A House Divided

Jewish soldiers fought on both sides in the Civil War, and the Washington congregation helped ease wartime suffering.

During the war, the women of the Washington Hebrew Congregation raised money for the U.S. Sanitary Commission, which administered wartime relief to soldiers and their families. The congregation’s visiting nursing corps ministered to injured Jewish soldiers. Unclaimed bodies of Jewish war dead were buried in the congregation’s cemetery. When President Abraham Lincoln was shot, a Jewish physician—Charles Liebermann—was among the doctors called to his bedside.

Some Jewish soldiers who had come to Washington during the war stayed in the capital.

My dedication to my country’s flag rests on my ardent belief in the noblest of causes, equality for all.

Leopold Karpeles, 1870

Karpeles

1860s: Leopold Karpeles carried the regimental colors for the Union Army in more than 15 battles, including Gettysburg. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for rallying the troops during the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia. Later wounded, Karpeles was brought to Washington, where he recuperated under the care of Washington Hebrew’s visiting nurses. After the war, he married one of his nurses, Sarah Mundheim, and became a clerk in the U.S. Postal Department.

JHSGW Collections.

Karpeles letter

On the stationery of the newly formed Medal of Honor Legion, Karpeles wrote this letter concerning his military pension.

JHSGW Collections.

Hannah Mundheim

1860s: Hannah Mundheim headed Washington Hebrew’s visiting nursing corps.

JHSGW Collections. Photograph by Mathew Brady.

Simon Mundheim

Hannah’s husband, Simon, was the shochet (ritual butcher) of Washington Hebrew. Their daughter, Sarah, married Leopold Karpeles.

JHSGW Collections. Photograph by Mathew Brady.

Hart

1865 and beyond: Among the Jewish soldiers who lived in Washington after the Civil War were Abraham Hart, Adajah Behrend, and Bernard Nordlinger.

Hart, a veteran of the Union Army, practiced law.

JHSGW Collections. Gift of Frank Rich, Sr. 2008.4

Behrend

Behrend, who served as a Union Army hospital steward, became a doctor after receiving a medical degree from Georgetown University in 1866.

JHSGW Collections. Nordlinger-Behrend-Goldstein Family Archives. 2000.04

Nordlinger

Nordlinger, a former Confederate war prisoner, opened a shoe store on M Street in Georgetown.

Bernard Nordlinger. Courtesy of Robin Nordlinger Leiman.

Funeral procession

April 19, 1865: Among those marching in President Lincoln’s funeral procession were 125 men of Washington Hebrew Congregation.

Courtesy of Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library.

Lincoln statue

The Lansburgh brothers donated $500 toward the first monument to the President’s memory. It still stands in front of the old City Hall at 4th and D Streets, NW.

Courtesy of Washingtoniana Division, DC Public Library.

Karpeles
Karpeles letter
Hannah Mundheim
Simon Mundheim
Hart
Behrend
Nordlinger
Funeral procession
Lincoln statue