15 July 2009

Washington DC: Lincoln's Jewish advisor

Tablet Magazine is new on the scene and has been producing some excellent articles n diverse Jewish topics.

This article covers an exhibit, running through December, on Washington during the Civil War.

Among issues discussed, there's a section on President Lincoln's podiatrist/Jewish advisor:

“Lincoln is probably the first president to really have personal associations with Jews,” said Gary Zola, executive director of the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives.

Lincoln’s closest Jewish contact was Isachar Zacharie—one of the president’s more unlikely aides. Zacharie first appeared in Lincoln’s life as his foot doctor, and soon became an unofficial adviser. The New York World wrote in 1864 that Zacharie “enjoyed Mr. Lincoln’s confidence, perhaps more than any other private individual [and was] perhaps the most favored family visitor to the White House.”
The capital was a sleepy town prior to the mid-19th century. Once the Civil War began, things began hopping and MOTs had many opportunities.

The exhibit - Jewish Life in Mr. Lincoln's City - was organized by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. It focuses on 19th-century Jewish life and the Civil War.

During the war years, the city’s Jewish population grew tenfold: from 200 to nearly 2,000. Seventh Street, now the heart of the city’s Chinatown, became a center of Jewish activity. The district was home to six kosher restaurants. (Washington today has only two.)

Without a major industry in town, like the rag trade in New York, most Jewish businesses were mom-and-pop operations. “This neighborhood was never like the Lower East Side,” said David McKenzie, curatorial associate at the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington. “Jews were a significant minority within this neighborhood.”
The exhibit, timed for Lincoln's birth bicentennial, spotlights his relationship with the new Jewish community.

View the exhibit at the Washington Hebrew Congregation through July 20, and then at Beth El in Alexandria, Virginia, through December.

Read the complete article at the link above.

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