by Dara Horn
In 2009, when I published “All Other Nights,” a novel about Jewish spies in the Civil War, I was invited to speak at Temple Ohev Sholom in Harrisburg, Pa. I arrived to discover 19th-century military tents in the social hall, populated by Civil War re-enactors in period dress. But as I enjoyed the reception’s matzo ball gumbo, what I found most unsettling was the real living history in the room: the synagogue’s elderly congregants...
When the Southern states seceded in 1861, most American churches split in half — which is why to this day there are Southern Baptists and Southern Methodists. There were national Jewish organizations in 1861, including B’nai B’rith and several others, but none of them split during the Civil War. One could attribute this to the community’s small size (there were about 130,000 American Jews in 1861), but I think there is also a far more profound reason...more.
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