Monday, June 06, 2011

When Israel Abrahams was hissed at.

The Jewish Standard (May 4, 1888) included a lengthy review of a lecture on Reuchlin and Pfefferkorn and the Talmud delivered by Samuel Hirsch at Jews' College in London. Following the review, it gave a summary of the ensuing discussion by scholars:

As you can see, the biggest names in Jewish scholarship in England were all there and had something to say; Solomon Schechter, Elkan Nathan Adler, etc. Israel Abrahams opined that the Jews had been accused of using blood to cure some kind of skin disease, and the Jews in turn accused Pharaoh of using blood of Jewish children for the same purpose (Sefer Hayashar). Michael Friedlander replied that the negative words about the Egyptians were said by the victims whom they oppressed, while it was the Christians who oppressed the Jews, and not the reverse.

The review did not state what the reaction to Abrahams remark was in the audience. But someone wrote a letter and tells us that it provoked great . . . hissing.

The same issue also features a letter from one Annie Schwabe about "Ladies as Minyan-Men."


  1. Tres intressante about the minyan-men. It aptly shows the slipperly slope one encounters upon trying to change the halachic status quo of women. Do you know any YCT enthusasts? You ought to email this to her.

    Q. - which came first, blood libels or Pharaoh bathing in blood story? In the paper opinion seems to be that the Jews came up with the Pharoah story after the blood libels. But sans looking around, my impression is the first blood libel was the Bill Norwich case, somewhere around the 1200s. Wasnt the Pharoah story current before that? [It seems its attributed above to sefer hayashar, I thought it was earlier.] Any idear?

  2. It's Shemos Rabbah 1:34, "אין לך רפואה אם לא נשחוט מקטני ישראל ק"נ בערב וק"נ בבקר ורחץ בדמיהם שתי פעמים ביום."

    So there's your answer. Sefer Hayashar adds more detail, including the actual number of children killed (which, interestingly enough, would therefore come out to about two days worth if you assume it is supposed to harmonize with Shemos Rabbah). See here.

  3. No one can wield the English language like an Englishman or Englishwoman. The great Anglo-Jewish tradition of elegant writing and barbed wit was continued by Chaim Bermant and lives on in the Jewish Chronicle columns of Geoffrey Alderman, which I recommend to all. Here's one of his latest:

  4. Ha. So Abrams was takah wrong.

    Agreed with Dan about Englishmen. [I stick with the generic masculine to include women.] When one reads the prose of English writer, it simply sounds different than that of Americans. Style, they have. Chaim Bermant was a tremendous writer. I will now have to check out this guy Alderman, on DK's recco. Also my two favorite political/social writer, Mark Steyn and Chris Hitchens, are mostly British. also both have yiddish blood in them, which is interesting, but off topic.

  5. >Ha. So Abrams was takah wrong.

    I don't know what his exact comments were, so I can't say.

  6. If the report is correct, Isaacs completely misunderstood Abrahams. Maybe the report has even doctored what he said.



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