book; Lincoln and the Jews:


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One hundred and fifty years after Abraham Lincoln's death, the full story of his extraordinary relationship with

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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.

The authors make a persuasive case that Jewish supporters played key roles in advancing Lincoln's quest for the White House. His fellow lawyer Abraham Jonas, of Quincy, Illinois, a man Lincoln called "one of my most valued friends," was among the earliest of those promoting his candidacy.

The most striking example of Lincoln's disdain for anti-Jewish prejudice occurred just days after he issued the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, when he revoked General Orders 11, issued by General Ulysses S. Grant, the most prominent of the anti-Semitic generals in the Union's command. Frustrated by the persistent activity of speculators and smugglers in the Department of Tennessee, Grant's December 17, 1862 order expelled "Jews as a class" from that territory. "I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners," Lincoln commented afterward to a group of Jewish leaders who came to thank him for his swift reversal of Grant's bigoted order.

In their effort to paint their sympathetic portrait, there are points when Sarna and Shapell seem to be straining to create an ever closer association between Lincoln and the Jewish people. One example of that occasional overreach includes the suggestion that the "four score and seven years" of the Gettysburg Address may have been inspired by a sermon delivered by Rabbi Sabato Morais, of Mikveh Israel Congregation in Philadelphia, on July 4, 1863. Another is the observation that Lincoln's second inaugural (whose address drew heavily on Old Testament texts) coincided with the date on the Hebrew calendar that marked the conclusion of Moses' final message to his people, as they were about to enter the Promised Land without him.
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