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The Blood Lie

Association of Jewish Libraries

"A true but little-known incident that occurred in a small upstate New York town in 1928 is the
subject of this historical fiction work for young adults. A blood libel took place in Massena,
New York when a young Christian girl disappeared from her home, and the town’s rabbi was
questioned by police about whether Jews practiced human sacrifice. The author, who grew up
in Massena, heard about the story from her father. Upon investigating, she found that the story
had been covered in The New York Times, when Louis Marshall, President of the American
Jewish Committee, and Dr. Stephen Wise of the American Jewish Congress lodged a strenuous
protest about the blood libel. The absurdity and horror of this 'unspeakable calumny,' in
Marshall’s words, has lingered in the memory of all the Jewish inhabitants of the town and their

Vernick has embellished some of the facts of the case to make it more appealing. In the novel,
Jack, the young man accused of the crime, is a bright and talented young Jewish musician
who is infatuated with the missing girl’s older sister. The romantic side story between these
two teens (and the fact that they know theirs is a forbidden relationship) adds more interest for
contemporary readers.

The evolution of how an anti-Semitic lie spread throughout this community is convincingly
portrayed in this story. Vernick displays her knowledge of Judaism in her accurate descriptions
of Jewish rituals and customs. She conveys a fine sense of social history regarding the adaptation
of first generation Jews to American life in the early twentieth century. Jack becomes the hero
who saves the day. However, the troubling issues that the book raises are sure to give readers a
sense of the fragility of Jewish-Christian relations and the challenges posed by ignorance. The
book’s brevity, fairly simple vocabulary, and innocence (the most erotic episode is a brief kiss
at the end) make this novel suitable for middle and high school readers, both Jewish and non-
Jewish. Highly recommended for all libraries."
- September 22, 2011 

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