Lecture Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series
On Saturday, September 22, 1928, four-year-old Barbara Griffiths strayed into the woods surrounding Massena, New York, the small upstate village where Edward Berenson was born decades later. By nightfall, she hadn’t come back. After a fruitless search for the missing child, someone—we don’t know who—launched the rumor that the Jews of the town had kidnapped and killed Barbara in a sick religious ritual to harvest her blood. This was the only full-fledged “blood libel” in American history, a terrible antisemitic accusation common in Europe but essentially unknown until then in the United States. This lecture tells how and why the accusation occurred and what it says about the Americans past—and perhaps the future as well.
Edward Berenson is professor and chair of the history department at NYU. He is a cultural historian specializing in the history of modern France and its empire, with additional interests in the history of Britain, the British Empire, and the United States. He is the author, most recently, of The Statue of Liberty. A Transatlantic Story, Europe in the Modern World, and The Accusation: Blood Libel in an American Town. Berenson has won distinguished teaching awards from UCLA and the American Historical Association and, in 2006, was decorated by the French government as Chevalier dans l’ordre du mérite.
Edward Berenson, The Accusation: Blood Libel in an American Town (W. W. Norton & Company, 2019)
5 p.m. in Art Gallery