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“That Obnoxious Order” – Lunch Talk with Professor Jonathan Sarna

Posted by on Wednesday, November 6, 2019 in Past Events.

This lecture is part of the Association for Jewish Studies Distinguished Lectureship Program.

The Vanderbilt Programs in Jewish Studies and American Studies, the Department of History and the Alexander Heard Libraries are pleased to sponsor Dr. Jonathan Sarna of Brandeis University, Thursday November 7 at noon in the Central Library Community Room on Vanderbilt main campus (lunch provided). Information on the event can be found below.


On December 17, 1862, as the Civil War entered its second winter, General Ulysses S. Grant issued a sweeping order, General Orders #11, expelling “Jews as a class” from his war zone. It remains the most notorious anti-Jewish official order in American history. The order came back to haunt Grant in 1868 when he ran for president. Never before had Jews been so widely noticed in a presidential contest, and never before had they been confronted so publicly with the question of how to balance their “American” and “Jewish” interests. During his two terms in the White House, the memory of the “obnoxious order” shaped Grant’s relationship with the American Jewish community. In response, surprisingly, he did more for Jews than any other president to his time. How this happened, and why, sheds new light on one of our most enigmatic presidents, on the Jews of his day, and on America itself.

Please join us this Thursday for a lunch talk with Dr. Jonathan Sarna. No RSVP required.

Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna is University Professor and the Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History and Director of the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University, and Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia. Dubbed by the Forward newspaper in 2004 as one of America’s fifty most influential American Jews, he was Chief Historian for the 350th commemoration of the American Jewish community, and is recognized as a leading commentator on American Jewish history, religion and life. He is the only American Jewish historian ever elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Born in Philadelphia, and raised in New York and Boston, Dr. Sarna attended Brandeis University, the Boston Hebrew College, Merkaz HaRav Kook in Jerusalem, and Yale University, where he obtained his doctorate. He has taught and lectured on four continents, has appeared in half-a-dozen documentary films, and is regularly quoted in newspapers across the world and has written, edited, or coedited more than thirty books, most recently Lincoln and the Jews: A History published by Thomas Dunne Books in March 2015.  He is probably best known for his acclaimed American Judaism: A History, winner of the Jewish Book Council’s Jewish Book of the Year Award, and soon to appear in a second revised edition. It has been praised as being “the single best description of American Judaism during its 350 years on American soil.”