Author to speak at Fairfield University about when General Ulysses Grant expelled Jews


Judaic Studies Lecture: Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, "When General Grant Expelled the Jews"

7:30 p.m., Thursday Nov. 29, 2012
Fairfield University's Dolan School of Business, Dining Room
Free admission

Image: Sarna bookDubbed by The Forward newspaper as one of America's fifty most influential American Jews, Brandeis University Professor Jonathan D. Sarna will speak at Fairfield University about General Ulysses S. Grant's uncivil war against the Jews, on Thursday, November 29, at 7:30 p.m.

Free and open to the public, Dr. Sarna's talk is entitled "When General Grant Expelled the Jews," based on his recent book of the same name, a work Janet Maslin of The New York Times called "provocative." Seating is limited for this talk, which will take place in the Dolan School of Business Dining Room. For reservations, call the event's sponsor, Fairfield University's Carl and Dorothy Bennett Center for Judaic Studies, at (203) 254-4000, ext. 2066.

The lecture is being held in memory of the 150th anniversary of Grant's alarming order that stunned the Jews. According to Dr. Sarna's book, on December 17, 1862, in the midst of the Civil War and just weeks before Abraham Lincoln announced the Emancipation Proclamation, General Grant ordered every Jew in his military district covering a large section of the central Southern states to leave within 24 hours. Sarna said Grant was attempting to control the widespread smuggling and illegal trade of cotton that affected the area under his command - much of it being carried out by his own officers - and took out his frustration on the Jews, according to a New York Times review of the book. A horrified President Lincoln revoked the order, but it had a lasting impact.

In an article on Slate.com, Dr. Sarna noted that it was really the extreme reactions and responses that came from American Jews that made the matter of Grant's order so long lasting. Suddenly some began to question their allegiance as 'American Jews,' while others began to gain a new fearful, competitive, and hostile attitude toward newly freed slaves.

Sarna wrote, "Historians, understandably, have played down this fear, not wishing to besmirch the reputations of some of American Jewry's most illustrious leaders whose words, in retrospect, are painful to read."

Dr. Sarna is the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University and chief historian of the new National Museum of American Jewish History. He has written, edited, or co-edited more than twenty books. He is best known for the acclaimed "American Judaism: A History." Winner of the Jewish Book Council's "Jewish Book of the Year Award" in 2004, it has been praised as being "the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil."

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Media Contact: Meg McCaffrey, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2726, mmccaffrey@fairfield.edu

Posted on November 13, 2012

Vol. 45, No. 111