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The Chosen Conflict: The Americanizing Effect of the Civil War on the Jewish Community

Grossman-Boder, Yonatan

"History, like music, has its greatest hits, recounted in later ages as indicative of an era
almost to the exclusion of other examples. But such stories may not be representative; such is the
case with the narrative of Jews in the Civil War. Tales of the “Brains of the Confederacy,” Judah
P. Benjamin, and the anti-Semitism of Grant‟s General Order No. 11 define the popular
discussion of Jews in the Civil War. Yet, neither topic is emblematic of the massive
transformation that took place in the Jewish American community during the war. Judah P.
Benjamin, a wealthy Caribbean born Louisianan, was appointed the Attorney General by
Jefferson Davis.
Later in the war he was appointed the Secretary of War and was known for his
prowess and intelligence.
In almost any discussion of Jews in the Civil War, Benjamin‟s name
comes up. Yet, Benjamin did not associate himself as a Jew. While he never converted from
Judaism and never denied his heritage, he married an affluent Christian New Orleanian and was
buried in a Catholic cemetery. Certainly, Benjamin‟s story is not emblematic of Jews in the
Civil War. Nevertheless, his tale is consistently told as though it was."

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More About This Work

Academic Units
History
Thesis Advisors
Ngai, Mae
Haefeli, Evan P.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 6, 2011
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