Sarna and manuscript collector Shapell offer a vivid, fresh perspective on Lincoln’s life and times.



A noted historian asks new questions about Abraham Lincoln.

When Sarna (American Jewish History/Brandeis Univ.; When General Grant Expelled the Jews, 2012, etc.) noticed, to his surprise, that there was a Lincoln Street in Jerusalem, he became curious about the American president’s connection to Jews. Drawing on archival sources and historical accounts, the author paints a well-delineated portrait of Lincoln as a friend and advocate of Jews before and during his political career. Heavily illustrated with images and manuscripts from the Library of Congress, many other collections and especially from the Shapell Manuscript Foundation, the book offers an enhanced perspective on Lincoln’s moral and ethical decisions, as well as his personal friendships. Jewish immigration burgeoned during Lincoln’s lifetime. A population of about 3,000 in 1809 grew to more than 150,000 Jews in 1865, the year Lincoln was assassinated. Along with this increase came a rise in anti-Semitism, testing Lincoln’s beliefs about equality and justice. Growing up, he learned about Jews from the Bible or local gossip. His first interactions occurred in Illinois, where he met Abraham Jonas, a British immigrant, who became a lawyer, state legislator and active member of the Whig party; like Lincoln, Jonas later became a Republican. Jonas served as committee chairman for the Lincoln-Douglas debate, shared Lincoln’s views on slavery and, writes Sarna, “was a particularly shaping influence. Jonas served for him as an enduring model of what it meant to be a Jew….” When Jewish soldiers—more than 7,000 served in the Union Army—petitioned for a rabbi as chaplain, Lincoln complied; in 1862, a Passover Seder was held on a battlefield in West Virginia. Many Civil War generals were blatantly anti-Semitic but none so powerfully as Ulysses Grant, who issued General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from the area under his command, an order Lincoln immediately countermanded.

Sarna and manuscript collector Shapell offer a vivid, fresh perspective on Lincoln’s life and times.

Pub Date: March 17, 2015

ISBN: 978-1-250-05953-6

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 6, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2014

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The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...


Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006

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For Howard Zinn, long-time civil rights and anti-war activist, history and ideology have a lot in common. Since he thinks that everything is in someone's interest, the historian—Zinn posits—has to figure out whose interests he or she is defining/defending/reconstructing (hence one of his previous books, The Politics of History). Zinn has no doubts about where he stands in this "people's history": "it is a history disrespectful of governments and respectful of people's movements of resistance." So what we get here, instead of the usual survey of wars, presidents, and institutions, is a survey of the usual rebellions, strikes, and protest movements. Zinn starts out by depicting the arrival of Columbus in North America from the standpoint of the Indians (which amounts to their standpoint as constructed from the observations of the Europeans); and, after easily establishing the cultural disharmony that ensued, he goes on to the importation of slaves into the colonies. Add the laborers and indentured servants that followed, plus women and later immigrants, and you have Zinn's amorphous constituency. To hear Zinn tell it, all anyone did in America at any time was to oppress or be oppressed; and so he obscures as much as his hated mainstream historical foes do—only in Zinn's case there is that absurd presumption that virtually everything that came to pass was the work of ruling-class planning: this amounts to one great indictment for conspiracy. Despite surface similarities, this is not a social history, since we get no sense of the fabric of life. Instead of negating the one-sided histories he detests, Zinn has merely reversed the image; the distortion remains.

Pub Date: Jan. 1, 1979

ISBN: 0061965588

Page Count: 772

Publisher: Harper & Row

Review Posted Online: May 26, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1979

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