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American Jews and the Civil War; How do we reconcile our past to guide our future?

Thursday, January 23, 2020 26 Tevet 5780

6:30 PM - 8:00 PM

Prepared, in part, by the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH) and taught by Judy Kuper Jaffe​​​​​​​


Slavery is an experience etched into our collective Jewish memory and chronicled in the Torah. Shocking as it may seem to us today, the debate over slavery split the Jewish community during the Civil War - separating friends and dividing families. 
How do we begin to explain why Jews owned enslaved Africans? How can we understand how Jews supported and fought for the Confederacy? What does it mean when people in a community make choices that seem to be against that community’s values? What if those choices are not just unethical but possibly evil? In our own times, we have seen countless examples of segregation or persecution of minority populations, both in the United States and worldwide.
Let’s explore how we might reconcile wrongdoings in our national past, using as an example Jewish support of the Confederacy. Texts from different perspectives and time periods offer varying responses to these uncomfortable historical realities: developing a strong moral code, empathizing with past actors, moving on from painful experiences, and teaching about difficult histories help us understand our present and guide our future.

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Tue, February 25 2020 30 Sh'vat 5780