Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln in Europe's Hebrew press.

Abraham Lincoln was shot on April 14, 1865. He died the following day. The following appeared in the May 24, 1865 issue of the Hebrew weekly המגיד.

The author, ח"ג ווידאווער, otherwise known as Henry Vidaver was a prominent 19th century American rabbi who frequently contributed news of America to the pages of Hamaggid.

Part of it reads:
"On Shabbat Chol Ha-moed Pesah, all were joyfully walking to the synagoguges, that day being especially joyous and a day of thanksgiving to God for the victorious end to the Civil War."
"However, how inscrutable are God's intentions! On the very day which we were saying "This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it," that day was turned to its dark opposite, a day of infamy for the entire United States. A voice was heard crying, "Abraham Lincoln, the President of the United States, fell at the hand of a murderer who accosted him in a theater. Friday evening the President and his dear family sat in the balcony to partake a little bit in the gladness of the people. From behind him, a man carrying a gun came and slew this righteous man."
Solomon Schechter, reflecting in 1902 on his youthful reading, and the impression that Vidaveronly 14 years his seniormade on him:
"It was the dream of my childhood when I learned, through the Sepher Haberith and the letters of Hag Vidaver in the Hebrew weekly, Hamaggid, of the existence of a continent on which, according to my simple conceptions, people should stand on their heads, and yet somehow managed to walk erect and free and even move quicker and with a surer pace than we, with all our drill of thousands of years."
In Seminary Addresses and Other Papers, 'The Emancipation of Jewish Science.'

Here's Rabbi Vidaver on Lincoln, in English (from the memorial on the Wednsday after the שבת חול המועד he mentioned in the Hamaggid article):


  1. Vidaver confuses Union with Emancipation. Recall the famous passage from Lincoln's letter to Greeley:

    "I would save the Union. I would save it the shortest way under the Constitution. The sooner the national authority can be restored; the nearer the Union will be "the Union as it was." If there be those who would not save the Union, unless they could at the same time save slavery, I do not agree with them. If there be those who would not save the Union unless they could at the same time destroy slavery, I do not agree with them. My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or to destroy slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that. What I do about slavery, and the colored race, I do because I believe it helps to save the Union; and what I forbear, I forbear because I do not believe it would help to save the Union. I shall do less whenever I shall believe what I am doing hurts the cause, and I shall do more whenever I shall believe doing more will help the cause. I shall try to correct errors when shown to be errors; and I shall adopt new views so fast as they shall appear to be true views.

    I have here stated my purpose according to my view of official duty; and I intend no modification of my oft-expressed personal wish that all men every where could be free."

    Of course, as per the letter's last line, Lincoln hated slavery, and he had famously declared that "A house divided against itself cannot stand.", but that was not his prime motivation in his implacable effort to subdue the South.

  2. Hi there was another Rabbi with the name Vidaver, Rabbi Tzvi Falk Vidaver Halevi, he was the Rabbi of Sheerith Israel in San Fransisco, any relationship?

  3. YD Miller, it must be his son. Rabbi Chaim Gershon (Henry) Vidaver was a rabbi in Philadelphia, St. Louis and finally in San Fransisco. It seems that R. Falk Vidaver died in 1909 (after having served as rabbi for 12 years), which would seem somewhat strange if he were his son, but of course he could have died young.

  4. I already found in Hamagid that they were brothers.

    BTW, Rabbi Nachum Streisand of San Francisco wrote a response to Vidaver on his approval of a female singing in the temple, do you have that response?

  5. Another photo of Henry Vidaver

  6. Yes, Henry and Falk were brothers and served together at the temple in San Francisco. Their pictures hang together on the wall there.

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