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Jewish Reads for Presidents’ Day

FDR and the Jews, noshing at the White House, and more

Stephanie Butnick
February 13, 2015

Monday is President’s Day, a day that honors the birthdays of Presidents Abraham Lincoln and and George Washington. Here are some Jewish reads about those and other American presidents, their policies, and, most importantly, their food.

Why didn’t FDR help European Jews? Rafael Medoff finds hints in his decision To intern Japanese Americans during World War II.

Joan Nathan recalls years of visiting the White House and shares what each president served. She also describes the process by which kosher meals became easier to come by—and more delicious—at White House events. She also shares the recipe for the Moroccan-Israeli eggplant salad Dahan catering served at the White House’s 2010 Jewish American Heritage Month ceremony.

Adam Kirsch reviews a book about Harry Truman’s role in the creation of the State of Israel (spoiler: the review is called the ‘Truman No-Show’).

Jonathan Sarna writes about President Ulysses S. Grant and the birth of the “Jewish vote” in American politics in the 19th century (for more, check out his 2012 book, When General Grant Expelled the Jews).

A book called How To be Secular makes a historical case for a strong church-state division, citing Thomas Jefferson as the founding father who established secularism as a dominant force in American public life.

“Why have I turned to political satire?” Philip Roth once wrote. “In a word: Nixon.” Revisiting Our Gang, Roth’s overlooked 1971 send-up of Richard Nixon.

There’s been a long-running love affair between American presidents and Jewish artists, which ultimately enabled the wider acceptance of Jews in America. But is it over?

Lyndon Johnson was scheduled to visit Cathy Schechter’s Austin shul the day after John F. Kennedy died. Johnson didn’t made it to Austin that day, but you can read about how the new president made up the date and honored a long Jewish friendship.

J. Hoberman writes that Steven Spielberg’s Civil War biopic Lincoln portrays a man leading his people to the gates of the Promised Land: Avraham Lincoln avinu.

Tablet will be dark Monday, Feb. 16 in observance of President’s Day. We’ll see you back here Tuesday.

Stephanie Butnick is chief strategy officer of Tablet Magazine, co-founder of Tablet Studios, and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.