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Historical Perspectives (9)

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Abraham Lincoln and the Jews

October 18, 2020
LEVEL: 11th grade U.S. History
LESSON LENGTH: One 90-minute period or two 45-minute periods.

COMPELLING QUESTION: What were Abraham Lincoln’s attitudes toward religious minorities such as Jews and Catholics and how did it differ from others at the time?

Description: Students will work in groups to plan a temporary exhibit intended for visitors to a historic site or museum related to Abraham Lincoln. The exhibit will concern Abraham Lincoln’s attitude toward religious minorities. Students will analyze primary sources and select three they would like to include in their exhibit. From analyzing their sources, students will develop a “thesis” or argument that the exhibit will convey to their audience.

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The 75th Commemoration of the Death of Orde Wingate

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 24, 2019
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With Firmness in the Right – Lincoln and the Jews

December 13, 2017
March 2015 - November 2015
March 2015 - June 2015, New-York Historical Society. August 2015 - November 2015, Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

In 1858, when Abraham Lincoln emerged onto the national stage, Jews made up less than one-half of one percent of the American population. Many Americans of that time did not know Jews personally, yet Lincoln did, and these relationships stood out amid the stereotyping and anti-Semitism of mid-19th-century America. The bonds Lincoln formed with Jewish individuals during his lifetime, and the interventions he made as president on behalf of all Jews, reflected his deepest values and helped promote Jewish equality in the United States.

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Albert Einstein on arrival at SS Rotterdam in New York. George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress.

Albert Einstein: Original Letters in Aid of his Brethren

December 6, 2017
November 2008 - February 2009
Beverly Hills Public Library. November 2008 - February 2009.

Albert Einstein saved his energy, and the use of his fame, for two things: Understanding the laws of nature was one, and aiding his Jewish brethren – who so needed a homeland and a refuge from the horrors of Hitler – was the other. These letters – some handwritten, some typed and signed – reflect his passionate commitment to the survival of the Jewish people. Most remarkable, perhaps, is that in this work, running what he called his own kind of “immigration office,” Einstein personally saved hundreds of Jewish lives from Hitler’s persecution and death camps. He was also concerned with the creation of a homeland for his people and in building a University in Jerusalem. This virtual exhibit includes some select items that were displayed at the original exhibition.

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Panoramic view of encampment of Army of Potomac at Cumberland Landing on Pamunkey River May 1862. Library of Congress.

Passages Through the Fire: Jews and the Civil War

August 21, 2017
March 2013 - February 2014
March 2013 - February 2014

A crucible for American Jews, the Civil War laid the groundwork for their integration and Americanization on a large scale. It enabled the full participation of Jews in American life – militarily, politically, economically and socially – and set the stage for massive Jewish immigration decades later.

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The Alfred Dreyfus Degradation Ceremony – Paris, France

By Sara Willen, Resident Historian | January 5, 2012

The Dreyfus Affair was “one of the great commotions of history. ” It began in 1894 against a backdrop of espionage and antisemitism, when Jewish French Army captain, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongly convicted of treason and sentenced to life imprisonment.

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