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February 11, 1994 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1994-02-11

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

homes, farms and belongings — without trial
or hearing. The order read:
"The Jews, as a class violating every regula-
tion of trade established by the Treasury De-
partment and also department orders, are hereby
expelled from the department within 24 hours
from the receipt of this order... Anyone returning
(this) notification will be arrested and held in con-
finement until an opportunity occurs of sending
them out as prisoners."
Within a couple of weeks, refugee Jews had
alerted President Lincoln to Order No. 11, which
was promptly repealed.
Historians still argue over Gen. Grant's alleged
anti-Semitism. Bertram Korn, author of Ameri-
can Jewry and The Civil War, acknowledges that
Gen. Grant allowed his office to issue the order,
but said he should not be deemed an anti-Semite:
"(Gen. Grant) never again revealed any an-
tipathy toward Jews. During his presidential
terms, he appointed many Jews to minor and ma-
jor public offices."

W

hat was the significance of the Civil
War to Jews? Most Jewish Detroiters
had not lived in America long enough
to establish a heritage. To them, the
"New World" was exactly that: new.
Yet, thousands of these JewS were willing to die for
their homeland. And many did. Author Robert Rock-
away explains the tenacity of Jews during the era:
"'Me Civil War provided Jewish Detroiters with op-
portunities to display their patriotism and become
more active in civic life."
Their patriotism extended beyond the military to
religious institutions. At Detroit's Temple Beth El, the
wives of Isaac Altman, Isidor Frankel and Simon
Freedman helped form the Ladies' Soldiers Aid So-
ciety. The organization worked with the Sanitary Corn-
mission to furnish Michigan regiments with badly
needed medical supplies. It was the first group of its
kind to form in the United States during the war.
In his book, The Jewish Soldier From Michigan
In The Civil War, former Temple Beth El executive
secretary and historian, the late Irving Katz, writes:
'The Ladies' Soldiers Aid Society held monthly meet-
ings to engage in group sewing and to make individ-
ual home assignments. The income of the society was
augmented both by donations and collections at meet-
ings. The very favorable publicity given to the orga-
nization by the newspapers was always a source of
strength."
Detroit Jews were part of massive
fund-raising endeavors. The State Trea-
sury was not adequate, so private citi-
zens pledged more than $23,000 after
President Lincoln called for Michigan
to form 10 companies of infantry.
Mr. Katz reported that S. Freedman
and Brothers gave $500 to the cause.
He names Marcus Cohen and Marines
Israel as other givers. Mr. Rockaway's
book also mentions Mark Sloman, who
joined Detroit's civilian police force and
helped fugitive slaves escape to Cana-
da.
Rabbis, too, had a role in the Civil
War — and not all of them condemned
slavery.
Mr. Katz wrote that Liebman Adler,
Temple Beth El's rabbi from 1854 to
1861, spoke out against secession and
supported the abolitionist movement.
The author contrasts Rabbi Adler with
his successor, Abraham Laser, who al-

Lois Upnik's great-grandfather, Simon Wertheimer, lost his
health in the Civil War.

(Above) Simon Wertheimer married Bertha Frieke after the war.
(Below) Robert Aronson creates lithographs of Civil War
battlefields.

legedly left Beth El in 1864 to serve as a chap-
lain in the Confederate army — evidently to pur-
sue his Southern sympathies.
When President Lincoln was assassinated, an-
other Beth El rabbi, Isidor Kalisch, delivered an
impassioned memorial address:
"After four years of heroic labor, trouble and
struggle to preserve our sacred Constitution and
to restore Union and Peace...he, the true cham-
pion of national rights, the powerful and success-
ful advocate of universal freedom, the upright and
true patriot, was suddenly snatched from our
midst...
"It is true that he shared the same fate of Moses,
the deliverer of Israel from Egyptian bondage, who
was not permitted to lead the freed men to the
promised land, and could only see it from the top
of the Mount of Nebo."
Comparisons with the biblical story of Exodus
no doubt motivated many Northern Jews to fight
against the South. Yet historians like Shelby Foote
point out that the North did not enter the Civil
War to free blacks. Historians say the main rea-
sons for the Civil War centered around economics
and states' rights.
Re-enactor Alan Rothenberg chose to play a Con-
federate soldier in the Fifth Texas Company E be-
cause he wanted to experience the war from a
different perspective. Although he condemns slavery,
Mr. Rothenberg objects to portrayals of Southerners
as "bad guys." He refers to the state of Texas to ex-
plain that secession was not motivated just by the Con-
federacy's desire to continue slavery.
"Each state had its own reasons for seceding. Tex-
ans felt that the Union was not providing adequate
protection against Mexican marauders and Indian
tribes that were essentially butchering the settlers in
Texas, most of whom were German settlers," he says.
Through preparing for re-enactments, Mr. Rothen-
berg learned that Northerners owned slaves until the
1840s when they were sold for a steep price to the
South. He says Southerners were understandably up-
set that Northerners profited from transactions they
subsequently outlawed.
"Today we know that slavery is morally wrong —
in any period in history. Anyone who says otherwise
is gravely mistaken and misguided," Mr. Rothenberg
says. "But in the mid-1880s, slavery was a very com-
mon thing. We cannot use the morality of today to
judge the Confederate and Union armies...
"The whole Southern economy depended on slaves.
They didn't feel that a government in Washington un-
derstood their situation better than
their own state governments."

I

n a quiet corner of Bloomfield
Hills, Lois Lipnik sorts through
stacks and stacks of family mem-
orabilia. The native Detroiter em-
barked on her family tree during the
1980s.
Through similar genealogical jour-
neys, a handful of local Jews like Mrs.
Lipnik have discovered that their an-
cestors took part in the Civil War.
Mrs. Lipnik uncovered information
about her great-grandfather, Simon
Wertheimer, whose family immg,rated
to Michigan from Wertheim, Ger-
many, in the mid-1800s. A document
signed by Mr. Botsford of Botsford Inn
reveals that Mr. Wertheimer joined
the Independent Order of Odd Fellows
after the war.
But, at 21, the young Mr.

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