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BLOIS ( ):

Capital of the department of Loir-et-Cher, France. Although of small importance itself, Blois occupies a prominent place in Jewish history through the somber drama of which it was, in 1171, the theater.

On the testimony of a Christian servant of the mayor, a Judæophobe, the Jews of Blois were accused of having crucified a Christian child for the Passover, and of having then thrown the body into the river. Count Theobald thereupon commanded that all the Jews should be cast into prison, with the exception of a woman named Pulcelina, for whom he entertained a particular affection. At first the accused hoped to escape by paying heavy ransom. Indeed, the count sent a Jew of Chartres to negotiate concerning the price of their acquittal. But a priest intervened, beseeching the count to punish the Jews severely should the accusation be well founded. As the accused could not be easily convicted, the authorities determined to submit the witness to the water test. The mayor's servant was conveyed to the river and there placed in a boat filled with water. As he did not sink, the count and the populace were convinced that his statement was true; and consequently all the members of the Jewish congregation were condemned to death by fire. When they were brought to the auto da fé, a priest begged them to embrace Christianity and thus preserve their lives; but, with very few exceptions, they refused, and died (May 26, 1171) in the flames while chanting the prayer "'Alenu," containing the profession of faith in one God (Pulcelina died with the others).

This was the first time in France that the Jews had been accused of using blood in their Passover. The anniversary of this martyrdom was decreed by R. Tam as a fast-day. Four dirges, composed by Hillel ben Jacob, Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn, Gershom ben Isaac, and Menahem ben Jacob of Worms, and inserted in the seliḥot, perpetuated the memory of this sad event. The "Memorbuch" of Mayence has preserved the names of the martyrs:

Baruch; Baruch ben Menahem; Isaac ben Eliezer; Jehiel ben Isaac ha-Kohen; a pious rabbi, disciple of R. Samuel, probably Rashbam (compare "Gallia Judaica," p. 117); Jekuthiel ben Judah; a rabbi, disciple of R. Samuel; Judah ben Aaron (brother of Isaac of Treves); Judah ben Meïr; Judah ben Samuel; Moses ben Nun; Samuel ben Menahem; the young Panyan; Bona (wife of Samuel the ḥazan); Eiguelina; Hanna (daughter of R. Samuel); Hanna (with her little daughter born in the auto da fé); Leah (wife of R. Samuel), and her two daughters, Miriam and Miriam (wife of R. Judah); Rachel; Sarah; Zephora; Zephora,

The same "Memorbuch" mentions another auto da fé of Blois which took place in 1298, during the Rindfleisch persecutions. It is, however, difficult to believe that Jews ever settled there after this event.

Bibliography:
  • Bourquet, Recueil des Historiens de Gaule et de la France, xiii. 315;
  • Ephraim ben Jacob of Bonn, in Stern's Quellen zur Gesch. der Juden in Deutschland, ii. 58-78;
  • Gross, Gallia Judaica, p. 117;
  • Neubauer, in Rev. Et. Juives, iv. 12;
  • Salfeld, Martyrologium, pp. 16, 17, 67;
  • Grätz, Gesch. der Juden, vi. 183 et seq.
G. I. Br.
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