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Historical Perspectives (46)

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 josephine sarah marcus earp

Yet the connecting thread between Earp and the two men from whom he later parted ways has not been discussed much in scholarship on Earp: a Jewish woman from New York named Josephine Marcus. Like Wyatt Earp, fact and fiction are difficult to separate when it comes to understanding the life of the woman who would become his wife. On both counts, this largely is due to Josephine’s attempts to guard the Earps’ legacy. What follows is a brief sketch of her life based on verifiable facts.

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Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War: The Union Army by Adam D. Mendelsohn (NYU Press—November 15th, 2022) asks, what was it like to be a Jew in Lincoln’s armies? The Union army was as diverse as the embattled nation it sought to preserve, a unique mixture of ethnicities, religions, and identities. Almost one Union soldier in four was born abroad, and natives and newcomers fought side-by-side, sometimes uneasily. Yet though scholars have parsed the trials and triumphs of Irish, Germans, African Americans, and others in the Union ranks, they have remained largely silent on the everyday experiences of the largest non-Christian minority to have served.

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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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Mark Twain and the Adams Colony

By Karen Chernik | November 12, 2019

American colonists followed preacher George J. Adams from New England to Ottoman-ruled Palestine on a messianic mission to prepare the Holy Land for the return of the Jews. “We are going to become practical benefactors of the land and the people,” Adams stated, “to take the lead in developing its great resources.” A year after arriving, some of these impoverished colonists wanted a ticket home. It was at that moment that author Mark Twain came to town while on a five-month pleasure trip through Europe and the Middle East.

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Just three months into his presidency, Kennedy pledged, in his address to Congress on May 25th, 1961, ”that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.” To which he added “No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

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Jerusalem Day: The Reunification of Jerusalem

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | May 30, 2019
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December 2010 - March 2013
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February 2011 - August 2011, Beverly Hills Public Library.

This exhibition features letters, manuscripts and signed photos that celebrate various aspects of the remarkable life and character of Ronald Reagan, the 40th U.S. President. There are examples of his optimism and his pessimism; letters about his fierce presumption of racial equality, and manuscripts decrying riots, lawlessness, and a coercive state.

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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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The Anniversary of the Battle of Beersheba

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 31, 2017

General Edmund Allenby enters Jerusalem.

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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 Civil War was a time when soldiers would be executed for desertion, in order to prevent further desertion. Even immigrants, whose understanding of English and the conditions of service was limited, were executed in the American Civil War. Watch the story of five Union soldiers at Beverly Ford, VA, who perhaps unjustly were denied a stay of execution from President Lincoln.

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The Anniversary of the Six-Day War

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | June 5, 2017

Ben-Gurion, writing as the Six-Day War begins, predicts victory.

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The Jewish Doctor at Lincoln’s Deathbed

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 14, 2017

A recently acquired letter offers new revelations.

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The Nuremberg Trial Executions

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 16, 2016

The execution of ten Nazi war criminals.

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“We Have Not Yet Appointed a Hebrew”

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | March 17, 2015
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Kristallnacht

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | November 9, 2013

An Assistant Secretary of the Interior tries to stop the annihilation of German Jews.

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March on Washington, August 28, 1963. U.S. National Archives.

The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, 1963

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | August 28, 2013

In 1864, Governor Michael Hahn pushed through a provision authorizing the legislature to enfranchise non-whites on the basis that Lincoln suggested: military service and intellectual fitness. This was a crucial development: voting rights for Blacks were now – incrementally – possible…

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Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 8, 2013

Ben-Gurion painfully acknowledges that if the Jewish state had been founded in 1937, millions of Jews would not have died in the Holocaust.

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March 2013 - March 2016

This exhibition deals with the relationship that developed between the United States of America and the Holy Land, starting in 1844.

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The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | October 31, 2012

The most famous gunfight in Western history; three men had been killed, and someone, the law said, had to answer.

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In 1956, Israel’s Prime Minister looks to George Washington’s army for inspiration.

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©Shapell Manuscript Foundation. All Rights Reserved. For more information, please contact us at shapell.org.

The Sinking of the RMS Titanic

By Benjamin Shapell, Sara Willen | April 15, 2012

President William Howard Taft, heartbroken at the loss on the Titanic of his military aide, writes an emotional eulogy.

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Running for President, Grant tries to lose the antisemite label engendered by his infamous “Jew Order” during the Civil War.

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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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