The Debate Over Historical Monuments Continues

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Monuments Story Is Complicated

Malcolm Lazin was wrong, historically speaking, in assuming that the same racism that led to the commissioning of the Progressive Age monuments to the Confederacy included an equal dose of anti-Semitism (“Where are the Confederate Jewish Monuments?” Aug. 31). In fact, it is a complicated story. Southern Democrats like Woodrow Wilson simultaneously promoted the career of Louis Brandeis while working toward segregating the American military. By contrast, Republican Boston Brahmins vehemently opposed the justice from Kentucky on anti-Semitic grounds. Other elements in the South were responsible for the lynching of Leo Frank at exactly the same time Brandeis was a rising star in the world of progressive politics.  

Ultimately, he asks the wrong question. In my opinion, the real question is, where are the monuments to the Jewish abolitionists like Rabbi David Einhorn of Baltimore’s Har Sinai Congregation and Philadelphia’s Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel? Einhorn, who served both during the Civil War and despite the deep polarization of his time and place, stood up courageously against slavery and helped establish what is now called the tikkun olam movement in the American Jewish community. Rebecca Gratz worked tirelessly on behalf of wounded Union soldiers, and Abraham Greenawalt of Montgomery County won the Medal of Honor for valor in combat in 1864.

Perhaps it is time for the American Jewish community to contribute again to our country’s changing civic culture with Civil War iconography and narrative, just as it did when it commissioned Moses Jacob Ezekiel, ironically a veteran of the Confederate Army, to create the monument to Religious Liberty in 1876 that now stands in front of Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History.

Rabbi Lance J. Sussman | Senior Rabbi, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel

JWV Is a Living Monument

The absence of material monuments to significant Jewish contributions is only a part of the post-Civil War denial of Jewish involvement (“Where are the Confederate Jewish Monuments?” Aug. 31). The Jewish War Veterans (JWV) was created in 1896 by Civil War veterans to prove that Jews have proudly served this country since the Revolutionary War era and to recognize the sacrifices Jewish veterans have made in every war the United States has been involved in — including both sides of the Civil War — thus assuring that the dual traditions of Judaism and Americanism are sustained.

JWV and Post 305 here in Philadelphia are proud to represent and give testament to Jewish involvement in our war efforts, to advocate for all veterans’ rights, to support veterans in need, to honor those that have passed on, and to visit and entertain veterans in VA hospitals that might otherwise feel they have been forgotten.

Sanford M. Barth | Newtown Square

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