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Divided In Blood

“His blood on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:24-25)

 

Christianity appeared in Poland during the 10th century, and began to hugely impact Polish culture, customs and society. One of the first myths to emerge at the junction of Christianity and Judaism was the use of the biblical story about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus. The claim was coined that “the Jews have the blood of Jesus on their hands” because it was the representatives of the priests and the Sanhedrin (the highest Jewish religious and judicial institution in ancient Judea) who were responsible for sentencing Jesus to death. In the Middle Ages, there was a conviction that Jews were outlawed because of killing the Messiah. Traces of such thinking can still be found today.

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The consequence of the myth was strong anti-Judaism throughout the centuries. Jews were blamed for the death of the Messiah. Strongly anti-Jewish sermons were preached in churches for this reason, especially at Easter. In depictions of the Passion of Christ, Jews were portrayed in a strongly stereotypical manner. In some places the so-called “Judas judgment” was also held. A straw puppet resembling an Orthodox Jew was made. It was beaten with sticks 30 times, in reference to Judas’ 30 pieces of silver. Sometimes the puppet was also drowned, burned or hung on a nearby pole.

This openly anti-Semitic custom proves that the puppet of Judas was not only treated as a symbolic personification of the betrayer of Jesus, but in time it came to personify all Jews as traitors of Jesus.

In 2018, the public was shocked by reports from the small town of Pruchnik in eastern Poland, where a kind of reactivation of this custom occurred. An effigy of a stereotypical orthodox Jew was dragged through the streets and beaten by sticks, to  no shortage of enthusiasm, mainly among young people.

 

The event was condemned by the state authorities and also by the Polish episcopate. Voices of condemnation from Jewish and scientific circles were raised.

 

Church authorities should speak out strongly against the myths and prejudices regarding religion and the relationship between Judaism and Christianity. Episcopates, bishops, and priests should categorically condemn any belief in myths and strive to explain the aforementioned controversial biblical quotation in the spirit of ecumenism. During the Easter season, clergies should not reproduce stereotypes in their sermons.

References

Wielkotygodniowy obrzęd palenia Judasza w Polsce południowej (article by Dr. Urszula Janicka-Krzywda about “Burning of Straw Judas” published on March 23, 2018, on Kultura Ludowa website, a portal devoted to traditional folk culture, as well as its changes and phenomena in the modern world.

Tradycje i zwyczaje wielkanocne. Palenie Judasza (article by Diana Walawender “Easter traditions and customs. Burning Judas” published on March 25, 2016, on historia.org.pl)

Poland: World Jewish Congress condemns anti-Semitic tradition revival (article published on April 22, 2019 on Deutsche Welle website)

Polish church condemns beating of Jewish effigy in Poland (article by Associated Press published on April 22, 2019 on Ynetnews)

Visuals

https://bit.ly/3nYb0R5 (Antisemitic ritual)

Debunking response