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October 20, 2014 / 26 Tishri, 5775
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Posts Tagged ‘Union’

Title: When General Grant Expelled the Jews

Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Title: When General Grant Expelled the Jews Author: Jonathan Sarna Publisher: Schocken

Not all Civil War-era Jews were speculators, peddlers or smugglers, and not all Civil War-era speculators, peddlers and smugglers were Jews. But Americans living through the rebellion – and many crises before and since – often cast blame on the tiny minority that 19th-century Northerners and Southerners often referred to as “the Israelites.” Shocking as it seems, one of the most notorious offenders was the greatest Union hero of the war: Ulysses S. Grant.

That Grant harbored anti-Semitic inclinations should come as no surprise. He was educated at West Point and spent years in the Army, both bastions of period intolerance. In 1862, he assumed a particularly chaotic military command, including border states technically loyal to the Union but filled with slave-owners and Confederate sympathizers. Into this combustible mix swarmed speculators eager to turn chaos into cash – among them, certainly, Jewish ones. Grant and his chief lieutenant, William T. Sherman, groused about the Jews’ presence repeatedly but initially kept their concerns to themselves.

What apparently sent Grant over the edge was the arrival of another camp follower – his greedy father, accompanied by three Jewish business partners, all eager to use the general to secure profitable cotton-trading permits. Grant blamed the Jews.

Still, no historian has been able to fully understand – much less justify – why, on Dec. 17, 1862, Grant issued his notorious General Orders No. 11 deporting Jewish citizens. “The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade,” went the chilling text, “…are hereby expelled from [his command in the West] within twenty-four hours.” Those returning would be “held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners.” Just two weeks before, while Abraham Lincoln was scheduled to extend freedom to one minority group with the Emancipation Proclamation, his most promising general thus initiated a virtual pogrom against another.

In the end, as the gifted and resourceful historian Jonathan D. Sarna points out in this compelling page-turner, General Orders No. 11 uprooted fewer than 100 Jews. But for a few weeks, he suggests, it terrorized and infuriated the Union’s entire Jewish population. It also inspired one of the community’s first effective lobbying campaigns. Jewish newspapers compared Grant to Haman, of the Purim story. A delegation of Jewish leaders traveled to the White House to protest directly to the president, who quickly but quietly had the order revoked, eager to right a wrong but reluctant to humiliate a valuable military commander. As Lincoln carefully put it, “I do not like to hear a class or nationality condemned on account of a few sinners.” He never mentioned the episode publicly.

Grant tried not to as well, understandably omitting it from his otherwise exhaustive memoirs. In 1868, however, he did issue a letter confessing: “I do not pretend to sustain the Order…. [It] was issued and sent without any reflection and without thinking of the Jews as a sect or race…. I have no prejudice against sect or race.” But Sarna notes that this weak and “self-serving” statement – neither an admission nor an apology – “did not actually bear close scrutiny.” Besides, it was motivated as much by politics as regret. At the time, Grant was running for president, and Jews were threatening to block-vote against the Republican. Although no statistical evidence survives, most Jews probably did vote Democratic in 1868. The general won anyway. And to his credit, he continued to evolve.

The Jewish tradition encourages atonement and makes forgiveness mandatory. Grant made amends; the Jews forgave. As president, Grant appointed Jews to official posts, welcomed Jewish delegations, supported Jewish relief efforts in Europe and once attended a worship service at a Washington synagogue, the first president to do so. When he died, Jews mourned him as a hero.

Sarna’s account shines brightest around the edges of the story, offering valuable new insights into ethnic politics, press power and the onetime ability of leaders to flip-flop with grace. In a particularly stunning, if disturbing, argument, he suggests that many Northern Jews brought suspicion on themselves by questioning emancipation, fearful that freed blacks, abetted by anti-Semitic abolitionists, would compete with immigrant Jews for economic opportunity. Sarna shows how ineffective communications within Grant’s command further ignited unfounded calumnies against Jews. And he posits that the general’s military subordinates might have urged their overworked chief to ban Jewish speculators in order to leave the field open for their own graft.

Some quibbles: The illustration of “Grant, about 1860” is a photo of a beef contractor mistaken for the general; and Sarna’s occasional embrace of au courant phrases (“He was a one-man Anti-Defamation League,” “speak truth to power”) proves jarring.

What is still the best analysis ever offered about Grant’s greatest mistake came from his widow. In her own unsparing memoirs, Julia Dent Grant called General Orders No. 11 “obnoxious,” admitting that her husband “had no right to make an order against any special sect.” Sarna’s excellent study offers no excuses either and comes closer than ever to an explanation.

Nationwide Local Authorities Strike Ends

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The director-general of the Prime Minister’s Office and the head of the Union of Local Authorities have signed a Memorandum of Understanding ending their dispute and the two-day old strike that paralyzed towns and cities nationwide.

The details of the agreement have not yet been released.

Seven Likud Mayors Break Local Authorities Strike

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

At least nine local authorities’ responded to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ‘s call to continue to provide services as usual.

Beis HaMikdash – Spiritual Power Source

Wednesday, December 21st, 2011

The Bach, commenting on Tur Shulchan Aruch, explains that the decrees of the Yivanim against the Jewish people occurred because the Jewish people became “lax in their service.”

Earlier in history, the Beis HaMikdash had been the center of life, the pride of every Jew. Going up to Yerushalayim three times a year was looked upon with excitement and great anticipation, and the effect of the service was appreciated by all. However, by the time of the Chanukah events, that appreciation was long gone. While the kohanim still brought the korbonos, the service in the Beis HaMikdash had lost its luster and glory.

The Bach seems to be saying that all that was to befall the Jewish people was because we no longer approached the Avodah with the appropriate sense of purpose, and therefore it was taken from us. This, however, becomes difficult to understand when we take into perspective what was actually happening in those days.

State of the Union

At the time of Chanukah, there was much wrong with the spiritual state of the Jewish people. Ignorance had become profound, and entire generations were no longer brought up in the ways of Torah. The Greek/Syrian philosophy had taken hold, and many Jews considered themselves more Greek than the Greeks. In their homes they spoke the language of Yavan. They schooled their children in the ways of Yavan, and all that they aspired for was acceptance in Greek society.

According to Megillas Chasmonaim, the Jews of Yerushalayim asked Antiochus to rename their city Antioch in his honor. They even sent a contingency asking him to erect a gymnasium in Yerushalayim. A gymnasium was not merely a hall for the practice of Greek sports; it was a center of idol worship. It represented a house of Greek culture for the specific function of propagating Greek ideology and all that it stood for. Initially, Antiochus refused. Finally the Jews of Yerushalayim gathered together 360 talents of silver – a king’s ransom – to bribe Antiochus to erect such a building. He agreed, and Megillas Chasmonaim begins with the statement: “They erected a gymnasium in Yerushalayim.”

The Ramban on Chumash says, “If not for the Chasmonaim, Torah would have been forgotten from the Jewish people.” If so, why did the Bach say that the reason for the decrees was the Jews being lax in the Avodah? There seem to be many other things going wrong.

Spiritual Fuel Source

The answer seems to be that in spiritual manners there is no stagnation. A person is either going up or going down. The concept of remaining static doesn’t exist. If a person has the spiritual fuel he requires, he ascends level after level. If not, he declines. That is the reality. That is the way Hashem created the world. The Bais HaMikdash was the nuclear reactor that fueled the spiritual needs of the world.

The nation as a whole took a downturn because the source of all ruchnius was no longer potent. It had lost its luster in the people’s eyes, and so it was no longer providing the life-giving nourishment Hashem created it to give. The Jewish people are one unit, inextricably tied together in fate and spiritual level. The core of our spiritual energy in those days was the Beis HaMikdash. The Avodah was the lifeline and fuel source for the nation. Since it was no longer practiced properly, it couldn’t maintain the spiritual needs of our people. The reason the Jews of Yerushalayim became enamored with Greek culture was because the furnace providing the level of spiritual power was no longer functioning at capacity. The Avodah no longer accomplished its desired effect, and the Jewish nation itself was in grave danger.

The only cure was for the Jewish people to reach a new understanding of the primacy of the Avodah and to rededicate themselves to the service in the Beis HaMikdash. When led by the Chasmonaim, kohanim who did the Avodah and who were willing to sacrifice their lives for it, the nation was rededicating itself to the centrality of the Avodah. Then the Beis HaMikdash could be reestablished and pump out the spiritual nourishment needed to keep Klal Yisrael whole.

Kiruv – Mitzvah of our Generation

This concept is especially relevant in our times when as much as 90 percent of our nation is made up of non-practicing Jews. While the numbers may seem daunting, we nevertheless live in amazing times. There is a powerful receptivity among our people – religious and not yet religious – for growth. People hunger for truth and meaning in their lives, and the Torah is the only pure source that fills that need. Clearly, the mitzvah of our generation is kiruv. As such, it is an obligation on each of us to do all that we can to help our brothers who were brought up bereft of their heritage. From that aspect, the work is clear.

Anti-Semitism On The March In European Politics

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Anti-Semitic and other criminal worldviews received greater legitimization in the European Union with the recent inclusion of the Laos (The Popular Orthodox Rally) Party in the Greek government.

In 2001 its leader, Giorgios Karatzaferis, while still a parliamentarian of the major New Democracy Party, asked the foreign minister to explain why “no Jews died” during the 9/11 attacks. He has also remarked that “Jewish blood stinks” and compared the Israeli Defense Forces to Hitler.

According to the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung Karatzaferis is the publisher of a Greek translation of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The Laos minister of transport, Makis Voridis, has a fascist past. Deputy minister of development Adonis Georgiadis has promoted one of the most anti-Semitic books in Europe, The Jews and the Truth by Kostas Plevris.

In 2000, the European Union was still willing to react against racist ministers. When the far-right FDP Party of Jorg Haider entered the Austrian government, the EU issued some sanctions against Austria. (These were hardly effective and were lifted seven months later.) Today, even a suggestion of sanctions would sound ridiculous. To survive its dramatic financial crisis, European Union leaders seem willing to accept almost anything.

One finds extreme racist and anti-Semitic parties in many EU countries, which are not (yet?) part of the government. The largest – in percentage of votes — is the Hungarian party Jobbik, which received 17 percent of the vote in the 2010 national elections.

Germany was shocked recently when it became known that a small neo-Nazi group had murdered German Turks and others over the past several years without being noticed. Now many want to prohibit the extreme rightist NPD party.

Anti-Semitism is widespread among European populations. A new report by a government-approved commission of experts finds that about 20 percent of the German population holds strongly anti-Semitic views.

The ancient anti-Semitic stereotypes about Jewish lust for blood have spread to European perceptions of Israel. A recent study conducted by the University of Bielefeld on behalf of the German Friedrich Ebert Foundation found that 63 percent of Poles think Israel is conducting a war of extermination against the Palestinians. The lowest figures in the study are from the Italians and the Dutch respectively, with 38 and 39 percent. In Hungary, Great Britain, Germany and Portugal, between 40 and 50 percent think this.

The entrance of Laos into the Greek government is not only linked to the country’s economic crisis, it is also part of the progress of anti-Semitic and other criminal ideologies in the European public sphere.

 

Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld is chairman of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

Southern Jews and the Confederacy

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

Virginia Governor Robert F. McDonnell’s recent proclamation of Confederate History Month provoked a firestorm of criticism, with many accusing him and those who commemorate their Southern ancestors’ bravery of ignoring or even defending slavery.

But the cruel and evil institution of slavery was not the sole or even primary reason for the South’s secession from the Union, nor was it a significant motivating factor for individual Confederate soldiers.

Yet many of us in the South, including those descended from old Jewish families of the Confederacy, still struggle to expose the truth about why Southern soldiers fought, the courage they showed against overwhelming odds, and the sacrifices they made.

The history of the Confederacy is full of long-forgotten tales of Jewish heroes, warriors, and leaders. This is a story little known today, absent from history books and an embarrassment to liberal Jewish historians ashamed of the prominent role played by Jews in supporting, defending and fighting for the Confederacy. It is a government about which they know little except for its association with slavery.

They find the truth about the war incompatible with their idolization of Abraham Lincoln and his administration – an administration in which anti-Jewish sentiment was rampant, at one point even becoming official government policy and resulting in the worst official act of anti-Semitism in the nation’s history.

I know firsthand the ignorance one encounters on this subject because a few years ago I wrote for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution a mild mannered op-ed article discussing why so many good and decent Georgians take pride in their Confederate ancestors.

I explained that we revere our ancestors because, against overwhelming odds, they fought on, often hungry, cold, sick and wounded, to protect their homes and families – not the institution of slavery – from an often cruel invader. Put simply, the heavily outnumbered and undersupplied Confederate soldiers felt they were fighting because an invading army from the North was trying, with great success, to burn their homes, destroy their cities, and kill them.

In response, the newspaper published two letters to the editor. One said my statements “were reminiscent of neo-Nazi apologists denying the Holocaust.” The other accused me of defending slavery and “a treasonous movement” called the Confederacy.

My then-84-year-old mother asked me to “please wait until I die before you write any more articles.”

Slavery was an important political issue before and during the Civil War, especially to the large plantation holders in the South and the abolitionists in the North. But while the war is often portrayed as primarily a fight over slavery, much more important were the issues of preservation of the Union for the North and the over-taxation of the South in the form of exorbitant tariffs.

In the case of Virginia, to cite one example, it is quite clear that the state did not secede over slavery; it stayed in the Union after seven Southern states seceded and formed the Confederacy. It was only after President Lincoln called for 75,000 troops from state militias to attack the South that Virginia, refusing to wage war on its “kinfolk,” left the Union.

* * * * *

 

Let me briefly recount why I take pride in my Confederate ancestors and the brave men who fought with them.

One hundred and forty-five years ago, on April 9, 1865, Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia to Union Commander Ulysses S. Grant, marking the effective end of the South’s struggle for independence.

It was a fateful day for the South, and in particular for my great-grandfather and his four elder brothers, all of whom were fighting for the Confederacy.

While Lee was surrendering at Appomattox, my then-16-year-old great-grandfather, Andrew Jackson Moses, rode out on horseback to defend his hometown of Sumter, South Carolina, along with some 157 other teenagers, invalids, old men, and the wounded from the local hospital. Approaching were 2,500 hardened soldiers from Sherman’s army who had just burned nearby Columbia, and it was feared they were headed to Sumter to do the same. Sumter’s defenders, outnumbered 15-to-1, managed to hold off Sherman’s battle-seasoned veterans for over an hour before being overwhelmed by the vastly superior force.

That same afternoon, the eldest Moses brother, Joshua Lazarus Moses, was killed a few hours after Lee had surrendered (the news having not yet reached the front). Josh was commanding an artillery battalion that fired the last shots in defense of Mobile before being overrun by a Union force outnumbering his 13 to 1. In this battle of Fort Blakeley, one of his brothers, Horace, was captured, and another, Perry, was wounded.

Josh Moses was one of more than 3,000 Jews who fought for the South and the last Confederate Jew to fall in battle.

* * * * *

 

More than two-dozen members of the extended Moses family fought in the war, and at least nine gave their lives for what Southerners came to refer to as the Lost Cause.

The best known of the Moses family Confederates was Major Raphael Moses, a fifth-generation South Carolinian who in 1849 moved to Columbus, Georgia, where he was a lawyer and planter. Moses, whose three sons also fought for the South, ended up attending the last meeting and carrying out the last order of the Confederate government – delivering the last of the Confederate treasury, $40,000 in gold and silver bullion, to help feed and supply defeated Confederate soldiers in the Augusta hospital or straggling home after the war.

Major Moses named one of his sons Albert Luria because he wanted to preserve the family name of an ancestor who reputedly was the court physician to Spain’s Queen Isabella. Luria was called to duty in Columbus, five miles from home, on Saturday, April 20, 1861. After marching from the armory to the depot, Albert writes, “we were met by an immense concourse of citizens – assembled to bid us ‘God Speed.’ ”

Among the crowd were several members of his family whom Albert was surprised to see. Being observant Jews, they would not ride or work their horses on the Sabbath, and so they had walked several miles into town to say farewell.

Luria, Josh Moses’s first cousin, was the first Confederate Jew to be killed, mortally wounded at age 19 during the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks) in Virginia on May 31, 1862. He died after courageously throwing a live Union artillery shell out of his fortification before it exploded, thereby saving the lives of many of his men.

Luria’s brother Israel Moses Nunez, a veteran of many battles, was named after his ancestor Dr. Samuel Nunez (sometimes written Nunes), who arrived in Savannah, Georgia, in July 1733, in a boat from England with 42 Portuguese Jews fleeing persecution. Dr. Nunez is credited with saving the newly established mosquito-infested colony from being wiped out by what was thought to be yellow fever but which was probably malaria.

Another leading Jewish figure of the war was the Moses brothers’ mother – my great-great-grandmother – Octavia, a legend within the family and in Sumter.

She was from one of the country’s most prominent Jewish families, her father being the well-known Jewish author and playwright Isaac Harby, one of the leading Jewish figures in 19th century America. There was a tradition among members of the family that their name came from a courageous Jewish soldier who fought in defense of Jerusalem against the Romans and who took the name of Hereb (sword), or more likely Ish Hereb (swordsman).

Isaac Harby was proud of the role played in the American Revolution by his father-in-law, Samuel Mordecai, “a brave grenadier in the regular American Army, who fought and bled for the liberty he lived to enjoy and to hand down to his children.”

Harby was a leading member of the Kahal Kadosh Beth Elo[k]im synagogue, first organized in Charleston in 1749 and thought to be the oldest synagogue in continuous use in the United States. A Jewish Tourist’s Guide to the U.S. notes that “So many Charleston Jews enlisted in the service of the Confederacy that from 1862 to 1866, Beth Elo[k]im found it impossible to obtain a quorum of trustees and could hold no regular meetings.”

Octavia Harby and her husband, Andrew Jackson Moses, had 17 children (three died in infancy), the five eldest males of whom fought for the South. Octavia was very active on the home front in support of the Confederacy. As she put it,

When the War broke out like every other Southern woman, I immediately began work for the soldiers: I organized a sewing society, to cut and make garments for them. I made it a point to try and meet every train that brought soldiers through our town, and, with others, frequently walked from my home, sometimes at two o’clock in the morning, to take food to our men as they passed through. We always greeted them with the wildest enthusiasm, and no thought of defeat ever entered our minds . Whenever the boys were fortunate enough to get home on short furloughs, they were the guests of the town – everybody feted them and nothing was too much to do in their honor.

When hospitals were established in Sumter, Octavia writes, “Our ladies, of course, took immediate charge, and the soldiers were fed and nursed with all the means of our command, and all the tenderness of Southern women.”

She also showed compassion for the Union troops who had been taken prisoner: “When I heard that the Northern prisoners would be brought through our town and that they were nearly in a starving condition, I immediately exerted myself to obtain a large quantity of provisions to give to them.”

Throughout the South, Jews assumed prominent roles in the Confederate government and armed forces; as Robert Rosen puts it in his authoritative book The Jewish Confederates, they “were used to being treated as equals” (an acceptance they had enjoyed for a century and a half).

The Confederacy’s secretary of war and later state was Judah P. Benjamin – the so-called brains of the Confederacy – and the top Confederate commander, General Robert E. Lee, was known for showing great respect to his Jewish soldiers.

Charleston in the early 1800s had more Jews than any other city in North America, and many were respected citizens, office holders, and successful entrepreneurs. The city was commonly referred to as “our Jerusalem,” and Myer Moses, my maternal family patriarch, in 1806 called his hometown ” this land of milk and honey.”

Many Jewish Confederates carried with them to the front the famous soldiers’ prayer (which began with the sacred Shema) written by Richmond Rabbi Max Michelbacher, who after secession had issued a widely published benediction comparing Southerners to “the Children of Israel crossing the Red Sea.”

* * * * *

 

In contrast to the South, the North was a hotbed of anti-Jewish bigotry. Much of the political and military leadership of the Union government was composed of men – including such leading figures as generals Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman and Benjamin (“Beast”) Butler – who disliked Jews, openly expressed their feelings, and persecuted Jews when they had the occasion to do so.

The prevailing anti-Jewish attitude resulted in the Union army’s committing the worst official act of anti-Semitism in American history – about which I wrote in greater detail for The Jewish Press in “Shame of the Yankees – America’s Worst Anti-Jewish Action” (front-page essay, Nov. 17, 2006).

On December 17, 1862, Grant issued his soon-to-be infamous “General Order #11,” expelling all Jews “as a class” from his conquered territories within 24 hours.

As a result of Grant’s expulsion order, Jewish families were forced out of their homes in Paducah, Kentucky and Holly Springs and Oxford, Mississippi, and several were sent to prison.

On January 4, 1863, President Lincoln had Grant’s order rescinded, but by then Jewish families in the area had been expelled, humiliated, terrified, jailed, and in some cases stripped of their possessions.

Bertram W. Korn, in his classic work American Jewry and the Civil War, describes the hardships and persecution suffered by Jewish families subject to the expulsion order:

They still tell stories of the expulsion in Paducah of the hurried departure by riverboat up the Ohio to Cincinnati; of a baby almost left behind in the haste and confusion and tossed bodily into the boat; of two dying women permitted to remain behind in neighbors’ care. Thirty men and their families were expelled from Paducah, and according to affidavits by some of “the most respectable Union citizens of the city,” the deportees “had at no time been engaged in trade within the active lines of General Grant ” Two had already served brief enlistments in the Union army.

There are numerous other documented examples of widespread anti-Semitism in the North (recounted in my aforementioned “Shame of the Yankees” article, which can be accessed on The Jewish Press website). But you will find nary a mention of this persecution in history books, only adulatory praise for the Union and Lincoln.

The Union army that killed my family members was hardly the forerunner of the Civil Rights movement. Indeed, the treatment of Jews by Union forces pales in comparison to other atrocities they regularly committed against civilians, including the destruction of agricultural areas and other non-military targets; the routine burning and looting of cities, homes, libraries and courthouses; and, worst of all, the mass murder of Native Americans in the so-called Indian Wars.

This was the Union Army that descended upon the South and that my ancestors fought heroically in defense of their lives, their families, and their nation. It was a Lost Cause but an honorable one, and it should not be forgotten.

Lewis Regenstein is a writer living in Atlanta.

Desecration At The Ohel Of Rabbi Elimelech Of Lejask

Wednesday, March 12th, 2008

         It was only last week that thousands of Chassidim went to Lejask (Lizhensk) in order to commemorate the 222nd yahrzeit of the tzaddik, Noam Elimelech of Lejask (1717-1786). As always, these pilgrimages are a boon to the local community and usually bring good relations between the two groups.

 

         Just days after thousands of Chassidim had been to the town, someone had gone and spray-painted the holy Ohel (burial chamber) with swastikas on every side of the building.

 

         The Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland has said that the damage will be cleaned up as soon as possible, and the site will be ready for the coming commemoration in two weeks. It has been said that the plans to greatly expand the guest facilities will continue.


 


 

 


 

 


 


(Photos by Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland)


 

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/desecration-at-the-ohel-of-rabbi-elimelech-of-lejask/2008/03/12/

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