Bar-Ilan Scholar Recants Controversial Blood Libel Theory

A Jewish historian over the weekend published an edited version of his book on the killing of a Christian child in the Italian city of Trento in 1475, denying that the Jews implicated in the murder were in any way involved.

In the new edition, Bar-Ilan University Professor Ariel Toaff writes: "Jews were not involved in ritual murder, which was an entirely Christian stereotype."

"There was no relationship whatsoever between the so-called 'ritual of blood' and ritual infanticide," Toaff stated.

Toaff caused controversy when he wrote in his 2007 book that he did not rule out the possibility that the murder was carried out by Jews who intended to use the youth's blood in a Passover ritual.

The remark sparked a huge backlash from Israeli and foreign historians who said his claims were unsubstantiated and demanded its immediate removal. In response, Toaff agreed to pull the book from stores and write a new introduction that clarified his opinion that the Jews of Trento were not involved in the murder.

In his new introduction, the scholar wrote that some on the fringe of Jewish Ashkenazi society often used dried blood in religious ceremonies.

"In the rural reality of medieval Germany, Jewish households, like Christian ones, often had a vial of blood, recommended for use in diverse eventualities," Toaff wrote. According to Toaff, blood was often donated by living people, sometimes children, who were paid for their services. It was then dried and used in ointments and powders.

In the wake of the uproar surrounding the book's publication, Toaff left Israel and is currently residing in Italy. His father, a revered and well-known Italian rabbi, presided over Rome's Jewish community after World War I. Before he published his second edition, Toaff rejected a request to change the book's provocative title "Pasque di Sangue" (Passover of Blood), but agreed to change the illustration on the cover.