Blood Libel

Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


A Pesach Story


Massena is a small town in upstate New York. In 1928 Massena had a Jewish congregation of approximately 100. 

On Yom Kippur of that year a Greek immigrant publicly charged that a four year old girl who was missing must have been murdered by the Jews so that they could drink her blood on the occasion of their holy day. Believing this bizarre accusation, the police interrogated Rabbi Berel Brenglass as to Jewish practices and the use of blood in Jewish food. They also wanted to know whether Jews conduct human sacrifices. Even as these proceedings aroused the small town against their Jewish neighbors, the four year old girl was found unharmed. Nevertheless the community continued to blame the Jews for a so called abduction which never took place, claiming that the Jews had released the little girl on discovery of their plot. Under the leadership of their mayor, the townspeople boycotted all Jewish businesses. It was only because the New York Times printed a story on the front page while national Jewish leaders denounced these false accusations publicly that the mayor finally issued an apology for participating in this insane pretense.

To my knowledge no such libel has occurred in America again. However, among the Arabs such horror stories against Jews are daily broadcast on television. Repeating the 2000 year old European blood libel which is included in the history and literature of Europe, the Arabs stir up as much hatred as possible against the Jews of this world using every ancient canard attainable by them. Of course, the Arabs also teach their television viewers that Americans came to Iraq for the purpose of killing Arabs, whose body parts we then sell for a profit. 

The blood libel was for centuries believed in Europe and was associated with Passover. In their schools and in their churches it was claimed by hate mongers that the Jews capture Christian children at Passover time so as to bake their Matzohs with the blood of the Christian children. This accusation was once used against Christians when they were a small minority in the Roman Empire. Then, when in the fourth century Christianity became the official religion of the Romans, Christians claimed the Jews were and are guilty of the blood libel.

In 1144 CE the Jews of Norwich, England were accused of ritual murder and their leaders executed. Similar accusations were made in Bristol, England as well as in Derry and Winchester. In Spain in 1250 the Jews of Zaragoza were accused of ritually killing a child. These atrocities continued when in 1255 a little boy was found in a cesspool near the house of a Jew in Lincoln, England. As a consequence 102 were blamed for ritual murder and, without trial, hanged.

The same kind of brutality was shown the Jews of Germany where in several communities ritual murder accusations resulted in anti-Jewish riots. The great German Jewish poet Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) wrote a story called "The Rabbi of Bacharach”, which deals with the Jews of a small town in Germany who found a dead body under the Seder table planted there by a Christian. Read the story and see the outcome. 

If you've read the novel The Fixer by Bernard Malamud then you are acquainted with the Beilis case, which dealt with an accusation of ritual murder in Kiev, Russia in 1911. Of course, the Nazi murderers continued this vicious allegation and often published special issues of their periodicals to revive the allegation of ritual murder by Jews. 

In this connection it is of interest to learn that in the Russian Jews did not use red wine at their Seder because they wanted to avoid the pretense that red wine is really Christian blood. Living in small one floor houses permitted outsiders to look into Jewish homes when the door was opened during the Seder to allow the entry of the prophet Elijah. In fact, the legend that Elijah would attend was really a substitute for the real motive for opening the door. That was to permit outsiders to see that there were no ritually slaughtered victims at any Seder.

Today only the Arabs continue to tell such vile stories. In the civilized world such psychotic beliefs play no further role. Yet we must always be on the alert to defeat such hate inspired legends at any time and in any place.

Shalom u’vracha.

Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including Football & American Identity (2005) & the forthcoming Youth Culture and the Generation Gap with Dr. Ursula A. Falk.

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