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.
held in some of the greatest private collections ever assembled, including those of Oliver Barrett, Phillip Sang, and Malcolm Forbes, as well as new and great discoveries that have emerged from hidden estates or obscure auctions far beyond the beaten path, where their importance was often overlooked. It is, in fact, those “overlooked” letters that have formed the genesis of a particular thread in my collection of “other” Lincoln documents: the barely known relationship between Lincoln and the
Benjamin F. C Cadwallader, Sylvanus Calhoun, John C. Calvinists Cameron, Simon Cameron Dragoons Campbell, John A. Canisius, Theodore Capturing Lincoln Carpenter, Francis Bicknell Cartter, David K. Carvalho, Solomon Nunes Cass, Lewis Catholics Chappel, Alonzo Charleston Mercury Chase, Salmon P. Chicago, Illinois Chicago Tribune chiropody “Christian” (term) Christian Commission Christianity Cincinnati, Ohio Civil War appointment of quartermasters during chaplains during
we understand it,” Dittenhoefer recalled that he and those around him responded less than enthusiastically. Many, he concluded, “left the auditorium that night, as I did, in a seriously thoughtful mood.” The next morning, according to Dittenhoefer, Lincoln himself questioned his performance—indeed, he was a harsh critic of his own speeches, even his greatest ones. “I am not sure,” Dittenhoefer quoted him as saying, “that I made a success.”29 Subsequently, after the speech had been widely
where he left his train for the night, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise watched the eager throngs and was appalled. “The Philistines from all corners of the land congregate around their Dagon and worship him…,” he complained, employing a biblical metaphor that, ironically, Lincoln himself might well have appreciated. “We can not tell why these extraordinary demonstrations, processions, banquets, &c., should be made.” To Wise, an immigrant and a Democrat, the president-elect appeared inadequate; he
Mortara story—such emotion-laden themes as child loss (a tragedy all too familiar to the Lincolns), maternal love, nature versus nurture, multiple allegiances, and conflicting loyalties. The “Jewish Mother” in his play, Gamea, was a sympathetic character—so much so, that one New York newspaper thought that she illustrated “the vital endurance of Judaism,” and a French Catholic paper condemned the playwright for pleading “too eloquently the cause of Jews.”37 The kidnapped daughter—named Silvia in