Abraham Lincoln’s extraordinary relationship with Jews is presented 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.
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.
Lincoln's lifetime (1809-1865) coincided with the emergence of Jews on the national scene in the United States. When he was born scarcely 3,000 Jews lived in the entire country; by the time of his assassination, large-scale immigration had brought that number up to more than 150,000. Many Americans, including members of Lincoln's cabinet and many of his top generals, treated Jews as second-class citizens and religious outsiders. Lincoln exhibited precisely the opposite tendency. He expressed a uniquely deep Old Testament knowledge, employing its language and concepts in some of his most important writings.
Lincoln 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.