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August 22, 1986 - Image 32

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1986-08-22

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Ritual Blood Libel

Continued from Page 2

confess to the crime charged
against them, Ratti Menton turned
to other means of extracting an
admission of guilt. Sixty children
in ages of 3 to 10 were taken from
their parents and shut in a room
without being offered any food.
When even this failed to force the
mothers of the youngsters to make
confessions, only one woman and
her daughter having been driven
to embrace Islam out of concern
for their children, there began a
series of devastations of the
Jewish quarter. On February 18 a
band of soldiers destroyed the
homes of David Harari and other
accused, in an effort to find the
body of the monk Tomaso. Bones
found in the course of their pillage
were immediately displayed as
those of Tomaso, although they
were later proven to be mutton
bones. When a young Jew ven-
tured to go to Sherif Pasha and in-
form him that he had seen Father
Tomaso entering a Turkish shop
just before his disappearance, this
evidence was not only hushed up
but the youth was severely beaten
and died the same night, being the
first to sacrifice his life in the hor-
rible affair.
The aged Joseph Laniado died
as a result of the tortures. Moses
Abulafia, to escape indignities and
pains, became a convert to Islam.
The three Damascus rabbis,
Azaria Halfen, Solomon and Jacob
Anteri, were arrested and tor-
tured, and the non-Jewish ser-
vants of the accused were similarly
questioned in an effort to extract
admissions of guilt, but none of
these methods availed. Fanatics

The proportions assumed by
the spread of the libel aroused
sympathies for Jews in more
enlightened Christian lands, and
leaders in French and English
Jewry began to take steps to put a
stop to the outrages. Immediate
steps had to be taken not only be-
cause of the incriminating and
libellous propaganda of fanatic
Christians in the Orient, but also
because the libel was taken to
Europe. In the early part of March,
1840, a ritual murder charge was
made against a Jew in Julich, in
Rhennish Prussia. A 9-year-old
girl, by besmudging her body with
blood, concocted a tale of an attack
upon her by a Jew and his wife
who happened to be traveling
through Julich. Fortunately the
truth was uncovered and two
Christians were arrested for
drumming up the charge. But the
incident added a link in the chain
of a worldwide conspiracy to in-
volve Jews in this horrible libel.
In France, Isaac Adolphe
Cremieux (1796-1880), noted
statesman, spokesman for French
Jewry, presented himself before
King Louis Philippe of France, but
so little satisfaction could he get
from his ruler, in an effort to stop
the horrible work of Ratti Menton,
that at a meeting in London he re-
ported in despair that "France is
against us." Thiers, who became
president of the French cabinet
with the aid of the clerical party,
was avowedly anti-Semitic, and
ordered the French consul-general
in Alexandria, Cochelet, to inter-
fere with every movement to un-
cover the truth in the Damascus af-

made it a practice to throw bones
into the Jewish quarter, in the
hope of their being taken for
human bones.
The arrest of Isaac Levi Pic-
ciotto, an Austrian subject, gave a
different turn to the entire pro-
ceedings. The Austrian consul,
Marlato, not only interceded in be-
half of Picciotto but took a deter-
mined stand against the ritual
murder agitation. Later interces-
sion of the English and American
governments gave the affair an as-
pect of an international quarrel,
with results that served to elevate
the position of the Jews.
But the Damascus affair was
only one of a series, and the spread
of the libel of ritual murder against
the Jew aroused the suspicion that
there was an organized clerical
movement against the Jews. The
Christian conspiracy against the
Jews in Turkey was said to be a
reprisal against the granting of
Jews by the young Sultan, Abdul
Medjid, the same rights that were
given to Greeks and Latins. Such
freedom was little thought of by
the latter, and they set out to ac-
cuse and discredit the Jews. On the
island of Rhodes a Jew was tor-
tured into admitting guilt in the
death of a 10-year-old son of a
Greek peasant who hanged him-
self. In Beirut Jews were protected
from attacks by the interference of
the Dutch consul, Laurilla, and the
Prussian consul, Sason. Jews were
attacked in Smyrna and in Djabar,
near Damascus, a mob pillaged the
synagogue, tore the Scrolls of the
Law and mercilessly attacked the

Isaac Adolphe Cremieux

fair. As a result, Cochelet caused
Mohmet Ali to go back on a prom-
ise to appoint the consuls of Au-
stria, England, Russia and Prussia
to investigate the libel.
But in England the champions
of justice to the Jew fared trium-
phant, and Great Britain's efforts
in the Damascus affair are written
on pages which will forever draw
the gratitude of the Jewish people.
Sir Moses Montefiore became the
leader in the defense movement
against the libel, and with him
Baron Nathaniel Mayer
Rothschild, Salomon Munk, noted
French Jewish scholar and Orien-
talist, leading Jews throughout the
world and liberal Christians
opened war against a shameful
and hoary lie.
The nobility of Christian aid to
the Jew in fighting the libel has al-

The Jewish Wedding

Continued from Page 2

groom and hear him say, "Haray
aht M'kudeshet li b'taba'at zu k'dat
Moshe v'Yisrael." ("With this ring
you are consecrated to me (as my
wife) according to the laws of
Moses and Israel.") The rabbi
doesn't marry the bride and
groom; they marry each other. The
haray aht constitutes a formal con-
tract. thus if one of the parties is
not bound "by the laws of Moses
and Israel," the contract is not
binding; it is void.
Another reason for the reluc-
tance of rabbis to participate in in-
termarriage is that the major func-
tion of Jewish weddings is the con-
secration of Jewish homes and the
establishment of Jewish families.
Despite assurances and good in-
tentions, recent experience with
intermarried couples indicates
that very few children of intermar-
riages ever identify as Jews.
Simply put, the American
Jewish community perceives in-
termarriage as a threat and is
frightened. The fact that predic-
tions about the imminent demise of
the Jewish people date from an-
cient times does not allay these
fears, in part because the openness
of American society poses an un-
precedented challenge to the
maintenance of a distinct Jewish
Still, community hysteria
about intermarriage overwhelms
and ignores the dilemmas that face


Friday, August 22, 1986

many Jews in love with non-Jews.
The prospect of marrying a non-
Jew sometimes raises issues of
Jewish identity. Suddenly it oc-
curs to you that you want your
children brought up as Jews. You
realize that you would feel bereft if
your wedding didn't take place
under a huppah. Perhaps for the
first time you are wrestling with
what it means to be a Jew.
It is difficult and certainly less
enjoyable to plan a wedding while
struggling with parental pressure,
community disapproval, and per-
sonal issues of identity and affilia-
tion. However, in most cities and
towns there are individuals —
among them counselors at Jewish
agencies and some rabbis — who
are willing to listen to you and dis-
cuss your options for affirming a
connection with Judaism; some of
these follow.
Conversion. Non-Jews plan-
ning to marry Jews may be facing
dilemmas of their own: What is my
religious/ethnic identification?
What does it mean for me to be
marrying a Jew? If it means so
much to her/him to raise our chil-
dren as Jews, and I agree to help,
what part can I play? What is a
Jewish home and how do I fit into
Some non-Jews — especially
those who have lived with their
Jewish partners before deciding to
marry — find that their lifelong



curiosity about Judaism and asso-
ciation with Jews has now led to a
more formal commitment. And
while conversion, for the sake of
marriage has always been dis-
couraged by Jewish law, marriage
has undeniably prompted a great
many sincere conversions that
have enriched the Jewish people.
Conversion to Judaism is
largely a matter of study, which is
usually directed by a rabbi. The
amount of time required to pre-
pare for conversion can vary from
six months to two years or more,
depending on the rabbi's require-
ments and the student's diligence.
In addition to study, Jewish law
requires mikvah (ritual immersion)
for men and women, and circumci-
sion or ritual circumcision (draw-
ing one drop of blood from an al-
ready circumcised foreskin) for
men. Converts also meet with a bet
a rabbinical court — which
usually consists of three rabbis,
who examine the "candidate"
about his or her knowledge of
Judaism. (People are almost never
"failed," since rabbis will not pro-
pose unqualified candidates).
Sometimes Jews by choice are also
offered the opportunity to publicly
acknowledge their conversion
during Shabbat services.
Once a non-Jew has become a
Jew, intermarriage is no longer an
issue. Indeed, Jewish law pro-
hibits Jews by choice from being


referred to as "converts." As Jews,
they are altogether welcome under
the huppah; the dilemma is re-
A Jewish Style Wedding.
"Kosher-style" food is not really
kosher food, because, despite its
identification with Jewish culture
(bagels and knishes), the laws of
kashrut are not necessarily fol-
lowed. Similarly, a wedding be-
tween a Jew and a non-Jew — even
one that is held in a synagogue and
conducted by a rabbi — cannot
really be a Jewish wedding be-
cause the laws of kiddushin that
govern marriage have not been ob-
"Jewish-style" ceremonies are
mostly used when the Jewish
partner identifies as a Jew and the
non-Jew has no religious affilia-
tion and is perhaps willing to make
some commitment to help establish
a Jewish home. While this kind of
wedding has no standing in Jewish
law, for some couples it can be a
way of affirming their connection
to Judaism. In general, the entire
"normative" Jewish liturgy is not
used in "Jewish-style" weddings;
for example, the haray aht may be
omitted or changed. But other
Jewish sources (Song of Songs,
Psalms, Proverbs, and secular
Jewish love poetry) can create a
wedding that is clearly infused
with Jewish tam
The small minority of rabbis


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