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President Lincoln, "in Behalf of the Israelites"

President Lincoln seated, 1864 (Photo: Library of Congress)

It's no secret that we here at Stand for Israel are history buffs. Biblical history, Jewish history, American history, world history -- we love it all. February 12 marked the 207th birthday of Abraham Lincoln, while today the United States observes Presidents Day.

Today we tell you about a moment when President Lincoln's love of the Jewish people was made evident. As the Civil War began, law only allowed Christian chaplains to serve the brave soldiers defending the Union. A rabbinical student named Michael Allen was elected chaplain of a predominantly Jewish regiment of troops. When the U.S. Army found out, Allen was forced to resign his post. The Jewish community, rightly, began to campaign for the unjust law to be reversed. This included sending a rabbi named Arnold Fischel to speak with the most powerful man in the land. Leading Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, in an article that wonderfully details Jewish life in Lincoln's Washington, tells how the president did what was right and stood up for America's Jews:

There, Dr. Fischel begged Lincoln to recognize “the principle of religious liberty . . . the constitutional rights of the Jewish community, and the welfare of Jewish volunteers” who were dying in battle without access to spiritual support. Lincoln swiftly pledged, “I shall try to have a new law broad enough to cover what is desired by you in behalf of the Israelites.” The following summer, the law was duly amended to include all “regularly ordained ministers of some denomination.”

Please enjoy Mr. Holzer's entire article as much as we did, as we remember this man who stood for America and the freedom it promises all people -- black or white, Christian or Jew.

Tags: History

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