Lincoln and the Jews: A History
Jonathan D. Sarna, Benjamin Shapell
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One hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln's death, the full story of his extraordinary relationship with Jews is told here for the first time. Lincoln and the Jews: A History provides readers both with a captivating narrative of his interactions with Jews, and with the opportunity to immerse themselves in rare manuscripts and images, many from the Shapell Lincoln Collection, that show Lincoln in a way he has never been seen before.
Lincoln's lifetime coincided with the emergence of Jews on the national scene in the United States. When he was born, in 1809, scarcely 3,000 Jews lived in the entire country. By the time of his assassination in 1865, large-scale immigration, principally from central Europe, had brought that number up to more than 150,000. Many Americans, including members of Lincoln's cabinet and many of his top generals during the Civil War, were alarmed by this development and treated Jews as second-class citizens and religious outsiders. Lincoln, this book shows, exhibited precisely the opposite tendency. He also expressed a uniquely deep knowledge of the Old Testament, employing its language and concepts in some of his most important writings. He befriended Jews from a young age, promoted Jewish equality, appointed numerous Jews to public office, had Jewish advisors and supporters starting already from the early 1850s, as well as later during his two presidential campaigns, and in response to Jewish sensitivities, even changed the way he thought and spoke about America. Through his actions and his rhetoric―replacing "Christian nation," for example, with "this nation under God"―he embraced Jews as insiders.
In this groundbreaking work, the product of meticulous research, historian Jonathan D. Sarna and collector Benjamin Shapell reveal how Lincoln's remarkable relationship with American Jews impacted both his path to the presidency and his policy decisions as president. The volume uncovers a new and previously unknown feature of Abraham Lincoln's life, one that broadened him, and, as a result, broadened America.
elder Jonas and Asbury concerning his forthcoming debate in Freeport, on August 27.62 While Lincoln and Douglas were busy debating, Jonas did not sit idle. He was busy campaigning on Lincoln’s behalf. In late September, for example, he helped bring 5,000 people to Warsaw, about thirty-four miles from Quincy, to hear Senator Lyman Trumbull speak out for the Republican Party. When Trumbull was delayed, Jonas himself rose to speak, addressing the crowd for two hours, “in which,” a sympathetic local
General Orders No. 11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone (the Department of the Tennessee), stretching from Northern Mississippi to Cairo, Illinois, and from the Mississippi River to the Tennessee River.78 For months, Grant had been worried about cotton speculators and smugglers in the area under his command. Since some of the men his troops caught were Jews, he became persuaded that all smugglers, speculators, and traders were Jews, whether they were actually Jewish or not. Just as
to cross the Potomac Bridge into Washington, he was captured and incarcerated in the Old Capitol prison. Friends of Mordecai’s, including the prominent New York Jewish businessman and communal leader Samuel A. Lewis (whose niece, Ada, was Mordecai’s fiancée), interceded with Lincoln, and Zacharie personally visited with the president to procure the young man’s release. On February 4, when Mordecai and Zacharie came to Lincoln’s office to say thank you, the garrulous chiropodist let drop that
War and its meaning. The date that year happened to coincide with the sixth of the Hebrew month of Adar, the day, according to ancient Jewish tradition, when Moses completed his farewell address to the Jewish people and learned that his own death was imminent.9 The weather in Washington on Inauguration Day was awful: it had, seemingly, been raining for weeks. Riding down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol, Lincoln’s carriage churned through some ten inches of mud and standing water. A crowd,
claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.” God now willed, he wrote, the removal of a great wrong—slavery—“and wills also that we of the North as well as you of the South, shall pay fairly for our complicity in that wrong…” With the North fighting the battle against slavery and secession so fervently, how, the question arises, could Lincoln have dared to suggest its complicity? Both sides, he believed, were accountable to God for their actions and