Thanks to the impressive wartime feats of famous alumnus Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, Bowdoin has a special connection to the Civil War era. Jonathan Sarna, the Chief Historian of the National Museum of American Jewish History, offered a new take on this legacy when he delivered this year's Harry Spindel Memorial Lecture in Kresge Auditorium on March 29.
Sarna's talk, titled "That Obnoxious Order: Ulysses S. Grant and the Jews," stemmed from General Grant's 1862 order that all Jews must be removed from his war zone. As president, Grant appointed the most Jews to public office than any president before him, but his name will be forever tainted by his cruel declaration.
Sarna has been a top candidate to present the Spindel Lecture at Bowdoin for many years. A committee of Bowdoin faculty and staff choose one person each year to speak on Judaic studies or contemporary Jewish affairs. The current co-chairs of the committee are Associate Director of Communications for New Media David Israel and Librarian Sherrie Bergman.
"The committee tries to have individuals from a variety of backgrounds, scholarly disciplines, and professions," said Bergman. "[Sarna] was an obvious choice because he's the leading Jewish-American historian."
In addition to his post at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, Sarna is a Professor of American Jewish History at Brandeis University. He has authored or edited over 20 books about Jewish history.