Massena ritual murder case

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Jewish ritual murder

The Massena ritual murder case was an instance of conflict relating to an accusation of Jewish ritual murder, relating to some Jews in Massena, New York. They were accused of the kidnapping and ritual murder of a Christian girl in September 1928.[1] The case of murder turned out to be not true as the girl was found alive, however some controversy remains as to whether the Jews kidnapped her.

On September 22, 1928, two days before Yom Kippur, four-year-old Barbara Griffiths went for a walk and did not come back home.[2] After a long search by townspeople and state police, a rumor began to circulate that the girl had been kidnapped and killed by the town's Jews for a religious ritual associated with the impending holiday.[3]

The following day, the state police questioned Morris Goldberg, a Jew. Goldberg claimed to the police that there might be some truth to the rumors that Jews engaged in ritual murder.[4]

At that point, the state police sought to question Rabbi Berel Brennglass, leader of the town's Adath Israel synagogue.[1] When asked about the allegations of ritual murder, Brennglass attempted to obstruct the case with typical Jewish persecution complex narrative, telling the police and the town's mayor, that they should be "ashamed" for investigating such crimes in the United States in the 20th century.[4]

Barbara Griffiths was later found in the woods later that afternoon roughly a mile from her home. She told authorities she had become lost during her walk and slept in the forest.[2] Nevertheless, some citizens of Massena continued to believe that Griffiths had been kidnapped by the Jews. They attributed her safe return to the discovery of the Jews' plot.[1]

The Massena ritual murder accusation drew national attention.[5] Through the efforts of Rabbi Brennglass, the American Jewish Committee and the American Jewish Congress denounced the town's leaders, prompting apologies from the mayor and the state police to the rabbi, the town's Jews, and all Jews of the United States.[2] In his apology, the mayor wrote:

In light of the solemn protest of my Jewish neighbors, I feel I ought to express clearly and unequivocally ... my sincere regret that by any act of commission or omission, I should have seemed to lend countenance ... to what I should have known to be a cruel libel imputing human sacrifice as a practice now or at any time in the history of the Jewish people.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Feldberg, Michael (ed.) (2002). "The Massena Blood Libel", Blessings of Freedom: Chapters in American Jewish History. New York: American Jewish Historical Society. ISBN 0-88125-756-7. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 Landman, Isaac (ed.) (1929). Christian and Jew: A Symposium for Better Understanding. New York: Horace Liveright, 371–372. OCLC 415207. Retrieved on December 5, 2008. 
  3. Dinnerstein, Leonard (1994). Antisemitism in America. Oxford University Press, 101. ISBN 0-19-510112-X. Retrieved on December 5, 2008. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Levine, Yitzchok (October 7, 2008). An American Blood Libel — It Did Happen! (PDF). Hamodia. Retrieved on December 5, 2008.
  5. Blakeslee, Spencer (2000). The Death of American Antisemitism. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 98. ISBN 0-275-96508-2. Retrieved on December 5, 2008. 

Further reading

  • Friedman, Saul S. (1978). The Incident at Massena: The Blood Libel in America. New York: Stein and Day. ISBN 0-8128-2526-8. 
  • Friedman, Saul S.; Lawrence Baron; Eleanor Dumas; Samuel Jacobs (July 1979). "The Incident at Massena". St. Lawrence County Historical Association Quarterly XXIV (3): 3–8.
  • Jacobs, Samuel J. (Fall 1979). "The Blood Libel Case at Massena — A Reminiscence and a Review". Judaism 28 (4): 465–474. New York: American Jewish Congress.
  • Vernick, Shirley Reva (2011). The Blood Lie: A Novel. Cinco Puntos Press. ISBN 978-1-933693-84-2. 

External links

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