring 1991
• "Scroll Coloring" co-authored with my daughter Osnah Rachel bat Eleazar ha-Levi, TI#108, Fall 1993 -- line drawings of presentation scrolls as a children's activity at events.
• Daily Life in Holland in the Year 1566 by Rien Poortvliet trans. Karin H. Ford and Growing Up in Medieval London: The Experience of Childhood in History by Barbara A. Hanawalt (book reviews) TI#116, Fall 1995
• Rashi: The Man and His World by Esra Shereshevsky (book review) TI#136, Autumn 2000
• “The First First Event” TI179, Third Quarter 2011 -- description of a medieval recreation event held by officers of the British army during its occupation of Philadelphia in 1777-78.
• Designing and building a “Games Box”, a carrying case containing the boards and pieces for seven different period board games (alquerque, backgammon, chess, fox and geese, nine-man-morris, tablero (de Jesus), and tafl) based on a less complex Italian Renaissance game box. So far, only a corrugated cardboard version of the game box has been made.
• In 1990-1993, I worked with the chirurgeons to develop a list of Butler County health care providers who would be willing to see Pennsic attendees with medical or dental emergencies.
• At Pennsic 2009, the year I was diagnosed as a diabetic, organizing a one-hour discussion on "Diabetes in the SCA" that was attended by some thirty people, diabetics and their families.
• Designing and registering a "Diabetics Badge." Although the badge is registered to me, any diabetic member of the Society has my permission to wear it. (The chirurgeonate stated that it would prefer that diabetics wear a med-alert tag, so the badge has gotten little use.) The blazon for the badge is Per bend sinister argent and gules, a fleam gules and a bee Or.
• Getting my KWHSS Jewish name articles posted to the Medieval Names Archive and to the Laurel Web Page.
• Serving as a member of the SCA Census Committee, assisting in the design of the questionnaire and the analysis of the data.
• Documenting the non-use of pinyatas by Jews as part of the Purim celebration. This was done by the article "Haman Pinyata" (see above) and a pictorial on how to construct such a pinyata, both as part of the 2021 East Kingdom Laurel's Challenge.
• Doing research on medieval Jewish cooking and brewing. I recently found some information on the brewing of beer as described in the Talmud. I have entered my own redactions for a charosets recipe (from a mid 17th century source; see "More Information" section below) and for Spanish meatballs from the 13th Century Anonymous Andalusian Cookbook. in A&S competitions.
• Encouraging the adoption of Jewish personas and the recreation of more Jewish arts, crafts, and activities.
• Writing two filk song parodies: "Song of the Autocrat" (based on "Song of the Shield Wall; see "More Information" section below) about running a kingdom event and "Cold, Hard Cash" (based on "Iron, Cold Iron") about shopping at Pennsic.
• Serving as consulting herald around the year 2010 for the neighboring Shire of Owlsherst when it did not have a herald of its own.
• Serving as an Armory Consultant at Pennsic every year I attended since 1998, as well as the Virtual Heralds' Point, held online in early 2021.
• Doing online consultations for a woman from Caid in 2017 and another from a distant part of the East Kingdom, both of whom wanted documentable period Jewish names.
• Creating and continually updating the Order of Precedence for the Shire-Marche of Blak Rose.
• Teaching the following classes at Pennsic and/or other events:
o A Walking Tour of Medieval Italy
o The Champagne Fairs
o The Medieval Jewish Woman
o Jewish Life in the Middle Ages
o Hag Samayach – How the Jewish Holidays Were Celebrated in Period
o Three Medieval Board Games – using handout that also serves at demos
o Medieval Outdoor Children’s Games
o It Takes Balls to Play Bocche
Being a Herald
o Heraldry 101: Introduction to Heraldry
o Heraldry 201: How to Design Your Device
o Heraldry 202: The Submission Process
o How to Do a Device Consult
o How to Be a Local Herald
o What is an Order of Precedence?
o Viking Style Heraldry
o Jewish Heraldry and Naming Convention
o On the Origin of Jewish Names
o On the Evolution of Jewish Names
Just to show off a bit, here are the words to "Song of the Autocrat", which I mentioned above. This song was nominated for The Master William Blackfox award for A.S. 53.in the category of “Best Poetry or Short Fiction.”
Song of the Autocrat
By Eleazar ha-Levi
To: Song of the Shield Wall
By Doyle and Williamson
Hasten all households; all members muster
Down to the place where our Seneschal speaks.
For Kingdom has called us upon the farspeaker
To run an event here in only eight weeks.
We’ll make a meal for a King and Queen’s palate.
We’ll deck our halls with bright banners of gold,
And schedule stuff to amuse lord and lady.
A kingdom event we were given to hold.
Hasten O Troll-crat down to the post box.
Reg checks come in like the slow-moving tide.
The number of on-board, the number of off-board
Are numbers we need for what we must decide?
Draw up a budget and pinch every penny.
Later, whenever our story is told
They’ll say that we splurged, as they say we cut corners.
A kingdom event we were given to hold.
Hasten all helpers to the Event hall.
SCAdians come from all parts of the land.
Our big day is here, and I hope we can hack it.
Let’s hope we pull off everything that we planned.
Fighters will find this a place fit for battle.
Dancers will dance, and old stories be told.
A Great court is held, and a three remove supper.
A kingdom event we were given to hold.
Hasten on homeward, all you who joined us,
Telling the tale of the fine time you had;
The pomp of the Court and the gossip abundant.
The beef was too cold, but the mead wasn’t bad.
Clean up the hall and put back all the tables.
Wash out the kettles, the tablecloths fold.
And write the report that we send to Exchequer.
A kingdom event we were given to hold.
And here is my redaction of charoset.
This recipe comes from Plate 58 of Haggadah and History by Yosef Hayim Yerushalmi. It is a page from a haggadah, the prayerbook used during the Passover seder meal, printed in Livorno (Leghorn), Italy in 1652 and distributed to newly-arrived Marranos, secret Jews from Spain, who had pretended to be Christians all their lives, and, so, had little training in their own religion and its rituals. A much longer version of this with a full explanation of all the steps and of the ingredients is available by e-mail from email@example.com if anyone is interested.
The original text read:
Orden: De hazer el arosset
To maran mansanas, o peras, cozidas en agua: auellanas, o almendras: castaňas piladas, o nuezes:higos, o paslas pasias: y despues de cozido, molerloan mucho, y destemplarloan con vinagre de vino el mas suerte que hallaren. Y despues mesclarlean un poco de poluo de ladrillo, por memoria de los ladrillos que nuestros padres hizieron en Egipto. Y para se comer, echa un poco de poluo de canela por en sima. Y queriendo poner mas de otras frutas y espesias dentro del cosimiento, lo pueden azer.
My translation reads:
Order: the Making of Charoset
Take apples, or pears, cooked in water; hazelnuts, or almonds, peeled(?) chestnuts or nuts, figs, or passas [some other fruit], and after cooking, grind much (well?) and cool down with wine vinegar, the strongest you can find. After [that], [add] a little mix of powdered brick in memory of the bricks that our parents made in Egypt. And for eating, take a little bit of powdered cinnamon is added. If you want to put more or other fruits and spices within the recipe, it can be done.
What is Charoset?
Charoset (Hebrew: חֲרֽוֹסֶת) is a sweet, dark-colored paste made of fruits, nuts, and spices, which is eaten at the Passover Seder. Its color and texture are meant to recall mortar (or mud used to make adobe bricks) which the Israelites used when they were enslaved in Ancient Egypt as mentioned in Tractate Pesahim (page 116a) of the Talmud. The word "charoset" comes from the Hebrew word cheres (חרס) meaning "clay."
Charoset is one of the symbolic foods on the Passover Seder Plate. After reciting the blessings, and eating a matzah "sandwich" combining charoset and maror (bitter herb, for example horseradish), the remainder is often eaten plain, spread on matzah
The reasons for dipping charoset in maror is explained by the second century CE Talmudic scholar Rabbi Akiva: According to him, charoset is a reminder of the Egyptian apple orchards where Hebrew women secretly made love to their husbands and bore children, thus defying the pharaoh’s ban on procreation. Akiva said that Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt because of these “righteous women’s deeds.” His inspiration is the verse from the Song of Solomon (known to Jews as the Song of Songs) recited on the Sabbath of Passover week: “Under the apple trees, I roused you. It was there your mother conceived you.”
And here's my redaction.
1 cup of figs
½ cup of slivered almonds
½ cup of walnut pieces
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ tsp cloves
¼ cup nutmeg
1. Cut apples into chunks; place in saucepan. Add figs. Add enough water to just cover the fruit, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to low; cover and simmer 7-10 minutes* until apples are tender.
2. As the fruit cooks, place almonds and walnuts in microwavable plate and roast in a microwave oven on medium power about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. (Note: Roasting the nuts in the oven would enhance the flavors more than “nuking” them in the microwave.)
3. Drain fruit and combine with roasted nuts in food processor. Pulse to desired consistency.
4. Stir in vinegar, nutmeg, and cloves.
5. Place in serving bowl. Sprinkle top with cinnamon before serving. Or stir in the cinnamon, if it tastes too vinegary.