The Syrian blood libel that never was

Few have not heard of the Damascus Blood Libel of 1840: Jews in Damascus were accused of a murder in order to use the victim’s blood to bake Matza. Innocent Jews were imprisoned, several were tortured or died. Moses Montefiore and Adolphe Crémieux embarked on a mission to entreat the Ottoman sultan to condemn future blood libels. But 13 years later, another Blood Libel was prevented in the city of Aleppo, thanks to a vigilant Jewish baker named Moosa. Halakha of the Day has the story:

Sir Moses Montefiore went on a mission to the Levant after the 1840 Blood Libel

The pleas of the desperate Jewish community of Syria for the influential European countries to intervene were ignored by the British and the French. Several community leaders and rabbis were tortured by the Turkish authorities in Damascus, who seized the opportunity to confiscate property and take by force the possessions of the most affluent families in the community. The Damascus Libel had devastating consequences for the local Jewish population …

A few years later, on the 13th of Sivan in 1853 in the city of Aleppo, a blood libel was avoided just in time. While there is not much documentation in this case as in the case of the Damascus libel, one known version is that on that date the dead body of a child, who died or was killed in dubious circumstances, was “planted” by a group of Gentiles in the house of the Jewish baker at midnight. The antisemites plan was to arrive in the morning with the police and accuse the baker of a ritual murder. Then, start riots, looting the community, etc. A Jewish baker was the perfect target for this accusation, since he would be held responsible for “using Christian blood to prepare matzot, or other ritual foods.”

Miraculously, the baker (named Moossa, Moshe in Arabic) woke up in the night. He discovered the body, understood the potential threat, and got rid of it.When the authorities arrived in the morning they could not find anything.The baker informed the rabbis of the city what had happened and the rabbis said that HaShem , in His mercy, had saved the Jewish community of Aleppo from a terrible tragedy, and instituted that the 13th of Sivan be remembered as “Nes Moossan” (The miracle that happened through Moossa) and in remembrance of this miracle, we skip the recitation of the Viduy (confession), and that is a significant act of liturgical celebration.

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