Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Yes Weekly's Eric Ginsburg: "Jewish slave traders, Civil War heroes, spies and foot doctors"

"Historical Jewish figures that I’ve taught myself about, like Emma Goldman,
arrived in waves around 1885.

According to Temple Emanuel’s website,
the first permanent Jewish settlers came to Greensboro in the same time period.

Temple Emanuel was formed not long after, but it wasn’t until the 1940s
that the Greensboro Jewish Federation and Beth David Synagogue were formed...

...Jewish Major Mordecai, of North Carolina,
resigned when war broke out rather than align himself with either army.

A ring reading “Raleigh” in Hebrew was dug up at a battlefield.

All told, about 3,000 Jewish soldiers fought for the Confederacy,
some defending their hometowns and others their slave plantations.

The film [...and larger exhibit at the Greensboro Historical Museum
about Jewish life in North Carolina...,]
explored personal stories of soldiers requesting time off for religious holidays,
a female spy ring in the capital, and even the rise of Judah Benjamin,
a Jewish senator who became the Confederate secretary of war and later secretary of state.

Approximately 7,000 Jews fought for the Union.

In a time when the national Jewish population was 150,000,
the film noted that an estimated 10,000 Jewish servicemen was a remarkable percentage.

The film portrayed Lincoln in an unflinchingly positive light,
never alluding to the fact that he didn’t always oppose slavery.

Instead it focused on his decision to allow a Jewish chaplain in the Union army
and to send his Jewish foot doctor to negotiate with the Confederacy.

It also noted that five Jews were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor
for their Union service.

Most shocking to me, however,
was learning about General Ulysses S. Grant’s General Order No. 11,
where he called for the forcible eviction of all Jews living within “the department” under his control,
a large area including parts of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky, within 24 hours.

I remember my dad telling me that in places like where I grew up,
there used to be laws against Jews owning land, but I had never heard of this.

...the film explored the disagreements within the Jewish community
about whether owning slaves contradicted the Passover teachings...

Part of the larger exhibit at the Greensboro Historical Museum about Jewish life in North Carolina,
the film illustrated a different lens through which to view the Civil War
and a more complex picture of Jewish history in the country."

Eric Ginsburg

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