Letter by Civil War Jewish Chaplain
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Rabbi Arnold Fischel’s election as “Jewish Chaplain” of the 5th PA Cavalry was challenged... and then set a precedent! [JEWS IN THE CIVIL WAR]. RABBI ARNOLD FISCHEL.
Autograph Letter Signed to Dr. Joshua T. Cohen, New York, Chesvan, 5621 (Nov., 1861). Penciled notation by Cohen at top after receipt of letter. 1 p., 5 x 7⅞ in.
Thanking Dr. Cohen for his “exertions in my behalf. I have already excepted engagements to lecture [his popular format The Israelites in America] elsewhere during the first weeks of Jan. and Feb. so that I must give up the idea of accepting the offer of the Historical society.”
Dr. Joshua J. Cohen (1801-70), a physician became one of the country’s leading specialist in diseases of the ear and eye and served as President of Medical Faculty of U. of MD.Excellent, and supremely scarce.
The Dragoons, led by Col. Max Friedman, was composed heavily of Jewish officers and men. They forced a test case for which U.S. laws were changed to allow for chaplains of the Jewish faith (not only for the American Army) to serve in the military. This led to the first instance of official recognition of Jewish clerics on the battlefield... anywhere in the modern world.
Rabbi Arnold Fischel, leader of a New York congregation and one of the earliest lecturers on the history of Jews in America. He was elected to the post of chaplain for the Dragoons. The Sec. of War, by regulation, had to then deny him the post as it was available only to “ministers of the Christian faith.” “The case went right up the ladder directly to Lincoln who was personally responsible for changing the regulations.
(There is, of course, more to the fascinating story; one well-told in American Jewry and the Civil War by B.W. Korn and in lengthy detail in the “American Jewish Historical Quarterly” June, 1971.)