We need to celebrate a Lincoln Chanukah this year.
It’s not because of the new Spielberg movie — that gives us something to do on Christmas Day — but because of the 150th anniversary of a little-known event in American history that threatened to expel a portion of the Civil War-era Jewish population from their homes on the Festival of Lights.
On Dec. 17, 1862, during the heighth of the war, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant issued General Orders 11 expelling “Jews as a class” from a war zone that included areas of Tennessee, Mississippi and Kentucky within a 24-hour period. It was the first day of Chanukah.
The B’nai B’rith sent a petition to Washington calling upon President Lincoln to “annul” the order. Other Jewish leaders moved to organize delegations to meet with Lincoln. A Jewish merchant from Paducah named Cesar Kaskel traveled to Washington on a mission to have the order overturned. Upon arrival he was able to arrange through an Ohio congressman a meeting with the president.