North Country Public Radio reopens a difficult but mostly forgotten chapter in American Jewish history: the Massena blood libel, then called "the first libel of this kind on American soil."
NCPR correspondent Julie Grant reports:
Shirley Vernick’s father was a Jew living in Massena when the little girl went missing. Vernick recently published a novel – a work of fiction – about the incident, called The Blood Lie.
I met Shirley Vernick at a diner in Massena. She read a scene from her novel, where she imagines how the owner of a restaurant, a Greek immigrant, first spread the rumor to a state trooper late that evening:
I’ll tell you flat out, Gus said. It’s time you knew. This girl who disappeared, it’s the Jews. His lips curled as if the very word tasted bitter. The Jews? They have strange customs for their holidays, terrible customs, they use blood, drink it and bake it into their special foods. Blood of a Christian child, not one of their own.
That’s the fiction. But in real life, too, the rumor a ritual murder spread through Massena like wildfire.
Read and listen to the whole story on NCPR, including a JTA reference and an interview with JTA Archive hero Dr. Jonathan Sarna. Click here to access 19 JTA articles referencing the Massena blood libel incident.
Image: North Country Public Radio (thumbs up for the "Jewish Daily Bulletin" printout in the background!)