THIS VOLUME is an effort in group biography. Its subject is the American Jewish community and its experiences during that most fascinating of all eras in the American drama, the four years of Civil War.
It does not attempt to offer a full-scale portrait of American Jews -- as individuals -- in this period, but rather a portrait of American Jewry -- as an organized, articulate, self-conscious community of Jews who expressed their sense of togetherness or distinctiveness in a concrete manner: religious, cultural, philanthropic, social or political. Our concern is not with individuals, Americans who happened to be Jews, but with the community qua community, with group experience rather than personal experience.
Severe limitations are inherent in this approach. It excludes such areas as the individual participation of Jews in the army, as well as their personal political affiliation and economic activity, except as these have some direct bearing upon religious or other communal problems.
It is with the area of consciously-lived Jewish experience that we are here concerned: the support which Jews, acting together as Jews, gave to the war efforts of the Union and the Confederacy; the expressed attitudes of their recognized leaders -- rabbinic, lay and journalistic, speaking as Jews -- towards slavery and abolitionism, Union and secession, war and peace; the problems of equal treatment before the law which confronted Jews as Jews in connection with the war; the prejudice against Jews as Jews which was stimulated by wartime tension; the attitude towards Jews which was expressed in the life and words of the Civil War President; the influence of war experiences upon the developing American Jewish community.
Comparison with more recent experience is unavoidable. The reader will instinctively draw his own parallels…There has never been a duplication of the Grant order of expulsion of Jews from the Department of the Tennessee, yet World War II saw as serious a rise in anti-Jewish prejudice as did the Civil War. Confederate Congressman Henry S. Foote has long since been forgotten, yet violent bigotry like his was again heard in Congress during World War II. Over three hundred Jewish chaplains served in the Army, Navy and Air Corps during the years 1941-1946, but thousands of isolated Jewish servicemen were still without benefit of a Jewish chaplain's ministrations. Early in World War I, American Jewish organizations centralized their welfare work for servicemen by the creation of the National Jewish Welfare Board, a step which
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Publication information: Book title: American Jewry and the Civil War. Contributors: Bertram Wallace Korn - Author. Publisher: Jewish Publication Society of America. Place of publication: Philadelphia. Publication year: 1951. Page number: xi.
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