New exhibit on Lincoln and Jewish Americans

The New-York Historical Society’s newest exhibit, “Lincoln and the Jews,” is an exploration of Lincoln’s personal relationships with his Jewish contemporaries and his impact on nineteenth-century Jewish life in America.  The New York Times covered the exhibit in a recent article:

“Lincoln played an important role in turning Jews from outsiders in America to insiders,” said Jonathan D. Sarna, a historian at Brandeis University and the author, with Mr. Shapell, of the new, separately published book “Lincoln and the Jews,” which inspired the show. “It’s a subject that has really been overlooked.”

Lincoln’s lifetime coincided with a dramatic increase in America’s Jewish population, which grew from about 3,000 in 1809, the year of his birth, to roughly 150,000 in 1860. Growing up in the Midwest, he probably encountered few or no Jews in person until he became a young man. But at a time when anti-Semitism and nativism ran high, the show notes, there is no evidence of Lincoln harboring any animus toward Jews.

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