Rainer Josef Barzen received his Ph.D. (summa cum laude) in History from Trier University in 2005. In his dissertation, entitled Taqqanot Kehillot Shum: The Ordinances of the Jewish Communities of Mainz, Worms and Speyer in the High and Late Middle Ages, he examined the entire Hebrew text tradition of the Rhenish ordinances in a synoptic edition with extensive commentary, translation and a comprehensive historical introduction. It will be published in Spring 2011 by the Momunmenta Germaniae Historica (Munich) in cooperation with the Israel Academy of Sciences (Jerusalem). His present research project focuses on medieval forms and characteristics of Jewish poor relief, zedakah. Dr. Barzen focuses on theoretical-theological foundations of Jewish poor relief and on their differences from those of the Christian and Muslim majorities. He also explores formal aspects of poor relief institutions, looking at both individual and communal practice, on the one hand, and local and regional contexts, on the other.
Until the end of 2008, Rainer Josef Barzen was involved in two major projects dealing with Jewish history contributing to two special research areas at the University of Trier, as well as in a nationwide joint research project on the integration and disintegration of medieval cultures.
Since 2009, he has been in charge of Hebrew sources for the edition project ‘The Corpus of Sources on the History of the Jews in the Medieval Empire,’ a project located at the Arye Maimon Institute for History of the Jews at the University of Trier (directed by Prof. Dr. Alfred Haverkamp), and supported by the Academy of Sciences in Mainz.