Blood Libels

The accusation that blood was used to make wine or matzah for Passover

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Slow Decline

Over the next three hundred years, as the modern era approached, there was a slow decline in blood libels, but they did continue. In 1840, the Damascus blood libel drew protests from Jews worldwide and signified the entry of blood libels into the Middle East. The infamous Kishinev pogrom of 1903 began on the last day of Passover as the result of a blood libel.

Although blood libels became less frequent over time, their rhetoric and the power of their accusations helped to set the stage for new conspiracy theories. With the approach of the era of modernization and the Industrial Revolution, accusations arose against the Jews of conspiracy for world domination. Canards of Jewish control and aspirations for global domination became the new theme for the hate propagandists.

As Jews celebrated Passover in bygone eras, they were aware of the risks involved. At the Passover seder, they drank the four cups of wine that symbolized freedom, but not in the traditional color. When they gazed at the white wine that adorned their holiday tables, they were reminded of their own sufferings and of their precarious existence. They lived in hostile environments and they suffered, yet they could celebrate the freedom experienced by their ancestors as they exited Egypt and they could nonetheless sit and recline in the manner of nobility and drink white wine celebrating their legacy as Jews. Today, we who drink red wine at our seders can think about our ancestors of Europe and their trials and triumphs.

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Larry Domnitch

Larry Domnitch is a freelance writer and Jewish educator. He has a master's degree in Jewish history from Yeshiva University's Bernard Revel Graduate School.