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Behind the Aegis

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The Last Blood Libel Trial

One hundred years ago today, in a courtroom in Kiev, then part of the Russian Empire, the most famous accused murderer on Earth rose to declare, “I am innocent.” Mendel Beilis, a 39-year-old father of five, had spent more than two years in squalid prison cells waiting to say those words. The Russian and world press had been waiting, as well, to cover one of the most bizarre cases ever tried in an ostensibly civilized society. The Russian state had charged Beilis, a Jew, with the ritual religious killing of a Christian child to drain his blood for the baking of Passover matzo.

Beilis’ 34-day trial in the fall of 1913 made international headlines. The frame-up of an innocent man on a charge seemingly out of the Dark Ages provoked widespread indignation and drew the attention some of the era’s greatest personages. Leading cultural, political and religious figures such as Thomas Mann, H. G. Wells, Anatole France, Arthur Conan Doyle, and the Archbishop of Canterbury rallied to Beilis’ defense. In America, the Beilis case made for inspiring collaboration between Jews and non-Jews. Rallies headlined by the likes of social reformer Jane Addams and Booker T. Washington drew thousands. The New York Times headlined an editorial “The Czar on Trial.”

The blood libel—the notion that Jews commit ritual murder to obtain Christian blood, generally the blood of children—originated in Western Europe in the 12th and 13th centuries. The historian Anthony Julius has called the blood libel the “master libel” against the Jews. It directly inspired the rampant metaphor of the Jews as economic “bloodsuckers.” More subtly, it underlies the slander of the Jews as a disloyal, conspiratorial, and parasitical force that exploits its hosts, sucking society’s energy.

It has been a remarkably persistent infection, sometimes lying dormant for decades, then erupting violently. In the latter decades of the 19th century, the blood libel experienced a rather mysterious revival in Central Europe, with upward of 100 significant cases in which specific allegations of ritual murder were made to the authorities or at least gained wide popular currency. Most of the cases were in Germany and Austria-Hungary. The accusations resulted in a half-dozen full-fledged ritual murder trials, some of which sparked anti-Semitic riots. (With the exception of an ambiguous case in Bohemia—in which the defendant was convicted, but the state officially rejected the ritual motive—all the suspects were acquitted.) Historians have reached no consensus on the precise causes of this phenomenon. But the wave was undoubtedly linked to the rise of modern anti-Semitism that culminated in some of the worst horrors of the 20th century.

Please take the time to

This is a x-post from GD (hat tip ashling).
Posted by Behind the Aegis | Thu Oct 10, 2013, 12:24 AM (1 replies)

Jewish essentials: For most American Jews, ancestry and culture matter more than religion

What does it mean to be Jewish? There are few more fundamental and difficult questions for Jews — indeed, figuring out one’s place within Judaism’s 3,000+ years of tradition, 620 commandments (plus a library’s worth of commentary), worldwide diaspora and multiple religious movements is itself key to many Jews’ self-identity.

Jews tend to be less religious than the U.S. public as a whole, with fewer saying they attend religious services weekly, believe in God with absolute certainty, or that religion is very important in their lives. The Pew Research Center’s landmark new survey of American Jews found that overall, about six-in-ten (62%) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture, while just 15% say it’s mainly a matter of religion. (The rest cited some combination of religion, ancestry and/or culture.)

Those views varied considerably by religious movement, or lack thereof: While fully two-thirds of Reform Jews (and 80% of Jews who didn’t identify with any movement) say being Jewish is mainly a matter of ancestry and/or culture, only 15% of Orthodox Jews do. Nearly half (46%) of Orthodox Jews say being Jewish is mainly a matter of religion, while more than a third (38%) cite religion in combination with ancestry and/or culture. (In general, Orthodox Jews are the strictest about observing traditional Jewish law and Reform Jews are the least strict, with Conservative Jews in between.)

When we asked Jews about what is and is not essential to their own sense of Jewishness, 73% say remembering the Holocaust is essential (including 76% of Jews by religion and 60% of Jews of no religion). Almost as many Jews, 69%, say leading an ethical and moral life is essential, and 56% cite working for social justice and equality; only 19% say observing Jewish law is essential.

Posted by Behind the Aegis | Wed Oct 2, 2013, 12:59 AM (2 replies)

Ambassador of Denmark honors countrymen who saved Jews during World War II

Source: Jerusalem Post

The Ambassador of Denmark to Israel, accompanied by more than 100 Danish Jews, gathered at a high school in the capital Tuesday to honor the 70th anniversary of Denmark’s rescue of more than 7,000 Jews from Nazi persecution.

During a two-day incursion between August 29 and October 1 in 1943, the Nazis, who occupied Denmark at the time, attempted to deport the country’s nearly 7,500 Jews to death camps, but were defeated during a spontaneous uprising coordinated by Denmark’s citizens.


“What is unique about this story is that it was not the act of one or two or three people – it was an act by all the people of Denmark who came together to rescue the Jewish community because Jews were an integral part of their society,” he said.


“No Jew was forced to wear a Star of David in Denmark because the Danes thought it would be an assault on the cohesion and values of their society,” said Vahr. “The people of Denmark said: ‘No! We will not accept any measures that infringe on the rights of any group – be they Jews or any other.’” On October 1, 1943, Vahr said 7,000 Jews were ferried to safety with the aid of fellow Danes, while 400 were deported to Theresienstadt.

Read more: http://www.jpost.com/Jewish-World/Jewish-Features/Ambassador-of-Denmark-honors-countrymen-who-saved-Jews-during-World-War-II-327629
Posted by Behind the Aegis | Wed Oct 2, 2013, 12:42 AM (7 replies)
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