Sunday, July 20, 2008

Simon of Trent, revisited

Last year, on the other blog, I discussed the case of Simon of Trent.

Little Simon was a Christian a boy from the city of Trento, Italy whose disappearance in 1475 was blamed on the leaders of the city's Jewish community.

These leaders, their families and friends were tortured and made confessions that even Liberals agree were “probably extracted under torture.” Wikipedia.

Shortly before Simon went missing, a local Franciscan priest, Bernardo da Feltre, gave a series of anti-semitic sermons in Trent. During Easter, when Simon disappeared, his father accused the local Jews of kidnaping and murdering Simon – the purpose was to use Simon’s blood for baking Pesach matzos and other rituals. Wikipedia.
Simon's disappearance, and the popular claim that he had been killed by Jews, triggered a major blood libel in Europe.

Jewish leaders in Trent were arrested and tortured. Seventeen confessed. All but two were burned at the stake. The Catholic Church canonized Simon. Miracles were attributed to him.

Centuries of blood libel and pograms resulted.

In 1965, the Catholic Church re-opened the trial records of the executed Jews and took another look at the story of Saint Simon. Their conclusion was that the story was a fraud. “Saint” Simon was removed as a Saint, but some Catholics continued to venerate him.

Early in 2007, the son of Elio Toaff, the former Chief Rabbi of Rome,a scholar named Ariel Toaff, ignited a storm. Ariel Toaff is an Israeli historian. He was on the verge of publishing a new book. Toaff is a professor of medieval and Renaissance history at Israel’s Bar Ilan University. The book is Pasque di Sangue or Bloody Easter. In the book, Toaff claimed that dried blood was sometimes used for medicinal purposes by 15th Century Jews. Toaff relied on court records from the case of Simon of Trent, which recorded the statements made under torture by the local Jews.

The reliance on those statements has been criticized. Toaff's position is that some of the statements, made under torture, may be true. Others may be false.

Even before its release, a group of rabbis condemned the book, "even before anyone had read it, based on a review that appeared in the Corriere della Sera, which accused Toaff of trying to prove the validity of some medieval ‘blood libels.’” See Palmiera-Billig, Jews Never Committed Ritual Murders Jerusalem Post (2-11-07) .

The book continued to generate controversy. On February 14th, Toaff withdrew the book from publication. He issued a formal statement that he stands by his research, the book has been distorted by the press, Toaff will rewrite some sections to make his position clear and all proceeds will be donated to the ADL.

Despite this,members of the Knesset called for criminal charges , Toaff has been kicked off of various academic positions and has suffered social consequences in the tight-knit Italian-Israeli community.

According to Wikipedia, in February of 2008, Toaff released a revised edition of the book:
"A revised, second edition of his work appeared in February, 2008. Toaff now claims that the accusations of ritual murder, as a common jewish practice, were entirely Christian fabrications, . However, Toaff maintains that it is possible that some radical jews may have actually killed on ritual purpose, or for resentment against christian persecution."
I haven't found the new book on Amazon, but here's a link to an online version of the earlier work:
Read this document on Scribd: Pasque di Sangue (Ariel Toaff, 2007)

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