A JEWISH ABE LIN­COLN

The Jerusalem Post - The Jerusalem Post Magazine - - LETTERS -

As David Gef­fen pointed out, much in­deed has been writ­ten on how warmly Pres­i­dent Abra­ham Lin­coln em­braced the his­tory, cul­ture and spir­i­tu­al­ity of the Jewish peo­ple (“Abra­ham Lin­coln and the Jews,” Fe­bru­ary 14). Few se­ri­ous biog­ra­phers of Lin­coln over­look this point. His fo­cus on abol­ish­ing slav­ery may very well have come from the in­flu­ence of the Old Tes­ta­ment – and par­tic­u­larly the tran­si­tion of the He­brew na­tion from Egyp­tian bondage to a free peo­ple – which he felt very close to. And I sus­pect, more­over, that he would have seen the de­vel­op­ment of Jewish so­ci­ety as de­scribed in the To­rah as a model for the pe­riod of post-Civil War United States Re­con­struc­tion, had his life not been so abruptly taken.

Which is why I was a bit sur­prised that Gef­fen made no men­tion of the ru­mor that be­gan cir­cu­lat­ing in 1863 that the 16th pres­i­dent was ge­net­i­cally, if not ha­lachicly, Jewish. The source of the ru­mor was Rabbi Stephen Wise. It was re­counted that dur­ing a meet­ing with the pres­i­dent, Lin­coln pro­fessed to be “a de­scen­dant of He­brew parent­age.”

Schol­ars are in gen­eral agree­ment that the words were spo­ken metaphor­i­cally rather than lit­er­ally, and no due dili­gence was ever per­formed to de­ter­mine if there was any rea­son to think that Lin­coln might in fact be par­tially Jewish. Nonethe­less, the ru­mor re­mains as part of Lin­coln lore and is re­ferred to from time to time.

That this sub­ject is be­ing raised now is an in­ter­est­ing co­in­ci­dence. The Demo­cratic Party is cur­rently hold­ing pri­maries to de­ter­mine who will be com­pet­ing against Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump in the Novem­ber pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. Two can­di­dates – Michael Bloomberg and Bernie San­ders – are Jewish and are still in the run­ning for the nom­i­na­tion. Not sur­pris­ingly, spec­u­la­tion that Amer­ica may have its first Jewish pres­i­dent has be­come a tan­ta­liz­ing tid­bit cir­cu­lat­ing through­out the Jewish com­mu­ni­ties from coast to coast.

Now, wouldn’t it be some­thing if some his­to­rian or Lin­coln bi­og­ra­pher un­earthed ev­i­dence that Abra­ham Lin­coln was in fact Jewish and that the United States had al­ready elected a Jewish pres­i­dent?

Nearly eight score ago.

BARRY NEW­MAN

Ginot Shom­ron

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