A Message Concerning the Language of ‘Blood Libel’
From: Rabbi Ari Jun | Director, Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council
Attention: Lakota Board of Education
Date: Thursday, July 13, 2023
Thank you for corresponding these past few days regarding your 7/9 Facebook post referencing “blood libels.” I appreciated your willingness to share your point of view with me on the matter. However, because we could not reach agreement—and particularly because of your more recent post on 7/12—I write to you personally, publicly, to set forth the concerns that we have as representatives of the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).
As I noted privately, I do not presume that you made your post on July 9 with an intent to engage in antisemitic activity. Nevertheless, as I explained, the term “blood libel” has a particular historic meaning, and it is specifically associated with a millennia-old form of anti-Jewish persecution. According to the American Jewish Committee’s Translate Hate glossary of terms/phrases linked to antisemitism:
“As one of the longest-standing forms of antisemitism, blood libels have led to horrific violence, destruction, persecution, and massacres of Jewish people and communities—before, during, and beyond the Nazi propaganda that used it to demonize Jews. Despite its utter falsehood and its disavowal by Jews, the Roman Catholic Church, and other nonreligious authorities, blood libel remains an influential myth in the 21st century.”
Universal experience and Jewish tradition teach us that words have consequences. When you write that those concerned “need to get a grip”—doubling down on your stance that it is acceptable to call “critical race theory” a “blood libel”—you use your words in a way that desensitizes people to the very real, literal blood libels that have led to the death and persecution of Jews around the world. Reappropriating the phrase “blood libel” for commentary on contemporary events offends the sensibilities of Jews because it trivializes our history and suffering.
Once more, we ask that you refrain from characterizing contemporary political challenges as “blood libels.” In this matter, our request is humble, but firm. Of course, you are free to continue to advocate for your values, but please do so without invoking Jewish tragedies. This is a non-partisan request we would ask of any elected official or public figure, regardless of party.
In the hope that we and our children will share brighter tomorrows together,
Rabbi Ari Jun
Director, Cincinnati Jewish Community Relations Council