Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Some notes on a famous penitent apostate, Ezekiel Stanislau Hoga.

Having previously written about the apostate Stanislaw Hoga, I thought it would be interesting to revisit the topic. in Nahum Sokolow's History of Zionism, 1600-1918 Vol. 1 (1919) offers a most useful, albeit factually flawed, biographical summary of the man:
[Hoga] had been a Government Censor of the Hebrew press in Russia. On coming to London, he came under the influence of the Rev. Alexander McCaul (Father-in-law of James Finn, the British Consul at Jerusalem), who induced him to become an apostate. They co-operated in the production of " The Old Paths "... London : . . . 1836-1837, which Hoga translated into Hebrew. He died repentant about the end of the year 1849. The Hebrew translation he had made of " The Old Paths," entitled נתיבות עולם was not published until 1851. ("The evil that men do lives after them ; . . .")
Actually Hoga had converted in 1824 or 25, well before moving to London, and thus before he met McCaul. In addition, the Hebrew edition of Old Paths was first published in 1839 (see). Presumably Sokolow was misled by seeing a later edition. For example, here is a Hebrew edition published in 1870. Similarly, Beth-Zion Lask Abrahams's detailed article "Stanislaus Hoga—Apostate and Penitent" (lecture in 1943) in the 1945 issue of the JHSE mistakenly gives 1845 as the year of its publication.

In the July 1839 issue of the Missionary Intelligence column of The Orthodox Presbyterian theological review and missionary recorder one sees the following:

In any case, it should be noted that it was not I who caught the mistaken publication date, but Dr. Sid Leiman nearly 25 years ago. See his The Baal Teshuvah and the Emden-Eibeschuetz Controversy, Judaic Studies 1 (1985), pp. 3-26, where the entire story is approached through the lens of how Hoga appears in modern rabbinic legend.

In a book written against the Old Paths, published in 1864, we see the following:

The interested reader is directed here to continue.

Hoga's name appeared on a most interesting list. In 1840 the Damascus Affair, a then-shocking modern revival of the long forgotten Blood Libel, flared up. The aforementioned Alexander McCaul, author of "Old Paths" wrote a book called Reasons for believing that the charge lately revived against the Jewish People is a Baseless Falsehood (dedicated by permission to Queen Victoria), London, 1840.

This brief work sketches six reasons why the charge must be rejected as false. They are as follows:

1. The charge is made only in times and places of ignorance, and in places lacking justice, or where confessions elicited by torture are accepted as testimony. As he asks, "Why is it that no case of this kind now occurs in France, or Holland, or Prussia, or England?" He continues, that [anti-Christian] bigotry is still strong among "a mass of the Jewish people," and "the prejudices of the unedicated multitude against the Jews are, generally speaking, as strong," and yet it does not occur.

2. The charge is confined to certain places in the world. If the requirement of Christian blood was really a part of Judaism, then the charge should have spread as far as Judaism itself. However, notes M'Caul, as far as he knows the charge has never been made in Asia or Africa until now.

3. The charge is comparatively new, only since the 13th century. Although Apion brought a similar charge against Jews in ancient times, and this may indeed have served as the model, for many, many centuries of the Christian age the charge was never brought. Why would the Jews crucify Christians in later ages, and right under the noses of Christian governments, while in earlier times they were under the government of heathen emperors, and presumably such a crime would have seemed less heinous to them?

4. The Blood Libel is part of a pack of medieval charges lodged against Jews, and all the others are now seen as ridiculous, such as piercing the host, poisoning the wells, and causing the madness of Charles VI of France and numerous others.

5. The reason given for why Jews need blood is one of many ridiculous ones. For example, not only was it alleged that the need was to bake unleavened bread for Passover, but "it used to also be gravely asserted that they used Christian blood to free them from an ill odour, which it was supposed, was common to the Jewish nation." Other popular reasons were that the blood was used in love potions, or to stop the bleeding of circumcision, and many more.

6. Finally, there is a total absence of credible testimony. The only evidence in the Damascus case was extracted through torture, and that method could cause anyone to confess to anything, including being personally responsible for an earthquake!

He could not be more clear:

McCaul then produced a letter signed by "competent witnesses" which he collected. It includes a list of names of Jewish apostates, described in the following mannner:
"Here are persons, neither afraid nor ashamed to give their names and the place of their birth, some of whom command respect by the offices which they now fill, many of whom have been rabbies, readers in synagogues, Jewish schoolmasters, candidates for the rabbinate,—all of whom are ready, if it were necessary, to give evidence on oath,— men born in Judaism, and educated in various parts of the world, who all declare their ignorance of the crime here imputed to the Jewish people,— witnesses who gain nothing by giving this testimony, and would lose nothing by testifying the contrary, if their conscience allowed them. Amongst them are those who have conducted all the religious ceremonies to which the monk refers, who have ministered at circumcision— watched over the preparation of the Passover cakes,—and performed the last sad offices for the dead. Some of them once members of that most fanatical of Jewish sects, the Chasidim, to some of whom, if any use of Christian blood existed, it must have become known, but who have thankfully and zealously embraced the opportunity now afforded them of protesting against the falsehood of the accusation. They all answer as, with the one exception already stated, all converts have done for the nineteen years that I have had an opportunity of being intimately acquainted with the Jewish people. They have earnestly and solemnly denied the charge.

Such testimony far outweighs the evidence produced on the other side. "

As you can see, Hoga is on this list, described as "son of the Rabbi of Casimir."

An appendix is included which adds signatures of "believing Jews," which from my perspective probably should read "disbelieving Jews":

This list was brought in a different form by Moses Margoliouth in 1847 in his periodical The Star of Jacob. Compare:

Getting back to Hoga, among his other literary productions was a book printed in 1840 called שפת בריטאניא, subtitled also titled "A grammar of the English language, for the use of Hebrews." The book is notable for being written in Hebrew, rather than Yiddish, which means that his intended audience was fairly scholarly. It is also written in Rashi letters (with the occasional Vayberteitsch note, for example:


It includes such interesting examples as these:


  1. Re Blood Libel, I heard that R' Yaakov Emden (I think) wrote a pamphlet or book meant for Jews, saying that there's no way they bould put blood into matza. Do you knwo what it's called & if it is available? Thanks

  2. I think you might be referring to a letter (long enough to be a pamphlet) on the blood accusation by R. Yonasan Eybeschutz, not R. Emden. It seems that R. Eybeschutz wrote a letter, dated December 22, 1759, which refers to blood accusations leveled by the Frankists, and details its refutation in 36 paragraphs. Evidently R. Yaakov Emden had accused R. Eybeschutz of ignoring the pleas of Polish Jewish leaders to help them refute such charges. R. Emden's biographer Mortimer Cohen says that R. Emden was incorrect, because he had already written that letter. Furthermore, in a note he writes that in the Breslau Seminary (this is in the 1930s) there is a copy of a German manuscript containing three responses, the first by R. Eybeschutz, intended for the government. As far as I'm aware, R. Emden did not write anything about the blood libel, except to indict R. Eybeschutz for essentially being sympathetic to the Frankists.

    This information and the relevant (albeit confusing) documentation in the footnotes is on pg 255-57 and 327 in Jacob Emden: A Man of Controversy; all of the relevant literature is on hebrewbooks.org and Google Books.

  3. Any details available on this J.A. Pieritz individual? He is described in one place as originating from Klecko in the Duuchy of Posen and in the last document he is listed as 'missionary to the jews in bristol'.


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