I want to express appreciation to the Secular Humanist Jewish Circle and member Joel Unowsky, for his thought-provoking lecture on Feb.11, “Jews and the Civil War.”
It was “altogether fitting and proper” (to quote a phrase from the Gettysburg Address) that this lecture should take place one day before Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.
Audience members were reminded that some southern Jews, like many of their countrymen, had plantations worked by slaves in pre-Civil War days.
One attendee remarked on the irony of slave-owning Jews reciting the Haggadah at Passover, which talks of the Jews’ backbreaking work as slaves in Egypt.
Yet President Lincoln refused go along with anti-Semitic attitudes prevalent in the north especially after a recent influx of Jews from Western Europe. As Unowsky stated, some of Lincoln’s closest friends and advisors were Jewish. In addition, the president appointed his foot doctor, Issachar Zacharie, official chiropodist to the Union army. Perhaps most important, Lincoln ordered General Grant to revoke his decree expelling Jews from his military district. Lincoln was such a good friend to the Jews that they frequently referred to him as “Rabbi Abraham.”
— Barbara Russek