At sunset on Wednesday, March 27, 2021, the Jewish holiday of Passover (in Hebrew called Pesach) begins. Passover is an 8-day holiday (ending at sunset April 4 in 2021) commemorating the exodus of the Jews from slavery in Egypt sometime in the 14th or 13th century BCE.
Unlike most Jewish holidays which are largely celebrated in the synagogue of temple, the most significant rite of Passover – the Seder -- is specifically celebrated in the home. Among Orthodox, Conservative and some Reform Jews, the Seder is conducted on two consecutive nights. Among most Reform and Reconstructionist Jews, Pesach is celebrated only on the first night.
And you shall tell it to your children on that day, saying, 'Because of this God did for me when He took me out of
| In April 2008, US President Barack Obama |
held the first ever White House Seder
The Seder involves the setting up of a special Seder plate with items symbolic of the Passover story. The items include:
- Maror: bitter herbs (usually horseradish) symbolizing the bitterness of slavery
- Karpas: any vegetable other than that used for the maror (usually parsley or celery) that is dipped in salt water to symbolize (among other things) the tears shed in slavery
- Charoset or Charoses: a sweet, brown bumpy mixture (usually of apples, nuts, wine and cinnamon) that symbolizes the mortar (which it resembles) used by the slaves to build the storehouses of Egypt
- Roasted egg: a symbol of either (depending on different interpretations) Springtime or the sacrifice formerly conducted in the Temple of Jerusalem in the days before it was destroyed by the Romans. Historically, though, this symbol (along with the Christian Easter egg) has its likely roots in the ancient Persian Zoroastrian tradition of the Naw-Rúz egg (for more on that, please see my earlier post http://davidvictorvector.blogspot.com/2012/03/naw-ruz.html )
- Lamb bone: a symbol of either (again depending on different interpretations) the lamb’s blood with which the Jews marked the dwellings during the final plague on Egypt or symbolizing another Temple sacrifice
The Cups of Wine
Sephardic and Ashkenazic Differences in Tradition
It should be noted that some differences occur among Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jews on some points. Among the Ashkenazic (Jews of East and Central European descent) and Sephardic (Jews descended from those fled from Spain and Portugal in the 1490’s when practicing Judaism became a capital crime; these Jews now are largely of Latin American, North African, Arabian, Turkish, Greek or Dutch descent).
Elijah's and Miriam's Cup
Many Reform and Conservative Jews have added a sixth cup for Miriam, the sister of Moses to maintain a gender-free association.
In houses with young children, an adult often kicks a table leg to make the wine in the cups move as if Elijah and Miriam are drinking from the cup.
On Passover, Jews are forbidden from eating any leavened bread for the entire eight days. Instead, they eat unleavened bread – made of water and flour only – called matzo. Because Hebrew does not transliterate well into English, the spelling is also rendered Matzah, Matza, Matzoh, Mazzah, Massah, or
To be unleavened, not only must the bread have no other ingredients (e.g., no yeast), but must be made in 18 minutes or less. The purpose of the matzo is to symbolize the speed with which the Jews had to flee Egypt, without time to even bake bread. In preparation for Passover, Jews clean their house of any bread or leavened products (called chametz). The prohibition on food includes items that may include leavening of any sort and so Jews usually buy only food that is marked as “Kosher for Passover.” This process is often elaborate, with different traditions followed by different groups.
Most Orthodox and Conservative Jews also use special Passover plates that are only used during these eight days each year.
Since matzo is the central symbol of Passover, it also appears on the Seder table in a stack of three pieces of matzo. These pieces are usually placed in a decorated cloth envelope or sleeve designed for the purpose.
The History of Blood Libel Accusations
Many Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform Jews invite non-Jews to their home. This custom derives not only out of community feeling but as an attempt to dispel anti-Semitic myths about Passover that have caused much bloodshed and persecution over the years, and unfortunately continue to be spread in the present day.
The most widespread of these myths is the accusation that Jews either eat children at the Seder or that they collect the blood of children to make matzo. These, of course, are patently false, and go very much against the Jewish laws against murder (including that in the Ten Commandments), prohibition of human sacrifice, and traditions of blood-aversion (kosher meat is prepared especially to avoid contact with blood, for instance).
Still, the blood libel has a long history. Quite literally hundreds of mass attacks on Jews have taken place against Jews for such “crimes” not only throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance (it was, for example, the cause of the expulsion of the Jews from England from 1290 to 1655, and one of the excuses for the outlawing of Judaism in Spain in 1492), but sadly continues into modern times.
The Three Roman Catholic Former Blood Libel Saints
The matzo blood libel continues actively today, although the strong opposing reaction to the widespread accusations in 2014 had until 2020 limited public expression of such accusations.
This changed with the rise of QAnon and right wing conspiracy theories (see, for instance, ABC News' The newest vehicle for the oldest hatred). QAnon has made accusations of "Jewish pedophilia" (see JTA's QAnon is an old form of anti-Semitism in a new package, experts say) where children are harvested for their blood.
January 6, 2021 Capitol Insurrection
The 2021 Storming of the US Capitol and Its Aftermath
The storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021 showed a graphic revival of anti-Semitism, including the blood libel accusation.
Many of the insurrectionists wore "Camp Auschwitz" and "6MWE" (6 Million Wasn't Enough) t-shirts. The ADL recorded an increase of roughly 60% of the term on Twitter the following week.
Q-Anon and Marjorie Taylor Greene's Campaign and Election (2018-19)
Q-Anon theories of blood libel and thinly veiled attacks on the Jewish philanthropist George Soros grew with the run-up to the 2019 election. Q-Anon is a collection of conspiracy theorist led by an anonymous source -- Q -- high within government circles who has revealed the truth of those subverting America. The theories have no evidence but rose rapidly. The first mention of what would become Q-Anon came when a misguided would-be hero named Edgar Welch learned from unnamed (non-existent) government sources that a pedophile ring of Democrats and Jews were raping and murdering little children. This, by the way, is a close echo of the blood libel even if it does not show the pedophile using the children's blood to make matzo. The mysterious source informed Welch that the pedophile ring met in the basement of a DC pizza parlor called Comet Ping Pong. Welch demanded access to the basement, which was refused on the grounds that the pizza parlor did not even have a basement. As a result, Welch shot up the pizza parlor as an act of patriotism. Welch was jailed (he was let go in 2021), but his perceived heroism inspired "Pizzagate" and led to a following of thousands of Q-Anon supporters who believed that President Trump was sending secret messages along with Q in the battle for the soul of the country. The movement has a range of accusations from the fires in California, an international cabal of globalists ruling the world, various unsolved murder cases and the pedophile ring.
The Q-Anon movement is not small. The New York Times reported that its Reddit group "the Great Awakening" had 49,000 followers before it was banned. Similarly shut down was the Qanon.pub site, which (again according the the New York Times) had 7 million visits a month. Q-Anon followers were open supporters at Trump campaign rallies. President Trump gave direct support on Twitter to Q-Anon, retweeting 315 separate Q-Anon tweets from 168 different pro-Q-Anon sites. Often the President retweeted pro-Q-Anon sites multiple times in the same day; for instance, on July 4, 2020, he retweeted 14 separate Q-Anon tweets. When President Trump was asked at an August 2020 press conference if he endorsed Q-Anon, he responded: "I don’t know much about the movement, other than I understand they like me very much, which I appreciate.”
|Q-Anon Supporters at DeSantis and Trump Rally|
While many Republicans accepted the support of Q-Anon tacitly, at least one open Q-Anon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-North Carolina) was actually elected to the US House of Representatives. Greene, as an elected official who is openly anti-Semitic, has been called to task often for here Jewish conspiracy theories. These theories include during her campaign for office a November 17, 2018 tweet that Jews lit the California wildfires by shooting "lasers or blue beams of light that are causing the fires." In the same tweet, Greene names specifically PG&E board memberr Robert Kimmel, "Rothschild Inc." and railroad contractor and husband of Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California) Richard Blum, while alluding to others. Greene has made other conspiracy claims without a Jewish scapegoat including claims that 9/11 was an inside job done by the government, that the Sandy Hill Elementary School massacre never took place and so on. The House of Representatives removed Greene from all committee and caucus memberships on February 4, 2021,
The Anti-Vaccine Movement and Jewish Conspiracy Theorists
Blood Libel Accusations in the Gaza Rallies, Summer 2014
The summer of 2014 saw attacks on Jewish shops, synagogues and cemeteries in of cities in Europe and the Americas including
- Antwerp, Anderlecht, Ghent and Brussels in Belgium;
- Amsterdam and Amersfoot in the Netherlands;
- Berlin, Kassel, Mainz, Nuremburg, and Wuppertal in Germany;
- Copenhagen in Denmark;
- Gothenburg, Jönköping and Malmo in Sweden;
- Trondheim in Norway;
- Paris, Sarcelles, Sarre-Union and Toulouse in France;
- Larissa and Thessaloniki in Greece;
- Szikszo and Tatabanya in Hungary;
- Istanbul in Turkey;
- Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Nikolayev and Zaporozhye in Ukraine;
- Rome in Italy
- London, Belfast, Manchester, Kingston in the United Kingdom
- Mexico City in Mexico
- Buenos Aires, Basavilbaso, Mendoza and Santiago del Estero in Argentina
- Santa Catarina in Brazil
- Caracas in Venezuela
- Calgary in Canada
- Seattle in the United States
|Blood Libel Poster at Berlin "Pro-Gaza" Rally|
Common among these were a banner of Israeli Prime Minister eating a child with blood dripping out of his mouth, a depiction of the blood libel. Some carried posters showing images of Jews eating children or wore t-shirts spattered with blood. Others chanted blood libel chants such as "Bloodsuckers!" and "Child killers!" mixed in with non-blood-libel chants of "Death to the Jews" and "To the Gas Chambers" and other anti-Jewish slogans.
|Blood Libel Poster at Seattle "Pro-Gaza Rally|
Recent Official Government Stances Against Blood Libel Accusations
Russia: In January 2005, twenty members of the Russian Duma (the equivalent of its Parliament) formally lodged a complaint to the Prosecutor General’s office demanding the banning of all Jewish organizations based in part on practices that “extend even to ritual murder.” These Duma members eventually retracted their complaint following widespread condemnation.
On March 27, 2013, Nawaf al-Zaru published an article in the journal of the Palestinean aid organizationg Miftah criticizing US President Barack Obama for hosting a Passover Seder at the White House, citing “Does Obama in fact know the relationship, for example, between ‘Passover’ and ‘Christian blood’..?! Or ‘Passover’ and ‘Jewish blood rituals?!... Much of the chatter and gossip about historical Jewish blood rituals in Europe are real and not fake as they claim; the Jews used the blood of Christians in the Jewish Passover.” After initially refusing to apologize or withdraw the article, the organization expressed "sincere regret" that the article was "accidentally and incorrectly published."
|April 21, 2001 blood libel cartoon |
published in Al Ahram,
one of Egypt's largest daily newsapers
Recent Official Government Acceptance or Support of Blood Libel Accusations
While in both
Jordan: On August 22, 2014, Sheik Bassam Ammoush, an appointed member of Jordan's Senate gave a sermon on the Jordanian Radio and Television Corporation claiming: "the matzos that they bake on their holidays must be kneaded with blood. When the Jews were in the diaspora, they would murder children in England, in Europe, and in America. They would slaughter them and use their blood to make their matzos..." https://www.memri.org/tv/friday-sermon-former-jordanian-minister-jews-use-childrens-blood-their-holiday-matzos
Hungary: In October 2013, Budapest premiered an opera entitled The Red Heifer composed by the Hungarian Ivan Fischer. The opera was based on the theme of an actual 1899 trial of a Jew who was convicted for supposedly murdering a Christian woman for the making of matzo. While the opera received widespread protests from demonstrators outside the theater, it was supported by many, and reflects the sentiments of the openly anti-Semitic platform of the Jobbik (currently Hungary's second largest political party). http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/10/blood-libel_anti-semitism_in_hungary_past_and_present.html
Syria: In 1983, Mustafa Tlass, the Syrian Defense Minister published a book entitled The Matzah of Zion. The book – now in its eighth printing was cited favorably by the Syrian delegation at the United Nations in 1991. In late 2003, the Syrian government produced a TV series called Ash-Shatat (the Diaspora) depicting Jews collecting blood for making matzo. The TV show is currently still being aired on Al-Manar, the satellite station owned by Hezbollah in
Egypt: In 2001, an Egyptian film company produced a movie based in part on Mustafa Tlass’ book called Horseman Without A Horse. This 30-part television series was produced by the Saudi Arabia-based company Arab Radio and Television. The series showed not only the blood libel but dramatization of the fabricated hoax called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion in which Jews are shown to secretly plot the conquest of the world. Horseman Without A Horse was moderately popular.
Despite protests lodged with the Egypian government by both the United States and Israel, Egypt did nothing to stop the broadcast or to point out that the Protocols have long been discredited (before Hitler and even moreso after Hitler). The US and Israeli protests, however, may have contributed to Egypt's official objection to the 2003 blood libel articles mentioned above.
In May 2013, the Egyptian Salafist politician Khaled Zaafrani claimed in a national interview on al-Hafez TV that “it is well-known that during Passover they make matzos called the ‘Blood of Zion.’ They take a Christian child, slit his throat, and slaughter him…they never forgo this rite.” When asked if Jews "still do this," Zaafrani declared "absolutely." http://www.timesofisrael.com/egyptian-politician-revives-passover-blood-libel/#ixzz2qaJNvYSX
This year, on March 27, 2016, the Egyptian media outlet Sout al-Omma published a "news" story about how 48 Israeli Arab children were stabbed with nails and their blood used in a "Zion Pie." The article was then posted on Facebook where it was translated into English, causing protests after Facebook allowed the post to stand as free speech, responding officially that "We reviewed the share you reported for displaying hate speech and found it doesn’t violate our Community Standards."
Dr. Hanizadeh works for the Tehran Times and (as the author of a book entitled The History of the Jews) is considered in
Jewish-Christian Relations Tripod, "Blood Libel -- A History of Groundless Anti-Semitic Fables," http://jcrelations.tripod.com/blood.html
Ariela Pelaia, About.com, "Judaism": http://judaism.about.com/od/holidays/a/Jewish-Holiday-Passover-Pesach.htm
Torah.org, "Passover": http://www.torah.org/learning/yomtov/pesach/#
Clip Art Sources:
Seder clipart: http://www.bje.org.au/images/clipart/seder02.jpg
Next year in Jerusalem clipart: http://projectshalom2.org/StoryTour/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/NextYear3.jpg
Nathan Goldberg Haggadah: http://www.allthingsjewish.com/browseproducts/Nathan-Goldberg-Haggadah.html
Barack Obama's White House Seder, 2008: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/28/us/politics/28seder.html
Seder plate: http://www.thedailygreen.com/cm/thedailygreen/images/kM/passover-sader-plate-fd-lg.jpg
Passover wine cup: http://thevinetimes.com/images/articles/april/passover_wine.jpg
Cup for Elijah: http://www.hadavar.org/drupal/sites/default/files/images/ElijahCup.jpg
Breaking the matzo for the afikomen: http://sallysjourney.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c7a9f53ef014e87e80a73970d-800wi
Martyrdom of William of Norwich, Nuremburg Chronicle: http://www.historyinanhour.com/2010/11/25/blood-libel-and-the-murder-of-william-of-norwich/
Plaque denouncing the blood libel of Little Saint Hugh, Lincoln Cathedral, England: Virtual Tourist, Lincoln Off the Beaten Track: http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/5a0e4/4ba31/6/
Martyrdom of Simon of Trent: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Simonino.jpg/
Church of Gavriil of Belestok: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Podlaskie_-_Zab%C5%82ud%C3%B3w_-_Zwierki_-_Zwierki_46_-_Monaster_-_Cerkiew_-_front;lewo.JPG
Kielce Massacre: http://www.ejpress.org/ImageGallery/4a9f3e29-ac10-49e6-b1f9-281be97c15b0.jpg