Blood Libel: On The Trail of an Antisemitic Myth by Magda Teter

The Author

Magda Teter is Professor of History and Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies at Fordham University. In addition to Blood Libel: On the Trail of an Antisemitic Myth, she is the author of Sinners on Trial: Jews and Sacrilege after the Reformation and Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland. She served as a consultant for the Polin Museum of Jewish History in Warsaw and for the BBC documentary Unorthodox Vows. In 2012-2016, she served as the co-editor of the AJS Review and in 2015-2017 as the Vice-President for Publications of the Association for Jewish Studies. She is currently a fellow of the American Academy for Jewish Research.

Teter has received fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim and Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundations and was Mellon Foundation Fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Photo ©Chuck Fishman

More by the Author

Sinners on Trial

In post-Reformation Poland—the largest state in Europe and home to the largest Jewish population in the world—the Catholic Church suffered profound anxiety about its power after the Protestant threat. Magda Teter reveals how criminal law became a key tool in the manipulation of the meaning of the sacred and in the effort to legitimize Church authority. The mishandling of sacred symbols was transformed from a sin that could be absolved into a crime that resulted in harsh sentences of mutilation, hanging, decapitation, and, principally, burning at the stake. Teter casts new light on the most infamous type of sacrilege, the accusation against Jews for desecrating the eucharistic wafer. Recounting dramatic stories of torture, trial, and punishment, this is the first book to consider the sacrilege accusations of the early modern period within the broader context of politics and common crime. Teter draws on previously unexamined trial records to bring out the real-life relationships among Catholics, Jews, and Protestants and challenges the commonly held view that following the Reformation, Poland was a “state without stakes”—uniquely a country without religious persecution.

Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland

Jews and Heretics in Catholic Poland takes issue with historians’ common contention that the Catholic Church triumphed in Counter-reformation Poland. In fact, the Church’s own sources show that the story is far more complex. From the rise of the Reformation and the rapid dissemination of these new ideas through printing, the Catholic Church was overcome with a strong sense of insecurity. The ‘infidel Jews, enemies of Christianity’ became symbols of the Church’s weakness and, simultaneously, instruments of its defence against all of its other adversaries. This process helped form a Polish identity that led, in the case of Jews, to racial anti-Semitism and to the exclusion of Jews from the category of Poles. This book portrays Jews not only as victims of Church persecution but as active participants in Polish society who as allies of the nobles, placed in positions of power, had more influence than has been recognised.

Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 22


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