Marshall Demands of Massena Mayor Public Apology or Resignation for Encouraging Ritual Murder Tale

Vigorous action to brand the attempt made by several public officials in the town, Massena, New York, to plant on American soil the barbarous ritual murder accusation against Jews was taken yesterday by Louis Marshall, president of the American Jewish Committee.

W. Gilbert Hawes, Mayor of Massena, was asked to issue a public written apology to the Jewish people in the United States for encouraging the ritual murder rumor and for permitting Corporal H. M. McCann to summon the rabbi of the local congregation to interrogate him as to whether or not “Jews offer human sacrifices.”

The incident in Massena which gave rise to the rumor was the disappearance of four year old Barbara Griffith on Saturday, September 22, two days before Yom Kippur. The child was found on the following day unharmed in the woods a mile from her home. The child explained that she had lost her way while seeking her seven year old brother and that when night came she had fallen asleep. The twenty-four hour search for the child, occuring on the eve of Yom Kippur, created a situation of anxiety for the nineteen Jewish families in the town, due to the suspicion cast upon them by the rumors encouraged by the Mayor and Coropral McCann. When the child had been found, the Mayor offered an apology to a meeting of the local congregation which was not accepted as the matter, being viewed as of one of more than local concern, had been referred by the congregation to Mr. Marshall, as the president of the American Jewish Committee.

Supplied with the facts by several prominent citizens of St. Lawrence County and by an investigation made by a special representative of the Jewish Daily Bulletin sent to Massem. Mr. Marshall addressed a letter to Mayor Hawes, made public yesterday, in which the president of the American Jewish Committee brands with indignation the attempt at formulating a ritual murder accusation and declares that unless a public apology or resignation follows, he will find himself compelled to institute proceedings for the removal of the public officials involved in the matter on the grounds of official misconduct. The case would be brought, under section 36 of the Public Officers law, before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. Mr. Marshall’s letter to Mayer Hawes read:

MARSHALL’S LETTER TO HAWES

Oct. 1, 1928

“Dear Sir:

‘Communications from several prominent citizens of your county, as well as from the representative of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, inform me that one of the most shocking exhibitions of bigotry that has ever occurred in this country took place in your village on September 23, 1928, and that you togther with Corporal H. M. McCann of Troop B of the State Police were active participants in the outrage perpetrated.

“The facts as they have come to me are that on the previous day Barbara Griffith, a four-year-old child living in your village, disappeared; that she had at the request of her mother gone into the nearby woods to look for her older brother, and that she was found wandering in the woods about a mile from her home at about half past four on the following day. It was learned that, failing to find her brother at the place indicated, she went further into the woods, lost her way, became fatigued, fell asleep, and on awakening continued her wanderings until found by two young ladies who were looking for her.

“On this same Sunday, which was the eve of the Day of Atonement, which is the most important day in the Jewish religious calendar, Rabbi Berel Brennglass, the Rabbi of Congregation Adath Israel of Massena, was summoned by Corporal McCann to proceed to police headquarters, as the result of an arrangement between you and him, for the purpose of being interrogated. A mob of several hundred was awaiting his arrival in a state of unusual excitement. In accordance with prearrangement with you Corporal McCann proceeded to interrogate the Rabbi on the intolerable assumption that the Jews required the blood of Christian children for their holy days, and that this accounted for the disappearance of the little girl. One of the questions put was: ‘Is tomorrow a big holiday, a fast day?’ An affirmative answer having been given, the next question was : ‘Can you give any information as to whether your people in the old country offer human sacrifices?’ Thereupon the Rabbi, with great indignation, expressed his astonishment that any public officer in the United States would dare to put such a question. The Rabbi was then asked if there was a time when the Jewish people used human blood, to which he not only replied in the negative, but added that not only the use of human blood but also of animal blood was forbidden by the Jewish faith. Corporal McCann then stated that he did not wish the Rabbi to think that this idea originated with him, but that a foreigner had impressed him with it.

“You are probably aware of the annoyance, excitement and indignation aroused by this occurrence among the members of the Rabbi’s Congregation, and the mental agony which they suffered when they learned that in this free country the accursed blood accusation, which during medieval times wrought so much misery to the Jews, was directed at them. I am also informed that on Tuesday of last week you admitted of your own accord that this procedure had been suggested by you to the troper, and that both of you came to the synagogue on the afternoon of that day and apologized for the wrong done and were informed that the members of the Congregation could not accept the apology.

“To me it seems inexpressibly horrible that this vile slander, which has been demonstrated over and over again to have no foundation in fact, should be resurrected in this State of ours by public officers, upon whom rests the duty of protecting every member of the community against acts of bigotry and fanaticism and to prevent rather than to inspire sentiments calculated to lead to riots, violence and possible bloodshed. What has occurred does not merely affect the Jews of Massena, whose very lives were placed in jeopardy, but the entire Jewish population of this country and of the world is directly concerned in putting down the ## superstitution which, due to your action, might have resulted in one of those many calamities recorded on the bloody pages of medieval, and even modern European, history. The very thought that public officials in this day and age can seriously entertain the idea that adherents of one of the great religious of the world practice human sacrifice, is an abomination and betokens unfitness for public office. Fortunately the little girl was found before official irresponsibility culminated in mob violence.

“Some of the most distinguished Popes in history characterized this slander as a brutal and inhuman falseb##, the dissemination of which was forbidden in the strongest terms. A few years ago in the case of Mendel Beilis, which took place at Kiev in Russia just before the World War, the greatest authorities in science and history testified that there was not even the shadow of a reason to support such a belief. It was shown that of all people on earth the Jews were from the very beginning forbidden to eat even animal blood. (Genesis, c.xix., v 3 and 4; Leviticus c. iii. v. 17: c. vii. v 26 and 27; c. xvii, v. 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14; Deuteronomy, c. xii, v. 23, 24 and 25: c. xv. v. 23.) Beilis was triumphantly acquitted, even though the Czaristic Government, for political reasons, had bent all of its energies to secure a conviction. A few years previously Prof. Masaryk of the University of Prague, now the President of Czechoslovakia, wrote an immortal book in denunciation of the very superstition to which you now, as the Mayor of an enlightened community in this great State of ours, have attempted to give currency. At your instance a minister of religion has been shamelessly interrogated for the purpose of establishing that, on their holiest of days, the ####

“As the President of the American Jewish Committee. ##

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MAYOR ISSUES STATEMENT

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JEWISH CONGRESS ALSO ACTS

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