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The Kishinev pogrom was launched on this day in 1903 (Easter Sunday) when rumors spread that a Christian child, found dead, had been murdered by Jews to use his blood in the preparation of matse. Kishinev was the capital of Bessarabia (today’s Moldova), a city that then had 125,000 residents, half of them Jewish. Over the course of three days of extremely brutal attacks by twenty-five or more packs of marauding men, 49 Jews were killed and hundreds were badly injured. Jewish women and girls were raped by the score and hundreds of homes and businesses were destroyed, with 2,000 families left homeless. Agents of the government were involved in preparations for the pogrom, and the tsarist police and military failed to intervene until the third day. The pogrom was greeted with mass protests in New York, Paris and London, and became a rallying point for the Zionist movement and the Jewish Labor Bund, both of which helped to organize Jewish self-defense leagues. These were mobilized to some limited effect when a second pogrom broke out in Kishinev in October, 1905. The Kishinev pogrom also triggered a surge in Jewish emigration to the U.S. and Palestine.
“The atrocities of the 20th century seem to be little more than forerunners one for the next . . . . Only the technologies improve. The mold was set in Kishinev.” —J.J. Goldberg
Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.