today i saw a film about jews who fought in the civil war. it was called jewish soldiers in blue and gray. in fact in was the premiere showing of this documentary. the first issue that was addressed was that jews had to decide which side to fight for. many families had members who lived in the south as well as in the north. no matter which side they chose there were still jews fighting jews.
many interesting facts were revealed in this film. although the civil war was being fought to abolish slavery it was not the only freedom that was created.
before the civil war the only clergy allowed to be army chaplains were christian.. during the civil war many jewish soldiers served their country and they needed a jewish clergyman as a chaplain. thanks to abraham lincoln there now are jewish chaplains in the american army.
general robert e. lee who was general of the confederate army was accommodating to jews who wanted to observe jewish holidays. general ulysses grant of the union army on the other hand was a big anti-semite. when he took over parts of the south he expelled jews for 12 days from tennessee , mississippi and kentucky . it was only 12 days because many jews rallied president lincoln who reprimanded general grant and repealed the decree of expulsion.
torah observance among the jewish soldiers in the civil war ran the gamut. many were secular and yet there were those who were quite observant. one veteran of the civil war went so far as displaying the kosher dishes he used when he was in the civil war on his mantle piece .there were passover seders as well in the army . they even had matzahs imported from cincinnati for one seder.
jewish soldiers blue and gray also recounts the stories of jews who held high positions in the army on both sides during the civil war.
after the civil war many anti semites wanted to say that jews did not serve in the civil war so in 1895 a jewsh activist named simon wolf compiled a book called the american jew as patriot, soldier and citizen which listed 7000 jewish american soldiers who served during the civil war. in 1895 there were still many civil war veterans around to compile such a book.
after viewing this documentary i feel a great deal of hakaras hatov toward abraham lincoln. not only did he abolish slavery he also preserved religious freedom for people of all religions in the united states. he was especially kind to the jews. i will certainly view the upcoming president's day as more than just another day off of work this year.