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A BRA HAM G. D U K E R Twentieth-Century Blood Libels in the United States The instances ofbloodlibel accusations in the United States are admittedly much fewer in number and less serious in terms of consequences than those occurring in Europe or the Middle East. Still, it is of interest that the legend did cross the Atlantic from Europe and that it has undoubtedly contributed to the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States. This survey compiled by Professor Abraham G. Duker, Chairman of Judaic Studies at Brooklyn College, does document the presence of the legend in North America. Perhaps the best-known case of blood libel in America, the events reported in Massena, New York, in 1928, is not really discussed at length in this survey. For details, see Saul S. Friedman , The Incident at Massena: The Blood Libel in America (New York: Stein and Day, 1978), and Samuel Jacobs, "The Blood Libel Case at Massena-A Reminiscence and a Review ," Judaism 28 (1979): 465-74. The'alilat dam, blood libel or ritual murder accusation, i.e. the false charge that Gentile blood (Christian or Moslem depending on the environment) is necessary in the baking of Passover matzah, became widespread in the Middle Ages.l Although popes and many other high church dignitaries inReprinted from Leo Landman, ed., Rabbi Joseph H. Lookstein Memorial Volume (New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1980), pp. 85-109. 233 Abraham G. Duker veighed against it, it was increasingly employed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as an effective issue by antiSemitic political parties and in economic warfare against Jews. The most notorious case in the twentieth century was the Mendel Beilis affair (1912, Kiev, Russian Ukraine).2 The blood libel is still used effectively by anti-Semitic movements and leaders as well as by political demagogues. It was an influential instrument in Nazi propaganda. The Soviet press reported cases in Soviet Dagestan and Magalan (Uzbekistan ) in 1961, in Tashkent (Uzbekistan's capital) and in Georgia (the Caucasus) in 1962; another case was reported seven weeks before Passover, 1963 in Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno), Soviet Lithuania's capitai.J What appears to be manifestly unreasonable and unbelievable to many (it is hoped, most) clergy and laypeople, nowadays , after the Vatican synods and the far-reaching changes in the Church's attitudes to Jews and Judaism and in the era of ecumenism, seemed reasonable, believable, and in accord with tradition earlier in the century even after Auschwitz. In fact, the ritual murder accusation of Kielce (Kelts), Poland , 4 July 1946, was well organized, precipitated mass killings , and stimulated a sizeable exodus of Jews from Poland.4 Of late, Arab states have been using the accusation in their agitation against Israel, the Jews, and Judaism. Such propaganda emanated from Egypt in 1967,1971, and 1973 and appeared in Lebanon and Iraq in 1971.5 The well-connected and popular Cairo monthly Octobre raised it as late as 1978.6 The libel has also been prompted in democratic countries, including Canada7 and, as we see, also the United States, in other democracies and in those under dictatorial rule.8 It is likely to be used in the present Arab-Moslem global campaign against Israel and by other interested parties for the purpose of undermining democracy. This threat supplied the second stimulus for my interest in the history of blood libels in the United States. The Pittsfield story has always fascinated me, and until the 22 September 1928, Massena case/ I viewed it as unique. However, while perusing the Gotthard Deutsch Clippings 234 Twentieth-Century Blood Libels in the United States Collection at the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati in 1941, I came across a Yiddish newspaper clipping reporting a ritual murder accusation, but not in Pittsfield, about 1919. Regrettably, I mislaid my note on it. Although Professor Jacob R. Marcus was unsuccessful in his efforts to locate that clipping upon my request in 1976, fortunately, his searches produced Yiddish newspaper clippings on several such cases, including the Pittsfield libel.10 The Clayton, Pennsylvania, Incident, 1913 The first twentieth-century incident dates back to 1913, when a sixteen-year-old girl had the dreadful fear that she was the chosen victim of a planned murder in connection with a Jewish religious rite. Much fuss was made about it locally, but all turned out to be well when the girl reappeared the next morning. The story appeared on the front page of the New York Yiddish socialist daily...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780299131135
Related ISBN
9780299131142
MARC Record
OCLC
835455593
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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