Lincoln and the Jews: A History by Jonathan Sarna and Benjamin Shapell
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: Thomas Dunne Books (March 17, 2015)
Abraham Lincoln is one of my favorite presidents and being a member of the tribe, I very much looked forward to reading and enjoying this book. Enjoy it I did--except for the part where it is said that Lincoln's killer was the son of a member of the Tribe.
From the time that Lincoln was born in 1809 until his tragic assassination in 1865, the number of Jews living in America skyrocketed from 3,000 to 150,000. This is mostly due to Jews escaping horrid conditions in Europe.
Because of Jonathan Sarna (When Grant Expelled the Jews) and Benjamin Shapell, we know a lot more about President Lincoln's meetings with those in the Jewish community and the consequences of said meetings. The duo have managed to uncover the complex relationships between the president and the Jews of his era. The effects of these connections continue to be felt to this day. Lincoln was the first president to really give the Jews the respect and courtesy that they deserved.
Their discoveries are accompanied by a number of photographs and original manuscripts--letters, appointments, pardons, personal notes, and humble requests. Because of President Lincoln, the Jewish people living in America were able to overcome the prevailing anti-Semitism of the Civil War period. This was a president who befriended, protected, and admired Jews despite the tense climate in which Jews were seen as suspicious or scapegoats.
This is the same president who overturned General Orders No. 11 when Jewish leaders came to him with complaints.
Almost 150 years to the day after Lincoln's death, this book gives us a new perspective on one of American history's dynamic time periods in which there was a fight over slavery. Lincoln's relationship with the Jews is one that should offer lessons in history, tolerance, and the development of our current society.
For Jews with an interest in politics, this book being a must-read is a no-brainer. It's a chapter in our freedom that has so rarely been explored. This book is a classic that will be looked upon for years to come.