Ariel Toaff: Withdraws book to make changes





A new book by an eminent Italian-Israeli historian that revives European blood libels has Jews in Italy and abroad in an uproar.
But the furor hasn’t hurt sales. “Bloody Passover: European Jews and Ritual Murder” sold out so quickly after its arrival in bookstores Feb. 8 that another edition is on its way.

Ariel Toaff, who teaches Medieval and Renaissance history at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan, Israel, wrote that Jews in the Middle Ages may have murdered Christian children to use their blood in religious rituals.

Reactions from rabbis, Jewish intellectuals and community leaders generally have been of pained indignation that a reputable Jewish historian should lend support to scenarios that have been cornerstones of rabid anti-Semitism and justification for the violent persecution of Jews.

“A Jewish tradition of this kind has never existed, nor has any indication or custom that allows the ritual use of human blood. The only blood ever spilt was that of many innocent Jews, massacred on the basis of unjust and libelous accusations,” a group of Italian rabbis, including Rome’s chief rabbi, Riccardo Di Segni, declared in a statement.

On Feb. 14, Toaff told Ha’aretz that he had asked the Al Molino publishing house in Italy to discontinue distribution in order to let him amend contentious sections.

The issue is especially disturbing for Italian Jews because of the book’s author. Toaff is the son of Rabbi Elio Toaff, who from 1951 to 2001 was the chief rabbi of Rome, Italy’s largest Jewish community. Rabbi Toaff became a beloved and respected figure in Italian Jewry....

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