In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Editor’s Introduction
  • Dianne Ashton

This special issue examining the lives of American Jews in the Civil War era joins the broad national effort to learn more about our shared past by taking another look at that brutal and pivotal time. One hundred and fifty years ago, the two oldest regions of the country—the North and the South—still battled, and, despite the triumphal rhetoric produced on both sides, no one could be sure what the outcome would be. An anniversary such as this compels us to explore the historical record of that time and to bring new questions and methods to the task. By doing so, as our guest editor, Adam Mendelsohn explains, the three articles presented in this issue provide “richer and more complex insights into the behavior of Jewish men and women during the Civil War era” than we had previously understood.

This issue also introduces a new feature that will appear occasionally in future volumes of American Jewish History. If there is one common attitude that our readers, our contributors, and our parent organization, the American Jewish Historical Society, share, it is an understanding that the documents of the past are irreplaceable treasures. Without them, we cannot do history at all. So, beginning with this issue, we are bringing selected items from the collections of the American Jewish Historical Society to readers. In keeping with our Civil War theme, we have reproduced items that shed light on Jews’ activities during the conflict. Unlike more easily obtained, professionally printed magazine or newspaper documents, these items are handwritten lists kept by Jacques Judah Lyons, who served as rabbi of New York City’s venerable Shearith Israel congregation for thirty eight years during the mid-nineteenth century. And they are raw: scribbles and cross-outs mix with more carefully noted entries. To help us understand them more fully in the context of their time, three historians, Leonard Rogoff, Jennifer Stollman, and Anton Hieke, share their thoughts on what the simple documents can tell us.

The Civil War so engulfed the country that many questions about its impact on ordinary life beg to be answered. The war transformed the country in ways both predictable and unpredictable, urging us to examine new trends that emerged at its conclusion. More about Jewish life in the Civil War era can be found in a special issue of the American Jewish Archives Journal Vol. LXIV nos 1 and 2 (2012). I encourage readers to go to that journal for more about this important topic. [End Page vii]

Dianne Ashton
Rowan University


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p. vii
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