Monday, August 13, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Henry Vidaver on Abraham Lincoln

Amanuensis: A person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

I continue my project to transcribe family letters, journals, newspaper articles, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts. Not only do the documents contain genealogical information, the words breathe life into kin - some I never met - others I see a time in their life before I knew them.

I began this project back on February 16, 2009.  Since I began, many others have joined in on the meme. I am thrilled that this meme I started has inspired so many to transcribe their family history documents. Why do we transcribe? I provide my three reasons in the linked post. You may find others.

In the past I have departed a few times from purely genealogically-related documents, and transcribe something of historical interest which doesn't mention any relatives. This is another such case.

Recently I volunteered to join my congregation's Historical Society, which is researching its history in preparation of our 175th anniversary year. Established in 1837, it is the oldest Jewish congregation West of the Mississippi. (St. Louis happens to be home to many things that are the oldest West of the Mississippi. There might be a geographical/historical reason for this.)

At my first meeting a few weeks ago I learned about an early Rabbi - Dr. Henry Vidaver, who delivered a sermon upon Lincoln's assassination that was widely reprinted.  Sections of the sermon appeared in some recently published histories, but I went in search online for some contemporary accounts, or at least something that was public domain.

I found the below in The Reform Advocate - America's Jewish Journal - Volume 37, Issue 1 - February 20, 1909 - pages 22, 27. (I only transcribe the introduction, and Vidaver's words. Follow the link to read from the sermons of others.)

From: "The Hebrew Standard"
Abraham Lincoln as Viewed by Contemporary Jewish Thinkers

Abraham Lincoln preserved throughout his life the most kindly sentiments towards the Jewish people. Whenever in his professional life or in his public career he had an opportunity of meeting Jews and of evidencing his feelings of true brotherhood and rare humanity, he allowed no other considerations to interfere with his actions, In his early days in Illinois he was an intimate associate of many Jews who later became prominent in the commercial and legal life of the nation.

At the time of the assassination of the martyred president, the Rabbis and preachers of the leading congregations then existing in the United States gave public expression to their grief at his untimely demise, and sketching in vivid colors the great services Lincoln had rendered to this nation. Some of these tributes to the memory of the great war president are herewith presented to our readers both because of their subject, and because they themselves are couched in an elevated style.

Dr. Henry Vidaver, at the United Hebrew Synagogue, St. Louis, Mo., April 19, 1865,

Lincoln's watchword, his holy principle was: "No compromise, no palliation of the evil, but a total eradication of the cause of the rebellion." Like Moses when finding the golden idol in the hands of his people took and ground it to powder that not a trace should be left of the people's rebellion against God, so Abraham Lincoln taught the people of America that unless that apple of contention, that source of strife and inhumanity, be wholly removed our country will always be exposed to the disgraceful reproach without and baneful disturbances within. Abraham Lincoln understood his task well. With all his honest soul he embraced it. He displayed his principles which were nothing else but the emanations of a God-fearing and liberty-loving heart, and stuck to them closely and trusted in God, who never forsakes the righteous. Abraham Lincoln still lives and his spirit will rest upon us, the people of the United States, who will strive to follow his example and live in his spirit of liberty, justice and love.


1) Dr. Henry Vidaver appears to have been Rabbi at United Hebrew Congregation in St. Louis for only two years (1865 and 1866). He also spent some time at congregations in Philadelphia, New York, and San Francisco. He was born in Warsaw, Poland, in 1833, and immigrated to America in 1859. (Source: Wikipedia)

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