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.Read more...
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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."
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2015-01-12
- Reviewer: Staff
Even Lincoln experts are likely to learn something from this fascinating and comprehensive study of the president’s relationship with American Jews, which is being published to coincide with a travelling exhibition of original documents. Sarna, a preeminent historian of American Jewry, and Shapell, the founder of the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, make good use of what Shapell calls “the ‘other’ letters of U.S. presidents”—ones that don’t present significant historical facts, but that limn the quotidian aspects of Lincoln’s life, such as his recommendation of his Jewish chiropodist, Issachar Zacharie. The authors convincingly make the case that Lincoln’s positive attitude toward Jews was strongly influenced by Abraham Jonas—a fellow Illinois politician, the only man Lincoln ever directly called “one of my most valued friends,” and one of the first to suggest that he seek the Republican nomination for President in 1860. Jonas also warned his friend of a plot to assassinate him before his first inauguration. Images of the source material add depth and lend perspective; a page from a narrative describing Lincoln’s death is stained with blood, probably the president’s. (Mar.)