27 March 1863: “It has been charged by both the ignorant and the evil-disposed against the people of our faith, that the Israelite does not fight in the battles of his country!”

Item description: This pamphlet contains a sermon delivered by Reverend M. J. Michelbacher of the Beth Ahabah Synagogue in Richmond, Virginia. In it he refutes claims that the Jewish people of the South are not actively supporting the Confederate cause and argues against charges of hoarding and speculation.

Item transcription:

On the Day of Prayer, Recommended by the President of
the C. S. of A., the 27th of March, 1863,



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Nehemiah III. 33, to V. 13, inclusive.

BRETHREN OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL: It is due to you, to whom I always speak of your faults, without fear, favour or affection, to say, I have carefully investigated your conduct from the commencement of this war to the present time, and I am happy in coming to the unbiassed conclusion, that you have fulfilled your duties as good citizens and as men, who love their country. It has been charged by both the ignorant and the evil-disposed against the people of our faith, that the Israelite does not fight in the battles of his country! All history attests the untruthfulness of this ungracious charge, generated in the cowardly hearts and born between the hypocritical lips of ungenerous and prejudiced foes. The Israelite has never failed to defend the soil of his birth, or the land of his adoption– the Emperors of France and Russia will bear evidence to the verity of this assertion. In respect to those Israelites who are now in the army of the Confederate States, I will merely say, that their patriotism and valor have never been doubted by such men as have the magnanimous souls of Lee, Johnston, Jackson and others of like manhood. The recorded votes and acts of the Israelites of this Confederacy, amply prove their devotion to the support of its Government. They well understand their duties as citizens and soldiers, and the young men do not require the persuasion of conscription to convert them into soldiers, to defend, as they verily believe, the only free government in North America. Many of our young men have been crippled for life, or slain upon the field of battle, in the service of the Confederate States, and there are several thousands yet coursing the campaigns of war against those enemies of our Confederacy, who are as detestable to them, as were the Philistines to David and his countrymen.
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The humanity and providence of the Israelite for the distressed families of the soldiers of our army, have allayed the pangs of poverty and brought comfort to households, wherein before were only seen hopelessness and misery. In this you have performed your duties as Israelites and as citizens–and, for this, may the God of our fathers shower upon you all the blessings which He confers upon His favorite children!

There is another cry heard, and it was even repeated in the Halls of Congress, that the Israelite is oppressing the people– that he is engaged in the great sin of speculating and extorting in the bread and meat of the land. To discover the character of this accusation, I have made due inquiry–the information I have acquired upon this head, from sources that extend from the Potomac to the Rio Grande, plainly present the fact, that the Israelites are not speculators nor extortioners. As traders and as merchants, they buy merchandise and sell the same immediately; the merchandize is never put aside, or hoarded to enhance its value, by withdrawing it from the market. Flour, meal, wheat, corn, bacon, beef, coal and wood are hardly ever found in the mercantile magazines or storehouses of the Israelite–he buys some of these articles for his own consumption, but he buys none of them to sell again–he does not extort–it is obvious to the most obtuse mind that the high prices of the Israelite would drive all his customers into the stores of his Christian neighbours; but is such the effect of the price of the Israelite’s goods?

The peculiar characteristic of the Jewish merchant is seen in his undelayed, rapid and instant sales; his temperament does not allow him, by hoarding his goods, to risk time with his money, which, with him, is as restless as the waves of the sea that bears the ships that convey the manufactured goods of his customers. I thank God, that my investigation has proved to me that the cry against the Jew is a false one–this cry, though cunningly devised after the most approved model of villainy, will not subserve the base and unjust purpose of hindering the virtuous indignation of a suffering people, from tracing the true path of the extortioner, and awarding to him who deals in the miseries, life and blood of our fellow-citizens, that punishment…

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Item citation: Michelbacher, M. J. (Maximilian J.), 1811?-1879. A sermon delivered on the day of prayer recommended by the President of the C.S. of A. : the 27th of March, 1863, at the German Hebrew synagogue Bayth Ahabah. Richmond : Macfarlane & Fergusson, 1863. 4169 Conf. Rare Book Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

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