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The Union Haggadah, ed. by The Central Council of American Rabbis [1923], at

p. 147

Passover and Christendom


The Jewish Passover, in modified form, became the leading festival of the Christian Church. The English name Easter "is derived from Eostre or Ostara, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, to whom the month answering to our April and called Eostre-monath, was dedicated. This month, Bede says, was the same as the mensis paschalis 'when the old festival was observed with the gladness of a new solemnity'". In other European languages the name of the festival is derived through the medium of Latin and Greek from the Hebrew pesaḥ. The early Christians continued to observe the Jewish festivals, but invested them with new meanings. Thus the Passover, with the new conception added to it of Christ as the true Paschal Lamb and the first fruits from the dead, continued to be observed, and became the Christian Easter. * However, it is incorrect to speak of Pesaḥ as the Jewish Easter, for while Pesaḥ celebrates the deliverance of Israel from slavery, Easter commemorates the death and the legendary resurrection of the Christ.

The Seder, too, has exerted great influence upon Christianity. In his book on Jewish Contributions to Civilization, p. 91, Joseph Jacobs writes: "The central

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function of the Church service, the Mass, (or in Protestant Churches, the Communion), derives its 'elements' in the last resort, from the wine and unleavened bread used at the home service of the Passover; and Bickel (in "The Lord's Supper and the Passover Ritual") has shown that the original ritual of the Mass is derived from that of the Seder service."


By a strange irony of fate the Passover season, the Spring-time of nature and of freedom, became the signal for the most furious attacks upon the Jews by their Christian neighbors. Unacquainted with Jewish customs and beliefs, many of them maintained an antagonistic and distrustful attitude toward the Jews. Any malicious superstition about Jewish rites found open ears among the ignorant rabble. Hence the care taken in preparing the matzos, and the use of red wine in the Seder service became fruitful sources of wild speculation. These things rendered the coming of the Passover a time of dread and anguish for the Jewish people.


The distinguished Frenchman, Anatole Leroy Beaulieu, writes feelingly about "that senseless charge which, for centuries, has cost the lives of so many Israelites in every country, although at no time has it been possible to fasten the slightest guilt upon a single Jew.

"In Russia, Poland, Roumania, Bohemia and Hungary, the common people believe that the Jews need Christian blood for the preparation of their unleavened bread, the Passover matzos. In the villages, even in the cities in Eastern Europe, where beneath a thin veneer of

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modern culture, so often are found the ideas and beliefs of the Middle Ages, the peasant and the laborer have no doubt that the Jews require the blood taken from Christian veins in order to celebrate their Passover. He does not know, this Magyar peasant or Russian moujik, that, according to the testimony of Tertullian and of Minucius Felix, the same absurd and odious charge was brought against the early Christians by the pagans, who, in their malicious thirst for damaging information, no doubt mistook for a real sacrifice the mystical immolation of the Lamb of the Eucharist. No sooner has a Christian child disappeared, no sooner have the police discovered the corpse of a young boy or girl in the river or in the town-moat, than the public voice accuses the knife of the 'schaechter', the Jewish butcher, even though the body may not bear a single mark of violence. This is so well known that murderers have been seen dragging the bodies of their victims through the alleys of the Jewish quarters, confident, thereby, to divert the suspicion and fury of the crowd."

Israel among the Nations, pp. 36-7. See also Prof. H. L. Strack's article on Blood Accusation in the Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. II, pp. 260 ff.


Though we live in the bright sunlight of liberty, many of our brethren still dwell in lands of darkness and are still made victims of malice and hatred. The blood libel has been frequently employed against them by their enemies as a means of inciting the ignorant mobs to riots and pogroms. During the notorious Beilis trial, in 1912, the leading British authors, editors, scientists, statesmen and heads of all the Christian denominations issued the following statement:

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"We desire to associate ourselves with the protests signed in Russia, France, and Germany by leading Christian Theologians, Men of Letters, Scientists, Politicians, and others against the attempt made in the City of Kieff to revive the hideous charge of Ritual Murder—known as the 'Blood accusation'—against Judaism and the Jewish people.

"The question is one of humanity, civilization, and truth. The 'blood accusation' is a relic of the days of witchcraft and 'black magic', a cruel and utterly baseless libel on Judaism, an insult to the Western culture, and a dishonor to the Churches in whose name it has been falsely formulated by ignorant fanatics. Religious minorities other than the Jews, such as the early Christians, the Quakers, and Christian Missionaries in China, have been victimized by it. It has been denounced by the best men of all ages and creeds. The Popes, the founders of the Reformation, the Khaliff of Islam, statesmen of every country, together with all the great seats of learning in Europe, have publicly repudiated it."


147:* See the article on Easter in the Encyclopedia Britannica, XIth edition, vol. VIII, pp. 828-829.

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