Wednesday, March 07, 2007

The RCA on Pasque di Sangue

The Rabbinical Council of America has issued the following statement on Pasque di Sangue. It is my understanding that it was vetted by a world famous medieval Jewish historian :

Mar 1, 2007 -- The accusation that Jews practice a ritual in which they murder a Christian child in order to utilize his blood has led to untold suffering inflicted on innocent Jews from the twelfth century into modern times. During the last several generations, all civilized people came to realize that this is a hostile fantasy with no basis in reality. Notwithstanding this consensus, virulent anti-Semites, from the Nazis in Der Sturmer to a disturbing number of contemporary Arab enemies of Israel, have maliciously continued to affirm its validity.

Now, a book by the Israeli professor Ariel Toaff has provided aid and comfort to such anti-Semites by implying that a small group of late medieval Jewish extremists might have actually engaged in such behavior. Toaff has withdrawn the book and insisted that he never meant to say this, but his work has been widely understood to suggest such a possibility. Readers of news reports naturally wonder whether he has really discovered evidence that should lead to a reassessment.

It is extremely important that everyone understand that he has uncovered nothing—absolutely nothing—that calls the utter falsity of the blood libel into question. His argument rests essentially on the following: Some medieval Europeans—Jews and Christians-- believed that blood had curative powers; a few of them traded in medicines containing blood; Jews had reason to be hostile to Christians who persecuted them, and they sometimes expressed this hostility in their religious texts; Jews interrogated under torture confessed to ritual murder; some of these Jews supplied accurate texts of the Passover haggadah to their interrogators, though the texts themselves lend no support whatever to the accusation in question.

It is an insult to the intelligence to affirm that these considerations generate even a minuscule degree of support for the proposition that Jews murdered Christians for their blood. Internal Jewish texts contain not a scintilla of evidence for such a practice. They flatly forbid murder, and the legal principles they embody render unthinkable the practice of blood rituals of the sort that the torturers report. Jews, Christian scholars, even the vast majority of Jewish converts to Christianity through the ages affirmed that such charges are entirely, outrageously false. Indeed, Adriano Prosperi, a distinguished non-Jewish Italian historian, described Toaff’s book as a “carnivalesque joke in the worst taste.” Jew-haters have no interest in truth and will both embrace and inflate reports purportedly confirming their fabrications. It comes as no surprise that their websites have gleefully disseminated the imagined findings of Toaff's book. But people of good will should not be confused. The blood libel has always been a lie—and it remains a lie.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Who cares what the RCA thinks? They have abdicated any public responsibility for social issues. They are not advancing anything in public policy. One would sooner turn to the OU, the Agudah, or the WJC. The RCA is not a player in world opinion.
The medieval historian would have been better off writing an op-ed in his own name.
DO these activities make the RCA think that anyone cares about them?
Toaff was wrong but nothing is gained in this statement.

Jeffrey said...

My my, how angry. What did the RCA ever do to you?
I'm just sharing sources as they come my way.

OC said...

By the way, anon - FYI the RCA is the rabinnic arm of the OU...

Anonymous said...

I have read with interest all of your posts detailing reactions around the world to Toaff's book. Have there been any open responses at Bar Ilan itself?

Jeffrey said...

No responses at Bar Ilan, except for the official press releases.

Adam said...

This statement was published as a letter to the editor in yesterday's Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. I assume that other local Jewish weeklies may have also published it. However, the Pittsburgh paper has had no coverage of the controversy thus far. So this letter from the RCA condemning Toaff is likely the first time many Jews in Pittsburgh will have heard of the book at all. Obviously Pittsburgh Jews have access to the Internet and many already do know about it, but it reminds me somewhat of a well-known historical situation: the preservation of heretical viewpoints in the literature of the orthodox polemicists. (I mean "orthodox" here in a generic sense, of course.)

Adam said...

Sorry. To be entirely accurate, I should have said that a slightly modified version of the statement was published in the Jewish Chronicle. I just looked at it again and it appears a few lines were removed, probably due to space constraints. I also should have noted that it was signed by Rabbi Basil Herring who is identified as executive vice president of the RCA, but it was not identified as an official statement of the RCA.