Religious Histories and Discourses (Blog)
EAJS Conference Grant Programme in European Jewish Studies:
Support for EAJS Conferences and Summer Schools
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS FOR 2018/19
The European Association for Jewish Studies (EAJS) invites submissions to the EAJS Conference Grant Programme in European Jewish Studies for the academic year 2018/19, funded by the Rothschild Foundation Hanadiv Europe. As in the case of the earlier EAJS Programme in European Jewish Studies, the purpose of this programme is twofold: to foster cooperation among scholars involved in Jewish Studies across Europe, and to support early career researchers in this field to develop a professional network.
Grants will be offered for two types of academic events, EAJS Conferences and EAJS Summer (or Winter) Schools. Academic excellence and the impact on network building in Jewish Studies across Europe will be key criteria; international cooperation in the development of proposals is strongly encouraged. Events need to be held within the Academic Year 2018/19 (i.e. between 1 September 2018 and 31 August 2019).
Both EAJS Conferences and Summer (or Winter) Schools may be devoted to any topic of relevance in Jewish Studies, including but not limited to Jewish history, Jewish thought, Jewish languages and literatures, Jewish history of science and knowledge, Jewish material heritage, and Jewish topics in the social and political sciences. Events need to be hosted by an academic institution based in a European country.
In the case of EAJS Conferences, the format can range from discussion-focused one-day workshops to wide-ranging, synoptic conferences. EAJS Summer Schools need to give a detailed description of how the proposed theme will be translated into both lectures by faculty and active forms of involvement for the non-faculty participants (discussions, group work, presentations).
The EAJS welcomes a reflection on how the proposed theme of the Summer School as well as the interaction between faculty and participants will enhance international academic cooperation and networking. A summer school proposal needs to include a description and a justification of the theme, the faculty involved, and the duration and location of the event. It also needs to offer information about the expected non-faculty participants (e.g. undergraduate/graduate students; postdocs/early-career scholars; general public).
For both formats, the applicant(s) are encouraged to invite participants from across Europe in order to allow for a broad representation of approaches and academic cultures. The EAJS welcomes applications that demonstrate a degree of public or Jewish communal impact. Successful applicants are required to produce a short academic report on the major outcomes of the event which will be posted to the EAJS website. English needs to be one, but not necessarily the only conference language.
Academic associations or networks may apply for grants to cover travel or accommodation expenses for European PhD students or early career researchers participating in their meetings, or to contribute to the expenses for European keynote speakers at events and meetings held in Europe.
Grant: Proposed budgets will be assessed against the academic excellence and relevance of the submission as well as its expected outcomes and outputs. Applicants may request between £1,600 and £8,000 for travel expenses, accommodation and maintenance of the active participants. In case of an event budget exceeding this amount, the applicants need to show evidence for the ability to provide for the remaining amount.
Applicants are urged to identify and contact the relevant cost centre at their home institution (Department, Faculty, University) in order to avoid complications in the transfer of funds in case of a successful application. Also, they will need to document sufficient institutional support for holding the event and the adequate administration of funds.
Eligibility: Applications are to be submitted by one or more scholars actively involved in Jewish Studies. At least one applicant needs to be a Full Member of the European Association for Jewish Studies. Active participants are not required to be members of the EAJS, however the EAJS expects that a significant proportion of the active participants will be involved in academic pursuits at European universities and academic institutions. Cooperation across Europe is strongly encouraged. The academic who will host the event will function as main applicant. They will need to document sufficient institutional support for holding the event and the adequate administration of funds.
Submission process: Proposals for EAJS Conferences and Summer schools need to be submitted including full documentation (applicant(s) details: academic affiliation, short CV and selected bibliography; details of the proposed event: including a description of the theme and rationale, preliminary budget, proposed venue, and in the case of summer schools, faculty involved; details about hosting institution) through this online form (link) no later than 19 April 2018. The successful applicants will be notified by the end of May 2018.
We encourage members to contact our funding consultant, Jonathan Starbrook (University of Manchester), to seek independent advice about successfully applying for external funding: firstname.lastname@example.org
Enquiries about the programme should be sent to: email@example.com
The Mortara Affair was an incident in which a six year old Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, was forcibly removed from his family in June 1858 by the Carabinieri (the military police of the Papal States), placed in the care of the Church, and later adopted by Pius IX. This was because a Catholic maid (Anna Morisi), supposedly afraid that Edgardo was about to die, illicitly baptised him when he was an infant – or at least claimed to have done so. Years later she revealed this to Father Feletti, the inquisitor in Bologna. Whether Morisi really baptized Edgardo Mortara as claimed, or fabricated the story during her interrogation by Father Feletti in 1857, remains unknown. There were certainly inconsistencies in her account, which were highlighted during the trial of Father Feletti in 1860. Nevertheless, her story was accepted by the Church. The matter was referred to the Holy Office, which declared that the baptism was valid, and that according to papal law the boy must thus be removed from his family and brought to the House of the Catechumens in Rome to be raised as a Christian. This episode is examined in detail by David Kertzer in his excellent book, The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (New York: Vintage, 1998) [link].
Incidentally, Kertzer’s book will soon be adapted into a movie by Steven Spielberg [link]. This has spurred the publication of an English translation of the until recently unpublished memoirs of Edgardo Mortara with an introduction by Vittorio Messori defending Pius IX’s abduction of the young Jewish child [link], as well a series of online review articles and responses by those who support (e.g. Romanus Cessario in First Things) or abhor this defence of Pius IX (e.g. Robert T. Miller in Public Discourse). [See also Armin Rosen in Tablet Magazine for a brief survey of the recent responses].
Representation of the abduction by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim (1800-1882).
Returning to the subject in hand, whereas most British Catholic publications (such as The Rambler) simply ignored the reports of the Mortara abduction, and the pleas of the Jewish Chronicle for support in protesting against it, the Tablet went beyond silence and fully supported the Pope’s refusal to return the child. On 23 October 1858, following Protestant objections to Edgardo’s abduction by the Church, an editorial in the Tablet argued that an honest Catholic journalist can say nothing about it which Protestant readers will find gratifying. It was necessary, the editorial suggested, to take an “unpopular” stand despite the anticipated “obloquy” it would entail. The Tablet admitted that it adopted not only the “conclusions”, but also the “language” and the “arguments” of L’Univers – the French Catholic periodical of Ultramontanist Louis Veuillot. The Tablet thus presented L’Univers’s position on the Mortara Affair and endorsed it as if it were its own. According to the Tablet/L’Univers, Jews were the guests of the Church of Rome, and welcomed and protected in the papal territories, but whilst the civil law protects Jewish children from being coerced into baptism against their parent’s wishes (except “when in danger of death” or “when forsaken”), another law, of an earlier date, must take precedence: the “law of Christianity.” According to the Tablet/L’Univers, “baptism, which is necessary for salvation, makes us children of the Church.” It was suggested that in the case of the Mortara affair, the family had unwisely disregarded the law forbidding them to have Christian servants, and the maid, having seen the threat of death looming over an ill Edgardo Mortara, wished to make Heaven available to him, and thus baptized him, “legally, according to all appearance, validly, beyond all question.” As the young Mortara child was supposedly “no longer a Jew but a Christian,” it was apparently correct for him to be removed from his family, so that the parents “might not be tempted to make this Christian child apostatise either by violence or fraud, and so ruin a soul purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ.” The Tablet/L’Univers thus concluded that the Pope was right to refuse to bow to pressure, the paramount issue being the safety of a little child and a Christian soul. Untitled editorial with extract from Louis Veuillot’s L’Univers, Tablet, 23 October 1858, 680.
A week later, on 30 October, the front-page news summary in the Tablet noted that “the Mortara case” was continuing to “engage the tongues and pens of men.” The Tablet again inverted the event, so that rather than a case of the Church kidnapping a child from his parents, it was transformed into a matter of the Church defending an innocent child in his choice of religion against the unreasonable demands of his parents. The paper argued that agitations about young Mortara were being provoked by the “maligners of the Holy See.” According to the Tablet, those who insist that the young Mortara child, “a baptised Christian, arrived at the age of reason” (the paper incorrectly stated that the child was eight rather than six years old, though the proposition remains dubious at either age), should be surrendered to his father, and thus raised “as a Jew, to deny his Saviour,” are in essence arguing that “this Christian child has no right, as against his father, to be protected in his religion.” The Tablet contended that the maligners who argue that the father has a “right to force his own religion on the child,” do so at the expense of the “interests of the child.” The paper concluded that the father does not have this right, and no one can “seriously contend” that he does. According to the Tablet, “a legal discussion, the validity of which, according to the law of Rome, is not disputed, has settled that the child Mortara is entitled to be protected in his [Christian] religion against his own father.” The Pope was thus being asked, the paper concluded, to violate the law of Rome, “in order to enable the Jew to force his child to deny the Divinity of Christ as Supreme Legislator”. “Summary,” Tablet, 30 October 1858, 689.
A week later, on 6 November, an editorial in the Tablet suggested that all that is required to resolve the Mortara question is the “little grace” necessary to receive the instruction of the Catechism as it is intended to be received; it concluded that “unfortunately, that little grace is wanting to the furious infidels who create the disturbance, and darken a question clear as the sun at noon.” According to the editorial: “The child Mortara has acquired rights which no human power can take away, but by violence, and for the loss of which no Government can ever make any compensation. The act which made him a Christian is irrevocable, beyond the powers of any tribunal to annul, and by that act he became as a dead child to his Hebrew father (so far as the authority of the latter over his religion was concerned), as completely as if he had died a natural death. Neither he nor his parents, it is true, consented to the deed, but that absence of consent cannot vitiate it, because the act of baptism once validly complete, remains for ever indelible, whatever may be his education or the future habits of his life.” The editorial again inverted the episode, transforming it from the kidnapping of a Jewish child into the protection of a Christian child in his so-called free choice of religion: “The child Mortara, by his baptism came within the jurisdiction of the judges in those [Papal] States, and had a right to the protection which they afford. They were bound to take care that an unprotected subject of the Pope should suffer no damage that they could prevent, and they would have been guilty of a dereliction of imperative duty, if they had not protected the child, as soon as they had ascertained that he had a legal claim to their help.” Invoking the stereotype of the Jewish “Pharisee,” the Tablet argued that the “British Christians” who side with Judaism over the Pope (whilst supporting Protestant societies for the conversion of Jews) are “Pharisees, who magnify the letter of their law, that they may easier kill the spirit.” On 13 November, the paper observed that when considering the Mortara case, “the readers of foreign journals must recollect that an immense proportion of [the journals] in France and Germany belong to Jews.” According to the paper, “Hebrews and Protestants will hunt in couples when Popery is on foot.” Untitled editorial, Tablet, 6 November 1858, 713; “Catholic Intelligence,” Tablet, 13 November 1858, 724.
In summary, the Tablet agreed with Ultramontane publications in Europe, that the six-year-old child, having been (allegedly) baptized, was no longer a Jew but a Christian. It was necessary, the paper concluded, to remove the child from his parents in order to protect his soul from violence. The Tablet regarded it as entirely plausible that Edgardo, though only a young child, had freely abandoned Judaism, embraced Catholicism, and thus had a right to be “protected” against his parents in his so-called free “choice” of religion.
George Oliver Plaque (sourced from “Open Plaques“)
It should be noted in conclusion that whilst the main British Catholic publications of the time (i.e. the Rambler, the Tablet and the Dublin Review) were either silent or supportive of the pope’s decision to hold on to the young Edgardo Mortara, this does mean that British Catholics in general – most of whom had little opportunity to make their views public – were happy about the abduction. At least one prominent British Catholic, the Rev Dr George Oliver, a clergyman, antiquarian and local historian, who was made a Doctor of Divinity by Pope Gregory XVI in 1844, protested the act in a letter to Alex Alexander. The letter was subsequently published in the Western Times and the Jewish Chronicle. According to Oliver, “a father has a natural right over his children, and without his free consent, it is unjustifiable in a Christian to attempt to baptise them.” He declared that the forcible abduction of a Jewish child on the pretence of a secret baptism by a Christian maid was “abominable”. Letter from George Oliver to Alex Alexander, “The Forcible Abduction at Bologna,” Jewish Chronicle, 15 October 1858, 3.
Distinguished EAJS Panel and Distinguished EAJS Graduate Student Panel. EAJS Congress, Kraków. July 2018.
Call for Submissions
Distinguished EAJS Panel and Distinguished EAJS Graduate Student Panel
11th EAJS Congress, Kraków, 15-19 July 2018
The EAJS invites colleagues who have submitted panels to the 11th EAJS Congress in Kraków (deadline: 15 November 2017) to also apply for recognition of their panel as a Distinguished EAJS Panel or Distinguished EAJS Graduate Student Panel (deadline: 15 January 2018).
The criteria for selection are (a) academic excellence, (b) coherence of the proposed panel and (c) potential for scholarly innovation. Only panels accepted by the Congress Organising Committee will be considered. EAJS non-members may apply to this scheme as long as the proposed panel meets the conditions outlined below.
Up to four Distinguished EAJS Panels and four Distinguished EAJS Graduate Student Panels will be selected, and identified as such in the printed Congress programme.
Furthermore, the EAJS will waive the entire conference fee – €55.00 for EAJS Student Members, €80.00 for EAJS Full and Associate Members, €175.00 for non-members – for all speakers (including respondents, but excluding chairs) of the selected panels.
The following conditions apply:
Distinguished EAJS Panel
The panel needs to be comprised of 3 or 4 speakers and up to 1 respondent. At least one speaker needs to be a fully paid up EAJS Full Member. Panel submissions comprising of early career researchers are particularly welcome.
Distinguished EAJS Graduate Student Panel
The panel needs to be comprised of 3 or 4 speakers and up to 1 respondent. A majority of the participants need to be EAJS Student Members.
The applicant should use the online application form to submit
- The title of the panel
- The panel abstract (up to 200 words)
- the names of the speakers (and up to 1 respondent), and their paper titles and abstracts (but no CVs)
The application deadline is 15 January 2018. The EAJS Award Committee will request confirmation of acceptance directly from the Organising Committee of the 11th EAJS Congress.
This application is separate from a paper submission to attend the Congress. You need to have previously submitted paper and panel proposals to the 11th EAJS Congress in Kraków. Please click here for details and instructions for the conference’s call for papers: Call for Papers for EAJS Congress
Applicants will be notified of the result of their application by 25 January 2018, providing those colleagues who need to pay conference fees sufficient time to do so.
New research article in the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, 93:1 (Manchester University Press, Spring 2017): ‘”Monuments” to the Truth of Christianity: Anti-Judaism in the Works of Adam Clarke’.
Abstract: The prevailing historiographies of Jewish life in England suggest that religious representations of ‘the Jews’ in the early modern period were confined to the margins and fringes of society by the ‘desacralization’ of English life. Such representations are mostly neglected in the scholarly literature for the latter half of the long eighteenth century, and English Methodist texts in particular have received little attention. This research article addresses these lacunae by examining the discourse of Adam Clarke (1760/2–1832), an erudite Bible scholar, theologian, preacher and author and a prominent, respected, Methodist scholar. Significantly, the more overt demonological representations were either absent from Clarke’s discourse, or only appeared on a few occasions, and were vague as to who or what was signified. However, Clarke portrayed biblical Jews as ‘perfidious’, ‘cruel’, ‘murderous’, ‘an accursed seed, of an accursed breed’ and ‘radically and totally evil’. He also commented on contemporary Jews (and Catholics), maintaining that they were foolish, proud, uncharitable, intolerant and blasphemous. He argued that in their eternal, wretched, dispersed condition, the Jews demonstrated the veracity of biblical prophecy, and served an essential purpose as living monuments to the truth of Christianity.
Publication date: March 1, 2017
For more information, please see:
Melilah: Manchester Journal of Jewish Studies. ‘Atheism, Scepticism and Challenges to Monotheism’. Volume 12.
This volume attempts to make a modest contribution to the historical study of Jewish doubt, focusing on the encounter between atheistic and sceptical modes of thought and the religion of Judaism. Along with related philosophies including philosophical materialism and scientific naturalism, atheism and scepticism are amongst the most influential intellectual trends in Western thought and society. As such, they represent too important a phenomenon to ignore in any study of religion that seeks to locate the latter within the modern world. For scholars of Judaism and the Jewish people, the issue is even more pressing in that for Jews, famously, the categories of religion and ethnicity blur so that it makes sense to speak of non-Jewish Jews many of whom have historically been indifferent or even hostile to religion.
Themed volume: Atheism, Scepticism and Challenges to Monotheism.
Editor: Daniel R. Langton.
Assistant editor: Simon Mayers.
Open Access, freely available online: www.melilahjournal.org/p/2015.html
- Kenneth Seeskin, From Monotheism to Scepticism and Back Again.
- Joshua Moss, Satire, Monotheism and Scepticism.
- David Ruderman, Are Jews the Only True Monotheists? Some Critical Reflections in Jewish Thought from the Renaissance to the Present.
- Benjamin Williams, Doubting Abraham doubting God: The Call of Abraham in the Or ha-Sekhel.
- Károly Dániel Dobos, Shimi the Sceptical: Sceptical Voices. in an Early Modern Jewish, Anti-Christian Polemical Drama by Matityahu Nissim Terni.
- Jeremy Fogel, Scepticism of Scepticism: On Mendelssohn’s Philosophy of Common Sense.
- Michael Miller, Kaplan and Wittgenstein: Atheism, Phenomenology and the use of language.
- Federico Dal Bo, Textualism and Scepticism: Post-modern Philosophy and the Theology of Text.
- Norman Solomon, The Attenuation of God in Modern Jewish Thought.
- Melissa Raphael, Idoloclasm: The First Task of Second Wave Liberal Jewish Feminism.
- Daniel R. Langton, Joseph Krauskopf’s Evolution and Judaism: One Reform Rabbi’s Response to Scepticism and Materialism in Nineteenth-century North America.
- Avner Dinur, Secular Theology as a Challenge for Jewish Atheists.
- Khayke Beruriah Wiegand, “Why the Geese Shrieked”: Isaac Bashevis Singer’s Work between Mysticism and Sceptics.
The English Catholic Worker (inspired by, but not to be confused with the longer-lived American newspaper of the same name), which was founded in June 1935 as the aptly named newspaper of the English branch of the Catholic Worker movement, provides a significant contrast to the other English Catholic newspapers of the time (such as the Catholic Herald and the Catholic Times). It was the only newspaper to focus primarily on representing the poorer working-class Catholics of England, addressing issues such as a just wage, workers’ rights, working conditions, and trade unions. It had a significant circulation of about 32,000 copies per issue during 1937, rivalling that of the Catholic Times, though falling short of the better-selling Catholic Herald (which had a circulation approaching 100,000 readers by 1936). Unlike the American Catholic Worker (which is still running), the English Catholic Worker ceased publication in 1959. For an account of the English Catholic Worker’s first year of existence, see Barbara Wall, “The English Catholic Worker: Early Days,” Chesterton Review, August 1984. For a discussion of the English Catholic Worker‘s discourse about Jews and antisemitism from 1939 to 1948, see Olivier Rota, “The ‘Jewish Question’ and the English Catholic Worker, 1939–1948,” Houston Catholic Worker, May-June 2005 [*].
During the 1930s, the Catholic Herald expressed ambivalence and at times sympathy for fascism and antisemitism, antipathy for liberalism (which it blamed for “destroying utterly the organic character of the western European States”), and suggested that Jews were a culturally “alien” presence in England that should be segregated as part of the reconstruction of a unified Christian society. The Catholic Times was even more sympathetic to fascism and antisemitism. In 1933, the paper asked whether one can be “quite certain that the alleged Nazi persecution of the Jews is quite what it is made out to be?” According to the editorial, “we cannot easily forget the part played by international Jewry in the present state of world-distress. Nor can we overlook the fact that Jews are at the back of much of the present widespread propaganda of irreligion and immodesty, two of atheistic Communism’s main lines of attack on that civilisation which Herr Hitler, for all his faults, has sworn to uphold.” According to the editorial, “Jewish Freemasonry is at the back of a world-wide persecution of Catholics far worse than anything that Jews have had to suffer in Germany.” The Catholic Times even suggested that it was the “international Jews” that were “persecuting the Nazis.” According to an editorial in 1938, “if Fascism is tolerated by us, … it is not because it is opposed to Bolshevism, but because in many respects it is a good form of government. The evil in it can be tolerated because it is far outweighed by the good. Bolshevism, on the other hand, cannot be tolerated, because it is fundamentally and essentially evil, because the evil far outweighs the good.” (See for example, “Fascism,” Catholic Herald, 17 August 1935, p.10; “The Future of Jewry,” Catholic Herald, 3 January 1936, p.8; “Mosely Goes Anti-Semite,” Catholic Herald, 27 March 1936, p.6; “And the East End,” Catholic Herald, 23 October 1936, p.8; “The Resistance to Jewry,” Catholic Herald, 22 January 1937, p.8; “Herr Hitler and the Jews,” Catholic Times, 31 March 1933, p.10; “Mr. Vernon Bartlett’s Broadcast,” Catholic Times, 27 October 1933, p.10; “Why Fascism is Tolerable,” Catholic Times, 14 January 1938, p.10).
Unlike the Catholic Herald and the Catholic Times, the Catholic Worker was consistently critical of all forms of fascism, rejected the concept of a “Jewish Problem,” and refuted antisemitic accusations and stereotypes. According to the Catholic Worker soon after its founding in 1935, “the troubles of Germany in the last three years have steadily grown worse, and the persecution of both the Jews and the Catholic population has increased in its severity. … the governors of Germany would seem to have become hopelessly drunk of the wildest dreams of nationality, and the exaltation of a mad racial obsession.” The paper had no confidence that “the Hitler gangsters” would honour the Concordat between Germany and the Vatican. (“Germany and the Vatican: A Reply to Nazis,” Catholic Worker, August 1935, p.1).
The paper frequently criticised racism and prejudice in all its forms, and excoriated the British Union of Fascists (the BUF), Italian fascism, and Nazism. According to the Catholic Worker, “the B.U.F. policy against the Jews seems to the ‘Catholic Worker’ unjust. The denial to them of rights of citizenship, the refusal to recognise them as full human beings (in one B.U.F. pamphlet they are called in all seriousness ‘sub-men’), are violations of Christian teaching.” The paper lamented that “it is very probable that many of those who have joined the B.U.F. are men and women who want a just social order, and think that Fascism is the only possible way of achieving it. … They are willing to stand by while Jews are denied elementary human rights because they cannot see any other way of achieving social justice for the multitudes.” (Editorial, Catholic Worker, February 1937, p.4; Stephen Deacon, “Fascism in Italy: Catholics and Fascism,” Catholic Worker, September 1937, p.7; R. P. Walsh, “‘Catholic Worker’ and Fascism,” Catholic Worker, February 1938, p.7).
In March 1938, the paper observed that “it seems as if the wave of anti-Semitism is to reach world-wide importance.” The paper noted that “the fate of the Jew in Germany is too well known to need further comment,” and that antisemitic publications are on the increase in Italy. According to the Catholic Worker, “Poland, with all its Catholic population, is notoriously against the Jews.” Closer to home, the paper noted that “without any doubt, Mosley makes headway in England, and with him progresses the anti-Semitic movement in this country.” The paper lamented that “very many Catholics are numbered among Mosley’s followers,” and are thus exposed to the BUF’s antisemitic rants. In September 1938, the paper published a lengthy article on the menace of antisemitic nationalism. According to the article, “already in this paper we have had need to criticise the dissemination of doctrines of race prejudice among Catholics. The editorial post-bag makes in this matter depressing reading. Not content with that colour bar which is the peculiar pride of the Englishman …, correspondents who claim to be Catholics are urging us to join them in vituperation of the Jews.” The paper cited the litany of complaints that the antisemite brings to bear: “Always it is the Jews. The Jews have a stranglehold on finance. … The Jews are the great capitalists. The Jews are the sweaters of the workers. The Jews are the principal agents of Communism. Strangest accusation of all, the Jews are teachers of atheism. … According to our correspondents, one of whom has the nerve to sign himself, ‘In the name of the Divine Fascist,’ the Jews are all this. But over-riding all other accusations is the supreme fault – The Jew is not British.” The paper classified all these accusations as “Stupidity!” The Catholic Worker concluded that “we need to remind ourselves of what is true. That Jews do not preponderate in the City of London, and that the Jews who do labour in that temple of finance are at least as honest and capable as the rest. That while some Jews have great wealth, others have none at all, and that Christian sweaters of labour are as hateful and more numerous than Jewish. … most of the Jews in this country are as British as the people who slander them. Nor would it matter two-pence if they were not.” (“Catholics and Jews: What are our duties?,” Catholic Worker, March 1938, p.4; “The Menace of Nationalism,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5; Let us be warned in time,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5).
Despite its sustained solidarity with Jews, it may be noted that the paper did, occasionally, allude to traditional religious narratives about how Catholicism was superior to, and the fulfilment of, Judaism. For example, in one of the articles that defended Jews, the Catholic Worker did state in passing that “the Jews have an even greater problem of leakage than have we, and that is not indeed surprising since the Jews have not the true Faith [my italics]” (“The Menace of Nationalism,” Catholic Worker, September 1938, p.5). And in another article that defended Jews, the paper stated that “as a Jew, true to his faith, imperfect and mistaken though it be [my italics], and following the commandments of God so far as they are known to him, he is a man to be praised highly, a candidate for heaven” (“Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” Catholic Worker, November 1938, p.4). Another article that rejected antisemitic “Jew-Baiting” nevertheless cited the annual Good Friday prayer as part of its defence of Jews, and whilst it clarified that “perfidious” meant “without faith” rather than “treacherous,” it nevertheless revealed more than a trace of supersessionism: “Yearly the Church bids us pray ‘for the perfidious (i.e. without faith, not faithless in the sense of treacherous) Jews, that our God and Lord would withdraw the veil from their hearts: that they also may acknowledge our Lord Jesus Christ. … Surely Christians … should themselves show such charity towards the Jews of their own day as to do their part to remove the veil” (Annie Somers, “Our Brother the Jew,” Catholic Worker, June 1938, p.6). Nevertheless, despite these and other occasional slips, it seems clear that any hint of superciliousness was incidental, unintended, and outweighed by the consistent criticisms of antisemitism.
Whilst antisemitic myths and stereotypes were a prominent feature of English Catholic newspapers, literature and intellectual discourse during the latter decades of the nineteenth and the early decades of the twentieth century, it is important to note that the ordinary working class Catholics of England (the largest social group within English Catholicism) often rejected or ignored such narratives. They also tended to be unsympathetic towards fascism. Significantly, as Ulrike Ehret has also noted, the Catholic Worker, the main newspaper that addressed the working class Catholics of England, consistently opposed fascism and rejected antisemitism. Another consistently anti-fascist English Catholic magazine was Canon Francis Drinkwater’s and Father Gosling’s The Sower. (See Ulrike Ehret, Church, Nation and Race: Catholics and Antisemitism in Germany and England, 1918-45, Manchester University Press, 2012, pp.75, 211-214, and Tom Villis, British Catholics and Fascism: Religious Identity and Political Extremism Between the Wars, Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, pp. 205-209).
[*] My thanks to Louise Zwick at the Houston Catholic Worker for providing me with a copy of Olivier Rota’s article.
There have been some interesting developments in the months and years since Chesterton’s Jews was first published (in August 2013). For example, in chapter five of Chesterton’s Jews, I introduced the myth that the Wiener Library defends G. K. Chesterton from the charge of “antisemitism,” noting that the resilience of the myth, which received its genesis in the late 1980s, is demonstrated by the fact that there are still numerous internet pages that refer to it. However, since the book was published, the myth has been at least partially uprooted (link for more information). Michael Coren had originally stated that it was the “Wiener Institute, the best monitors of anti-semitism in Britain,” that defended Chesterton from the charge of antisemitism (Michael Coren, “Just bad friends,” New Statesman, 8 August 1986, 30). Three years later, it was “the Wiener Library, the archives of anti-Semitism and Holocaust history in London,” that regarded Chesterton as “a friend, not an enemy” (Michael Coren, Gilbert: The Man Who Was G. K. Chesterton, 1989, 209-210). The implication was that the institution itself defended and regarded Chesterton as a friend. However, in September 2013, Coren clarified that it was not the institution, but rather just one of the many librarians (whose name he does not remember) that have worked there over the years. According to Oliver Kamm in the Jewish Chronicle (online edition, 10 October 2013; print edition, 11 October 2013), when he asked Coren about this, he quickly replied, “regretting that he could not recall the name of the librarian with whom he spoke and that his records from this pre-digital age had not all travelled with him to his current home in Canada.”
A more significant development relates to the movement for the canonisation of Chesterton. When Chesterton’s Jews was published, it was possible to discuss (in chapter six) how Chesterton had been represented as a saint by a number of his admirers, and how a movement that called for the canonisation of Chesterton was growing. If I had waited one more month before publication, I would have also been able to report that Peter Doyle, the bishop of the diocese of Northampton, had appointed a priest, Canon John Udris, to start an investigation into whether Chesterton’s Cause should be formally opened. If I had waited a few months, I would have been able to discuss how this had played out in various newspapers, such as the Catholic Herald (in which Francis Phillips suggested that Chesterton was a “genius,” a “prophet,” who should be canonised and made the patron saint of journalists), the Tablet (in which Richard Ingrams suggested that Chesterton’s writing evinced an “undeniable anti-Semitism,” and that he “shut his eyes to too many nasty things and a saint cannot do that”), and the Jewish Chronicle (in which Oliver Kamm suggested that Chesterton was a writer unfit to be a saint, and Geoffrey Alderman expressed amazement at the lengths that people will go to excuse the “antisemitism” of public figures such as Chesterton), to mention but a few. Since then, Canon Udris has given talks and interviews on Chesterton, suggesting that Chesterton was innocent of “anti-Semitism,” and should be beatified. For example, in an interview in the Catholic Herald (3 March 2014), it was reported that Canon Udris had stated that Chesterton said some “daft things,” such as that the Jews should wear distinctive dress to indicate they were outsiders. According to Udris, “you can understand why people make the assumption that he is anti-Semitic. But I would want to make the opposite case.” And in a talk delivered at Beaconsfield in 2014 (YouTube link), he stated that “the holiness of Chesterton is something that’s infectious.” It will certainly be interesting to see if the investigation initiated by the bishop of Northampton concludes with the Cause of Chesterton being formerly opened. [Link for news reports on the investigation]
The Tablet was the main English Catholic weekly newspaper during the second half of the nineteenth century. It was founded in 1840 by Frederick Lucas, a convert to Catholicism from Quakerism. A year later, Lucas took on John Cox, a Protestant, as a partner at the Tablet. Lucas’s advocacy of Catholic causes, and his criticisms of Protestantism, alienated John Cox. By 1843, the paper was solely in the hands of Lucas, and it remained under his editorship until he passed away in 1855. It quickly established itself as a dedicated English Catholic newspaper. In a number of articles, editorials, and letters in the Tablet during the Lucas years, the Jews were portrayed as usurers, and plunderers of Christian civilization. English Protestants were described as enemies of “Christianity all over the world,” and as allies to the Jews. According to the Tablet, the English Protestants handed churches and convents over to the Jews to plunder, and embraced in brotherhood, non-conformists, Jews, Hindus and Muslims, whilst excluding Catholics, or reducing them to slavery. The Tablet also contained deprecating references to “Pharisees” and “Deicides”. In some cases, these labels were used in purely religious discussions, but in other instances, they were used as symbols and metaphors for Protestants. For example, in 1851, the Tablet criticized the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, claiming that he praised the Reformation, and denounced Catholicism as fanatical, cruel and superstitious. According to the Tablet, the Lord Lieutenant makes his choices, in the “spirit of the Deicides of Jerusalem.”
When Frederick Lucas passed away in October 1855, John Wallis, a convert to Catholicism from Anglicanism, purchased the paper. Under Wallis, the Tablet was on good terms with the Archbishop of Westminster, and became a semi-official forum for the publication of papal documents. During his proprietor-editorship, articles and editorials continued to lament that Catholics were not only treated worse than other Christians, but also worse than Jews. For example, in June 1857, the newspaper argued that whilst English Catholics have been faithful servants to the Prime Minister, he in turn opens his arms to Jews, but treats Catholics with disdain. A month later, another editorial argued that Jews, unlike Catholics, have foreign blood in their veins, and yet are treated as favoured individuals, even though they are, quote, “of another race.” The paper reported that “the Jew” is “of another race, and his blood pure from admixture with the Saxon, Norman, or Celtic; but notwithstanding the absence of ‘kith and kin’ in the matter, he is the ‘Dowb’ of the Liberals.” According to the editorial, “we who profess the Catholic faith (which the Jew hates), of undoubted English, Irish, or Scottish blood, whose origin is the same with that of the Liberals, who have no other country … cannot excite the millionth part of this sympathy.” It concluded that Catholics, who “have not a drop, probably, of foreign blood in their veins,” find themselves in a position inferior to the Jews.
The Mortara Affair was an incident in which a six year old Jewish child, Edgardo Mortara, was forcibly removed from his family in June 1858 by the Carabinieri (the military police of the Papal States), placed in the care of the Church, and later adopted by Pius IX. This was because a Catholic maid (Anna Morisi), supposedly afraid that Edgardo was about to die, illicitly baptised him when he was an infant – or at least claimed to have done so. Years later she revealed this to Father Feletti, the inquisitor in Bologna. Whether Morisi really baptized Edgardo Mortara as claimed, or fabricated the story during her interrogation by Father Feletti in 1857, remains unknown. There were certainly inconsistencies in her account, which were highlighted during the trial of Father Feletti in 1860. Nevertheless, her story was accepted by the Church. The matter was referred to the Holy Office, which declared that the baptism was valid, and that according to papal law the boy must thus be removed from his family and brought to the House of the Catechumens in Rome to be raised as a Christian. This episode is examined in detail by David Kertzer in The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara (New York: Vintage, 1998: [link]). Significantly, the Mortara episode was also reflected upon by the Tablet. In October 1858, after a wave of indignation across Europe in response to the abduction, a Tablet editorial stated that “honest Catholic journalists” can say nothing about the Mortara affair, which Protestant readers will find “gratifying.” It was necessary, argued the editorial, to take an “unpopular” stand, despite the inevitable criticism. According to the Tablet, the family had brought the problem upon themselves, as they had disregarded the law forbidding them to employ Christian servants. The young maid had simply wanted to make heaven available to Edgardo, and thus had validly baptized him. According to the paper, the young Mortara child was “no longer a Jew but a Christian,” and it was therefore quite right that he be removed from his parents in order to protect his soul and make sure they do not use violence to force him to abandon Christianity. The abduction was thus transformed into a case of the Church defending an innocent child in his free “choice” of religion, against the unreasonable demands of his parents. According to a report in the Tablet on the 30th of October, the agitators who insist that the young Mortara child, “a baptised Christian, arrived at the age of reason,” should be surrendered to his father, and raised as a Jew, are in essence arguing that a “Christian child has no right to be protected in his religion.” The Tablet suggested that those who argue that the father has a “right to force his own religion on the child,” do so at the expense of the “interests of the child”. A week later, the paper argued that “the child Mortara has acquired rights which no human power can take away”; “the act which made him a Christian is irrevocable”. And the week after that, an article in the paper observed that when reading about the Mortara case in foreign journals, one must keep in mind that many of them are owned by Jews, and that “Hebrews and Protestants will hunt in couples when Popery is on foot.” (Link for more information on the Tablet and the Mortara Affair).
Following the Italian War of 1859, most of the Papal States were annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1860. The Kingdom of Italy, with the king of Sardinia at its head, was declared in 1861. Following the Italian War of 1866, Venetia was incorporated into the Kingdom of Italy. Only a remnant of the Papal States, in particular Rome, remained outside the new kingdom. Jews were often blamed by the Tablet for these events, and the stereotype of the greedy, materialistic, plundering Jew invoked. For example, in March 1866, the paper reprinted a report from another newspaper to the effect that when loyal Catholics arrived in Rome to volunteer for the papal regiments, they were confronted by “swarms of Jews, bag in hand, anxious to transfer to the Ghetto, at as low a price as possible, the defroque of these champions of the Church.” A few months later, during the brief Austria-Prussian war of 1866 (in which Italy fought on the side of Prussia), the Roman Correspondent for the Tablet reported that with regard to the news of the war, Rome’s Catholics were at the mercy of “the telegraph, which is in the hands of the Jews and the revolutionists.” After the war, the Rome correspondent reported that the economy in Italy was in a bad state, and that to address it, Church property was being auctioned off. According to the Tablet, it was only the Jews and revolutionists that would purchase the property, because the rest of the population would not wish to “incur the curse of sacrilege by acquiring it.”
In November 1868, the Tablet was purchased by Hebert Vaughan. Vaughan was a staunch Ultramontanist, and he acquired the paper as a platform to endorse the doctrine of papal infallibility, and to support the First Vatican Council. Vaughan was appointed the Bishop of Salford in 1872, by his mentor, Archbishop Henry Manning. In the early 1890s, Vaughan was appointed to replace Cardinal Manning as the Archbishop of Westminster. Vaughan held onto the paper from 1868 until he died in 1903. During Vaughan’s ownership of the Tablet, “the Jew” and “the Freemason” became frequent subjects for discussion. When Rome was captured by the Italian army in September 1870, the Tablet accused the Jews and Freemasons of being responsible for it. Flipping the Edgardo Mortara abduction on its head, an article in the Tablet reported that the converts from Judaism were being dragged away from their homes, and forced against their will to return to their “old haunts.” The report implied that “the Jews” were behind this, noting that “the Jews have been conspicuously active and successful, they have been prominent in the Revolution in Rome as they have been in all the revolutions and annexations throughout the Peninsular: and they everywhere secure the highest and most lucrative positions.” The paper also reported, that the “bitterest enemies of the Church”, are flocking into Rome, amongst them Jews and Englishmen. On the 31st of December 1870, responding to rumours that a Jew might be elected as mayor of Rome, the Tablet stated that if this were to occur, it would be “the strangest and most shameful phase in the history of Roman dishonour.” According to the Tablet, “as a Jew, he is the declared adversary of Christ and of His Vicar.”
The Tablet continued to build upon these themes during the next few years. For example, the Tablet suggested that the residents of Rome were living under “the old law”, rather than the New Testament. It stated that “our rulers are Jews, our teachers are Jews, our editors and bankers and tradesmen are Jews, and it will be by a special dispensation of mercies if we do not all wake one morning and find ourselves talking Hebrew and going to the synagogue instead of the [Church].” The Tablet suggested that if things continue as they are, the Jews will soon become the owners of Rome and Italy. The Tablet also argued that Jewish teachers – supported by Protestants and Freemasons – were pushing their way into the schools and colleges of Rome, and introducing “Judaic,” “atheistic” and “infidel” teachings.
Around this time, the Tablet also invoked images of Pharisees and crucifiers. For example, in 1873, the Tablet suggested that English journalists and statesman were like the Jews who clamoured for the crucifixion of Jesus. “Our modern Secularists are not even original,” the paper reported, as “in fighting against the spiritual authority, established by God, … they only imitate the perfidious Jews.” And in 1874, the Tablet argued that English Protestants, with their “neutralized Christianity” and denials of Christ, were like the Pharisees. According to the Tablet, those who say down with the Church, are like the Jews who called for the crucifixion of Jesus.
These deprecating images of Jews abruptly ceased in 1876. This was around the time that a variety of British newspapers and magazines, such as the Daily News, the Spectator and Fun, were caricaturing Jews, and suggesting that they were manipulating the country to side with “the Turks” during “the Bulgarian Horrors” and the Russo-Turkish War. A number of reporters and critics attributed Disraeli’s policies to his so-called “Oriental,” “Hebrew,” and “Asian” origins, which supposedly led him to sympathize with “the Turk” against the Christian. For example, the Daily News, alluding to Disraeli’s foreign policy, referred to traces of “the Asian mystery about it”, and an “almost Oriental indifference to cruelty.” The Spectator referred to an English Mohammed-ism, which supported the cause of Turkey, motivated by a “half-conscious hatred of Christianity.” And E. A. Freeman, a Liberal politician and professor of history at Oxford University, referred to him as the ‘Jew Earl’, ‘Philo-Turkish Jew’ and the ‘traitorous Jew’. The Tablet leaped to Disraeli’s defence. The paper suggested that the “barbarism” of Russia was greater than that of Turkey, and it agreed with Disraeli that the agitation was encouraged by Russia as a means to increase its territory. The Tablet stated that it would ideally like to see “the Turks” driven out of Christendom, but it asked, “shall we, however, set in the Turk’s place the Cossack, …, the executioner of Poland, the persecutor of the Church?” The paper observed that it was not long since Russia had “sent hordes of Cossacks” into Poland, with express instructions to “cut to pieces, with God’s help, all Poles and Jews.”
The Tablet not only sided with Disraeli’s policies during the Eastern crisis, it also dismissed accusations that “Judaic sympathies” were acting upon it, and lavished praise upon Disraeli for his literary achievements. This is interesting, because only a few years previously, the Tablet had been critical of Disraeli as both a politician and novelist. For example, in 1870, the paper had blamed Disraeli’s novel, Lothair, for encouraging Paganism and the worship of Astaroth in the streets of Rome. The paper had stated that it must “afford satisfaction to the Right honourable Benjamin Disraeli that the latest effort of his lively imagination, his no-Popery novel, is thus welcomed into the ancient home of the Papacy.” However, when he was raised to the peerage in 1876, the Tablet observed that it was “the legitimate crowning of a great career.” The Tablet went on to state that “as Catholics, we can never quite forgive Mr. Disraeli for writing Lothair,” but we are ready to acknowledge that his policies with regard to “Catholic questions” has been fair. “We can therefore honestly offer our congratulations on the great honour which has been conferred upon him.”
Considering the Tablet’s earlier criticisms of Jews and Disraeli, the Tablet’s sudden U-turn requires some explanation. It seems that the Vatican and the British government were both concerned that their respective interests in the region might be jeopardised if Russia succeeded in defeating the Ottoman Empire. For example, the Suez Canal in Egypt, a vassal state in the Ottoman Empire, was an essential link between Britain and India. Catholics enjoyed a measure of latitude in the Ottoman Empire, whereas the scars of persecution under Russia, especially in Poland, were still raw. William Gladstone, Disraeli’s political opponent, was also harshly critical of the Catholic Church in the 1870s following the First Vatican Council. These factors led the Tablet to defend and support Disraeli, and refute accusations that Judaic sympathies lay behind his policies. The U-turn however did not last long. During the 1880s, the Tablet quickly slipped back into a pattern of criticizing Jews, accusing them of dominating the education systems and money markets of Europe, and turning the University of Vienna into a “Jewish seminary,” and destroying the Union Générale bank.
Sympathy for the plight of Jews in Russia, and hostile stereotypes of Jews, combined and coalesced into an ambivalent brew during the 1880s and early 1890s. For example, in 1882, the Tablet criticized the Russian government for not curbing the persecution of Jews in its territory. The Tablet also asked, why those who complained about “the Turks” during the Russian-Turkish conflict, have no complaint for the Russians, when they slaughter and pillage “unoffending Hebrews.” Conversely, the Tablet also suggested, in the very same articles that defended Jews, that their persecution was partly a result of their rejection and murder of Christ, and their criminal financial activities. The Tablet explained that “we must be just to both sides. There can be no doubt that, in more than one country in the East of Europe, the Jews have given great provocation by extortionate usury and an excessive trade in noxious stimulants. But that is no reason why they should be robbed or murdered.”
The Tablet maintained this ambivalent attitude during the early 1890s. It reported that the cruel persecution of Jews in Russia continued with unabated heat. However, whilst the Tablet continued to criticize Russia, it also suggested that there were many reasons why the Jews were considered “obnoxious”. According to the Tablet, the Jews’ shrewdness enables them to live off their Russian neighbours, and the Jew is “a parasite, the parasite of ignorance, and too often of vice”
In January 1895, the Tablet contained a report in its Paris news section, stating that “there can be little doubt that the trivial punishment inflicted on Captain Dreyfus,” is owing to “the fact that he is both a Freemason and a Jew.” According to the report, “while in England the Jews are a harmless and inoffensive tribe, or at most work unaggressively, in France they are the declared and open enemies of the Christian religion.” According to the Tablet, the Jews use their wealth and talents to obtain official positions, which they then use to attack the Catholic faith at every opportunity. “The combination of Judaism with Freemasonry is irresistible,” the report stated, and “it rules France with an iron-gloved hand”. The report concluded that “had a Christian been found guilty of the treachery of Captain Dreyfus he would have been shot,” whereas Dreyfus “escapes with a comfortable exile”.
After the degradation of Captain Dreyfus in January 1895, the Dreyfus case disappeared from the pages of the Tablet for a few years. However, in the intervening years, there were other articles, editorials and letters about Jews and Freemasons. For example, during the publication of Léo Taxil’s so-called “Memoirs of Miss Diana Vaughan,” instalments of which were published in France from 1895 to 1897, Freemasonry was accused of hiding an inner circle of highly secretive Luciferianism referred to as “Palladian” Freemasonry. In reality, this Palladian Freemasonry was entirely the invention of Taxil’s bizarrely creative mind, as he finally admitted in 1897. However, the authors of articles, letters and editorials in the Tablet were taken in by the Diana Vaughan hoax. According to an article in the paper in October 1896 : “That there is in France a sect devoted to the worship of Lucifer, as the champion of rebellious humanity, is, we believe, a well-attested fact, and the propagation of this diabolical creed has been ascribed by M. Taxil and M. Ricoux to an inner ring of the Masonic body called Palladic Masonry.” The Tablet concluded that a recent book by Arthur Waite “traverses and impugns these statements, but without any conclusive refutation of their general drift.” Father Norbert Jones of the Canons Regular of the Lateran, argued in a letter to the editor of the Tablet that Jews and Freemasons were working together to discredit Diana Vaughan’s damaging revelations of Masonic devil worship. According to Father Jones, those that “talk of deception in the matter are themselves the real dupes of Jew Masons” (link for more information on the Diana Vaughan hoax). And in March 1897, an article in the Tablet celebrated Karl Luegar, the antisemitic mayor of Vienna, for transforming the city from a so-called “fief of the great Hebrew banking interest,” into a “Christian democratic city”. According to the article: “the alliance of the Synagogue with the Lodges is in all continental countries the symbol of the triumph of infidelity over Christianity, and the creed of Judaism is hostility to the Christian name.” Less than a year later, the Jewish-Masonic conspiracy theory was again repeated, when the Dreyfus case returned to the public limelight. In February 1898, the Tablet reported that “the sudden clamour for the revision of the Dreyfus trial,” is a “subsidized movement, financed by the moneyed interest which has made the cause of the Jewish Captain its own.” According to the report, if Dreyfus had “belonged to any other race,” there would be no agitation on his behalf. The Tablet was explicit in its declaration of an alliance between Jews and Freemasons, stating that “the Jews in France, Italy, and Austria, the three principal Catholic nations of the continent, exercise a political influence entirely disproportioned to their numbers, and this influence is always exercised against the religion of the country. In close alliance with the Freemasons, … they form the backbone of the party of aggressive liberalism, with war to the knife against the Church as the sum and aim of its policy.”
In summing up, during the second half of the nineteenth century, Jews were criticized, caricatured and stereotyped under each of the Tablet’s three owner-editors. Jews were stereotyped as greedy, exploitive, foreign villains, bent on political revolution, undermining Christian civilization, plundering the churches, and de-Christianizing Rome. Jews were accused of monopolizing the banks, stock markets, and the Press. A link was often made between Jews and Protestants, with Protestants labelled the enemies of Christianity, and criticized for embracing and defending Jews. Jews were also linked to Freemasons, as two forces supposedly bent on destroying Christian civilization. This was especially the case during the late 1860s and early 1870s, when the paper sought to explain the destruction of the Papal States, and during the Dreyfus Affair in the 1890s. The Tablet was more ambivalent during the 1880s and early 1890s, expressing sympathy for the plight of Jews in Russia, whilst also repeating traditional stereotypes about Jewish greed and deviousness. The only major exception to this pattern of ambivalence or antipathy occurred during the late 1870s, when the Tablet defended Disraeli during “the Bulgarian Horrors” and the Russo-Turkish War, and defended his policies from the accusation of being driven by “Judaic” sympathies.
On this day in 1894, a short article entitled “How a Jew Found Truth” in the Catholic Herald, a popular English Catholic newspaper, argued that there was some merit to the claim that the Jews deliberately remove and obliterate passages from their own Hebrew scriptures in order to hide the truth of Christianity. According to the article, Johann Emanuel Veith (1787-1876; a Jewish convert to Catholicism, director of the school of veterinary medicine at the University of Vienna, and a prominent and popular priest and preacher), used to have passages read to him as a youth from the Old Testament by his father. The Catholic Herald explained that from a young age he had studied his father’s sacred books assiduously, and by the time he was sent to Prague to study philosophy, he already “knew the Scriptures of the Old Testament thoroughly.” According to the article, though Jewish, Johann Veith decided to attend some Catholic religious classes, and he was astounded to discover passages from the Old Testament “concerning the Messiah which he had never read or heard of at home.” The Catholic Herald explained that when he next visited his father, he examined “his father’s old Bible” to check the passages he had discovered at the Catholic religious classes that discussed the messiah, and found that “the pages containing these quotations had been destroyed or glued together or obliterated.” According to the Catholic Herald, when he asked his father for an explanation, the only answer he received was “a severe blow on the side of the face.” It was that blow, the paper explained, that steeled him to study Christian theology, leading him to “the truth of Christianity and of the Catholic Church.” See “How a Jew Found Truth,” Catholic Herald, 23 March 1894.
This story in the Catholic Herald was a modern example of an oft-repeated anti-Jewish claim dating back to antiquity and frequently repeated during the Middle Ages. As Joshua Trachtenberg’s important study of the religious diabolisation of Jews notes, there have been Christians, from antiquity to the modern day, who have believed that the Jews were wilfully malicious and insincere rather than ignorant in their rejection of Christ. For example, some of the early Church Fathers, such as Jerome and Justinian, complained that the rabbis “consciously and deliberately perverted the meaning of the original text.” Medieval scholars even accused Jews of “tampering with the text of the Bible in an effort to destroy its Christological meaning.” See Joshua Trachtenberg, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and its Relation to Modern Antisemitism (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society of America, 1943), 15, 153.
One may ask, did Veith really make the claims suggested by the Catholic Herald about his father’s alleged tampering with the Bible? It is difficult to conclusively answer this question. There is anecdotal evidence upon which one may speculate, but this may lead the interpreter to either conclusion. In Veith’s favour, it seems likely that he did publicly refute another malicious anti-Jewish myth, the blood libel. According to Hermann Stack’s classic study of the ritual murder accusation, there are at least three written testimonies to the effect that Veith had publicly stated, at the end of a sermon delivered in Vienna in May 1840 (i.e. shortly after the infamous Damascus blood libel), that there was not a single word of truth in the ritual murder accusation against the Jews. These testimonies were provided by Professor Franz Joseph Molitor (a German Christian Cabalist, and scholar of Hebrew, the Talmud and the Zohar), Dr Eduard Kafka (an Austrian author), and Veith’s brother, Joseph Veith. According to Strack, the concluding words of the sermon were later printed in a Viennese newspaper, the Illustriertes Wiener Extrablatt (on 5 June 1882), though as this was four decades after the sermon was delivered, their accuracy is difficult to check: “I swear here, in the name of the triune God, whom we all acknowledge, before you and all the world, that the falsehood which has been disseminated by cruel cunning, to the effect that the Jews use the blood of a Christian in the celebration of their [Pesach] festival, is a malicious, blasphemous slander, and is contained neither in the books of the Old Testament, nor in the writings of the Talmud, which I know thoroughly and have zealously examined.” Veith’s rejection of the blood libel accusation was also mentioned, albeit in passing, in the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia. See Hermann L. Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, 8th edition (New York: Bloch Publishing, ), 245-248. See also “Blood Accusation,” The Jewish Encyclopedia, vol. 3 (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 1902), 266.
Whilst the explicit and public rejection of one anti-Jewish myth might seem to suggest that it was unlikely that he would endorse another, its evidential basis for determining whether Veith did make the claim reported in the Catholic Herald is at best anecdotal. Furthermore, it seems that there is similar, perhaps stronger, anecdotal evidence suggesting that he might have made the claim. Significantly, it seems to be true that Veith held little love for his father, and spoke of Judaism with bitterness. According to a biography of Veith written by Johann Heinrich Löwe (Veith’s nephew), Veith’s father had the habit of setting him tests every few weeks, and when he failed those tests, he was locked in a small room without food. Veith rejected his father’s wish that he study to become a rabbi, and later wrote (in 1866) that he hated his home Czech town of Klattau, as it was there that he lived a “neglected, mishandled, and joyless childhood, troubled by atrocious examples.” He complained that he “did not even learn Czech, which would have been a thousand times better than the rotten Talmud.” On another occasion, Veith stated that he had been called “from the dung heap to Christianity.” See Johann Heinrich Löwe, Eine Biographie (Vienna, 1879), cited by Adam Bunnell, Before Infallibility: Liberal Catholicism in Biedermeier Vienna (London and Toronto: Associated University Presses, 1990), 60-65.
There are also grounds for believing that if Veith did protest against the blood libel in 1840, he later came to change his mind. In 1854 and again in 1856, a Catholic newspaper, the Wiener Kirchenzeitung, published a declaration, allegedly at Veith’s instigation, to the effect that he regarded the whole story of his having declared that the blood libel was a myth as a “contemptible slander.” Strack rejected this, noting that the language of the article in the Wiener Kirchenzeitung was that of Sebastian Brunner. An Austrian priest, author and newspaper editor, Brunner was obsessed with the so-called Jewish threat to Christian civilisation. Strack is probably right that the language was Brunner’s, but as Brunner was both the editor of the Wiener Kirchenzeitung and a close friend and associate of Veith’s, this would only seem to suggest that Brunner wrote the piece on his friend’s behalf, or influenced his language. As far as I am aware, there is nothing to indicate that Veith ever rejected the statements in the Wiener Kirchenzeitung. See Strack, The Jew and Human Sacrifice, 245-246.
The account of Veith discovering that his father destroyed, glued together and obliterated pages from the sacred text to hide passages alluding to Jesus is highly implausible. Jews read the Tanakh, and Christians read the Old Testament, in very different ways, and as such, non-Christian Jews do not tend to hold that passages in the Tanakh/Old Testament refer to Jesus. Those Jews who believe that the arrival of Jesus was prophesised in the Old Testament are of course likely to embrace, or already have embraced, Christianity. By depicting the Jews as recognising passages in the Tanakh as prophetic references to Jesus, and then wilfully responding by desecrating the relevant scriptural passages by obliteration or gluing together of pages, is to construct an image of Jews as highly malignant creatures. However, Veith was capable of speaking with acerbic sarcasm and bitterness when it came to his political and religious opponents, and when it came to his father, it may well be that he felt he had fair reason to be bitter. Certainly it seems that his personal experiences of being instructed in Judaism were not happy ones. It is thus plausible (though it has proven impossible to verify) that Veith, drawing upon a popular medieval myth, did narrate the rather fantastic story depicted in the Catholic Herald, perhaps as an instance of angry hyperbole. Certainly Veith often spoke badly of his Jewish heritage, and quite probably criticized and challenged his father’s readings of the Tanakh.