We Called Him Rabbi Abraham
Lincoln and American Jewry, a Documentary History
By Gary Phillip Zola (Editor)
(Southern Illinois University Press, Hardcover, 9780809332922, 528pp.)
Publication Date: February 2014
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Over the course of American history, Jews have held many American leaders in high esteem, but they maintain a unique emotional bond with Abraham Lincoln. From the time of his presidency to the present day, American Jews have persistently viewed Lincoln as one of their own, casting him as a Jewish sojourner and, in certain respects, a Jewish role model. The first volume of documents to focus on the history of Lincoln’s image, influence, and reputation among American Jews, this pioneering compendium considers how Lincoln acquired his exceptional status and how, over the past century and a half, this fascinating relationship has evolved.
Organized into twelve chronological and thematic chapters, these little-known primary source documents—including rare newspaper clippings, journal articles, letters, poems, and sermons—provide insight into a wide variety of issues relating to Lincoln’s Jewish connection, including his response to the Jewish chaplain controversy; General U. S. Grant’s General Orders No. 11 expelling “Jews, as a class” from the Military Department of Tennessee; Jewish eulogies after Lincoln’s assassination; how American Jews have “Judaized” Lincoln ever since his death; and how Lincoln became the avatar of America’s highest moral aspirations to its Jewish citizenry.
With thoughtful chapter introductions that provide readers with a historical narrative that sets a context for the annotated documents that follow, this volume provides a fascinating chronicle of American Jewry’s unfolding historical encounter with the life and symbolic image of Abraham Lincoln, shedding light on many overlooked aspects of the American Jewish experience.