jewish women

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On the eve of the Civil War, just 85 years after declaring itself a free nation, the United States was already a “melting pot” of different nationalities, ethnicities, and cultures. Among these diverse groups was the Jewish community. Caught in the middle of a bloody Civil War, Southern Jews were unwilling to sit by idly as their new home in the southern United States was torn apart by Union forces. Instead, many stepped up to help the Confederate cause in any way they could. When talking about war, it is easy to think of the Jewish men and the sacrifices they made; however, one should not be so quick to discount Southern Jewish women. Jewish women find themselves significant in the history of the Civil War in two main ways. First, as wives, daughters, and mothers of men involved in the war effort, these women gained responsibilities that were either usually handled or at least shared by men. Through involvement in social organizations, these women raised money to help support those affected by the war effort, both soldiers and civilians. Second, the diaries they left behind provide extremely valuable historical and cultural documentation. These women wrote extensively about their lives during the war and their thoughts on the Confederate cause. By the time the Civil War started in 1861, there were 160 organized Jewish communities with at least one Jewish institution in the United States.1 These communities were spread throughout 31 states as well as in the District of Columbia. Some of the Jewish immigrants worked to imitate the religious practices they had in their previous country, here in the United States. Jonathan D. Sarna, a Jewish studies professor at Brandeis University, described this phenomenon as a way for Jews to create, “ island of familiarity within a sea of change.”2 Unfortunately, many Jews settled in areas that did not have a synagogue.

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