Jew-Hatred as History
The Fatal Flaws of "The Secret Relationship"
Posted: December 31, 2001
Ultimately, though, the fact that during the Civil War there were a few Jewish abolitionists - even one, August Bondi, who, though he fought alongside John Brown, goes unmentioned in The Secret Relationship - is no more remarkable than the fact that prior to this conflict there were a few Jewish slave owners. What is significant, however, is the pattern of distortion, the systematic suppression of the full truth, that pervades the authors' methodology. Certainly these omissions are not the result of inadequate research; they are neither technical mistakes nor oversights. They are the result of the dominant tendency of the authors' mindset - to depict the overwhelming majority of 19th Century Jews as supporters of slavery, even when considerable evidence to the contrary was readily available to them, and to then use this fabrication to promote hostility toward the contemporary Jewish community. Indeed, the reader is reminded of a political debate, in which the candidates typically isolate individual statements over the course of their opponents' careers to offer a distorted picture of the opponent's record. The comparison is by no means arbitrary: as in a political campaign, the authors' purpose is to score a political point, not contribute to a scholarly dialogue.
Deliberate Distortion of Sources
The authors also distort other sources in their discussion of Jews in the Civil War to misrepresent Jews as being disproportionately sympathetic toward the Confederacy. For example, Salo Baron's Economic History of the Jews provides the basis (footnote 475) for The Secret Relationship's claim that "At no time did Southern Jews feel tainted by the slave trade." (p. 121) However, the original goes on to state "Jews in Philadelphia and New York were active in the early abolition movement." (Baron, p. 274) A nearly identical omission occurs in the authors' use of Abraham Karp's Haven and Home; A History of Jews in America (footnote 550); they note that "...no Jewish leaders of the Old South ever expressed any reservations about the justice of slavery..." (p. 143) but fail to include the statement, "The Jews of the North (by now the great majority of the Jewish community) were generally opposed to slavery and contributed workers to the abolitionist cause...."' (Karp, p. 80)
Again, the Historical Research Department refers to this source (footnote 605) in their observation that "Important Jewish literary figures like Isaac Harby, Edwin DeLeon and Jacob N. Cardozo expressed their full support for slavery in their writings." (p. 154) Nonetheless, they fail to mention that a "division of opinion" existed among Jews, just as the rest of the nation was divided on the issue of slavery. (Karp p. 80)
What is significant, however, is the pattern of distortion, the systematic suppression of the full truth, that pervades the authors' methodology. Certainly these omissions are not the result of inadequate research; they are neither technical mistakes nor oversights.
In fact, Arlene Ehrlich argues in a November 28, 1992, Washington Times article on General Ulysses S. Grant's failed effort to expel every Jew from the territories under his military control - an effort for which, of course, The Secret Relationship offers several rationalizations - that President Lincoln's decision to override Grant's order was motivated in part by "the presence of 6,000 Jewish soldiers in the Union army, four of whom attained the rank of general." Ehrlich adds, "Perhaps he [Lincoln] recalled his close friendships with Jews in Illinois or the political debt he owed to abolitionist rabbis, such as Baltimore's influential David Einhorn.... Not surprisingly, American Jews mourned deeply when Lincoln died in 1865. Jewish organizations participated in the memorial processions held in every major American city. Thousands of Jews marched in New York, where, for the first time, members of Shearith Israel Congregation recited the prayer for the dead for a non-Jew.
"In every Northern town Jews draped their synagogues in black crepe and offered eulogies and prayers.... Rabbi Benjamin Szold summed up the feelings of many American Jews... in 1865. 'To us Jews,' Szold grieved, 'Lincoln has a special meaning. If he were not flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, he was mind of our mind and soul of our soul."