Posted in Baron Book Prize

2022 Baron Book Prize Awarded: Tzafrir Barzilay

2022 Baron Book Prize Awarded: Tzafrir Barzilay Posted on June 6, 2023

The American Academy for Jewish Research is pleased to announce the winner of its annual Salo Baron Prize for the best first book in Jewish studies published in calendar year 2022. The prize honors:

Tzafrir Barzilay, Poisoned Wells: Accusations, Persecution, and Minorities in Medieval Europe, 1321-1422 (University of Pennsylvania Press)

In Poisoned Wells, Tzafrir Barzilay engages his readers in a fascinating and multi-layered discussion of how the myth of poisoned wells emerged and developed in medieval Europe. Jews and other minority groups were often accused of poisoning wells with the supposed aim of harming their neighbors, saving their own lives, or both. Barzilay sets on to study the origins of the story of well-poisoning, the mechanism by which it spread through Europe, and the reasons why the accusations directed at minorities emerged. Meticulously researched, and beautifully written, the book is based on sources that are both difficult to find and analyze, among them chronicles, official correspondence, and interrogation records in four languages, from archives of France, Spain, Germany, and Switzerland. The book pays close attention to the context of the Black Death as the turning point for the persecution of Jews in Europe, but focuses, for the first time in scholarship, on the content of the actual accusations.

The American Academy for Jewish Research ( is the oldest professional organization of Judaica scholars in North America. Its membership consists of senior scholars whose work has made a major impact on their field.

The Baron Prize honors the memory of the distinguished historian Salo W. Baron, a long-time president of the AAJR, who taught at Columbia University for many decades.  It is one of the signal honors that can be bestowed on a young scholar in Jewish Studies and a sign of the excellence, vitality, and creativity of the field.