Dear Fifth Grade Parents,
In Fifth Grade, we discovered the experience of the Jews of Paducah, Kentucky, in 1862, who, facing Ullyses Grant's "General Order Eleven," would defend their rights by going all the way to President Lincoln.
Becoming upset about a trade scandal involving some of the Jewish and non-Jewish residents of the Paducah as well as parts of Tennessee and Mississippi, General Grant issued an order which unfairly scapegoated all 30 Jewish residents of Paducah, and the Jews of certain other towns, and declared that the Jews must be removed from these areas. Finding themselves forced into boats sailing up-river, out of state, and away from their homes and workplaces, the Jews found a leader in Cesar J. Kaskel.
Kaskel's arrangements in Washington, DC, led to a meeting with President Abraham Lincoln in which "Honest Abe" saw the wrongdoing that had been done by General Order Eleven. As President, Lincoln took the steps necessary to negate and reverse the order so that the Jewish residents could return to their Paducah homes.
We explored how the idea that a people could be scapegoated for the actions of individuals was powerfully replaced in this case by respect for individual differences and the restoration of the Jewish people to the presumption of innocence protected under the Constitution.
You might ask your Fifth Grade children, what character strengths did it take within Cesar Kaskel to stand up for the rights of the Jewish people of Paducah and other towns? What character traits and accomplishments did Kaskel have that were similar and different from the traits of the other Jewish Civil War era leaders like Rebecca Gratz, Iaaac Leeser, and Rabbi David Einhorn?
Your 5th Grader might also enjoy a conversation about Lincoln's rationale and its interesting lesson. Lincoln reasoned that the Jewish community had contributed much to the nation - therefore it should not be mistreated by the government.
You might ask your 5th Grader about the importance of making a positive difference in the nation and the world, so that in life, making a positive difference for others can help create relationships in which others will also want to make a difference for us?In addition, how might the Jews' restoration of rights and liberties in Paducah have set a precedent for other examples of people's rights being protected, in the history of the U.S.A. right up to this day?
Finally, how is this real life story about American Jews over a century ago, similar or different compared to the celebration of the holiday of Purim?
Wishing all a great week...Shalom!
Sincerely,Micha'el A. Bedar