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Father Abraham [Lincoln] & the Children of Israel: Tributes to Lincoln After his Death

The American synagogue paid its tribute to the martyred president at special services on April 19, and again on the day designated for memorial services by President Andrew Johnson, June 1, 1865, which happened to be the second day of the Festival of Shavuot. Of the many memorial discourses heard in Jewish houses of worship, nine-five in German and four in English-were issued as special publications. The Library has eight of the nine. Listed below, these brief excerpts give some source of their mood and content.

1. An Address on the Death of Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, Delivered Before Congregation Mikve Israel of Philadelphia ... by the Rev. S. Morais, Minister of the Congregation. On Wednesday, April 19, 1865, Philadelphia, 1865.

The stillness of the grave reigns abroad. Where is the joyous throng that enlivened this city of loyalty? Seek it now, my friends, in the shrines of holiness. There, it lies prostrate; there, it tearfully bemoans an irretrievable loss, Oh! tell it not in the country of the Gauls; publish it not in the streets of Albion, lest the children of iniquity rejoice, lest the son of Belial triumph. For the heart which abhorred wickedness has ceased to throb; the hand which had stemmed a flood of unrighteousness, is withered in death.

The Rev. Sabato Morais, Congregation Mikve Israel, Philadelphia, April 19, 1865.

2. A Discourse Delivered Before the Congregation Mikve Israel ... Thursday, June 1, 1865, the Day Appointed for Fasting, Humiliation, and Prayer, for the Untimely Death of the Late Lamented President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln by the Rev. S. Morais ... Philadelphia, 1865

If the essence of religion is what the great Hillel taught us, then I unhesitatingly say that the breast of our lamented President was ever kindled with that divine spark. "To forbear doing unto others what would displease us" . . . is the maxim he illustrated in the immortal document of emancipation that bears his honorable signature. It is that which he exemplified by his numerous acts of clemency ...

We must bear his name with a blessing upon our lips.

The Rev. Sabato Morais, Congregation Mikve Israel, Philadelphia, June 1, 1865.

3. Trauer-Rede (Mourning Discourse) gehalten em 19ten April 1865 . . . Abraham Lincoln Präsidenten der Vereinigten Staaten, in Tempel der Keneseth Israel Gemeinde zu Philadelphia von Dr. David Einhorn (Philadelphia, 1865).

The murder of this high-priest of freedom must and will unite all who still have a spark of moral feeling into a brotherhood to preserve the union and crush that shameful institution [slavery]. All those who in former times misunderstood the deceased and denigrated his world-historic deed, must now learn to love and honor both. This would be the truly meaningful fulfilment of the saying of our Sages: "The death of the righteous atone for the age."

If Abraham Lincoln had one fault, it was his excessive generosity toward the rebels; he, whom the demagogues and the murderer himself called a tyrant!

The Rev. David Einhorn, Congregation Keneseth Israel, Philadelphia, April 19, 1865.

4. Vaterland und Freiheit (Fatherland and Freedom) Predigt bei der Erinnerungsfeier des verstorbenen Prasidenten Abraham Lincoln, am 1. Juni, 1865 ... gehalten von Benjamin Szold, Rabbiner der Oheb-Schalom Gemeinde in Baltimore, Baltimore, 1865.

Abraham Lincoln took the reins of government at a time when the Fatherland lay mortally ill, when there was little hope for its survival and revival ... How Abraham Lincoln loved the suffering Fatherland. [In this day of Shavuot, this joyful holiday] we should feel joy that such a great moral figure lived among us, in our time, and that the history of this Republic became enriched through another great name, that by the side of Washington now stands Lincoln.

The Rev. Benjamin Szold, Congregation Oheb Schalom, Baltimore, June 1, 1865.

5. Predigt ... 19, April 1865 ... Abraham Lincoln's von H. Hochheimer, Rabbiner der Oheb-Israel Gemeinde in Baltimore (Baltimore, 1865).

The Rev. Henry Hochheimer, Congregation Oheb Israel, Baltimore, April 19, 1865.

6. Fest-und Fasttag (Commemoration and Fast Day) ... am 1. Juni 1865 ... zum Gedachtnisse des ermordeten Prasidenten Abraham Lincoln ... von H. Hochheimer ... (Baltimore, 1865).

When victory after victory were announced by his warriors, did he glory in the defeat of his enemies? No. He stretched forth his hand to the fallen. He spared them humiliation, offered them conditions honorable beyond their dreams, and as Abraham of old, he called out to them: "Let there not be strife between us, for we are brothers" [Genesis, 13:8].

The Rev. Henry Hochheimer, Congregation Oheb Israel, Baltimore, June 1, 1865.

7. Charakteristik Abraham Lincolns ... einer Trauer-Predigt ... am 19. April 1865, von Jonas Bondi, in der Synagogue der Gemeinde Poel Zedek, New York 1865:

Abraham Lincoln was a religious man, imbued with the fear of God, faithful to the religion of his ancestors, faithful also to the faith he absorbed with his mother's milk. That is not to say he was a fanatic, as some thought, that he would disdain one who in his eyes did not appear to be religious, Oh No! His conception of the faith into which he was born was his own private, personal conviction. He respected every true and ethical conception of Faith, respected every pious one, no matter what form that piety took. Who would question that Abraham Lincoln was a truly humane human being? His last act, the capitulation of Lee, proved that his was the mind of a noble victor, a person exemplifying the true biblical love-loving one's neighbor.

The Rev. Jonas Bondi, Congregation Poel Zedek, New York, April 19, 1865.

8. An Address: Delivered on Request of the Congregation, by P. J. Joachimsen, At the Place of Worship of the Hebrew Association Temimi Derech, at New Orleans, On Saturday, April 29th, 1865, New York, 1865.

Alas! that we should have occasion for an addition to our services to deplore the untimely loss, by violence, of the Chief Magistrate of the American people. Alas! that we should have to pray to God that in the history of the American people this may be forever the only time when national mourning shall be accompanied by national humiliation and national shame ... Unaided by worldly fortune or powerful friends, he [Lincoln] attained to the fame of the most eminent patriots and statesmen-aye, even of Washington, the Father of his country. You can point him out to your children as one of the men worthy of emulation, as a pattern and as an example.

And we, as Jews, had a distinct ground to love, respect and esteem him ... When an order was made to banish Jews as a class from a particular Department, and their immediate and indiscriminate departure was being carried out, our deceased President at once revoked the unauthorized command ...

We can carry the memory of Abraham Lincoln with us as that of a triumphant martyr to humanity, and we can also carry into practice the lessons taught us by the short but eventful life of the great departed:

To be true and honest to ourselves and to our neighbors.

To stand bravely and fearlessly to the performance of our duties as citizens of this great Republic.

P. J. Joachimsen, Congregation Temimi Derech, New Orleans, April 29, 1865.

As we may have noticed, the eulogy was preached in New Orleans, but published in New York.

Sources: Abraham J. Karp, From the Ends of the Earth: Judaic Treasures of the Library of Congress, (DC: Library of Congress, 1991).