How Abraham Lincoln Was Convinced the U.S. Army Should Have Jewish Chaplains

Historians have long known that in the midst of the Civil War, a Dutch-American cantor named Arnold Fischel successfully put forth the case to President Lincoln that the Union army should have Jewish, and not only Christian, chaplains. But the details of the story are quite different from the widely circulated version, concludes Adam D. Mendelsohn in his book Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War. Andrew Silow-Carroll writes:

According to a frequently retold version of the story, Fischel had been nominated to replace a Jewish layman named Michael Allen who had been forced out as chaplain of the Fifth Pennsylvania Cavalry, allegedly at the request of a visiting delegation from the YMCA. Horace Greeley’s crusading New York Tribune and other papers picked up the story and made a hero of the Jewish officer who had mustered the cavalry, Colonel Max Friedman, supposedly for “leading the charge against the unjust law.”

In fact, writes Mendelsohn, Allen was not kicked out as chaplain but probably resigned because he wasn’t enjoying his army service far from home. As for the colonel, “There is no evidence of a coordinated campaign by Friedman and his fellow Jews to elect Arnold Fischel in place of Allen.” Instead, Fischel’s contract with Shearith Israel, [the Manhattan synagogue where he served as cantor], was about to expire, and he sought the cavalry job because he was in “urgent need” of the army’s relatively generous pay for chaplains.

Friedman, meanwhile, vigorously denied press reports that his 700-man cavalry, which had fewer than twenty Jewish soldiers, needed a Jewish chaplain. Mendelsohn found evidence that Friedman shrank from the attention, in part because he was a bit of a scammer: like many officers in his day, he charged the government for no-show recruits, sold commissions to officers, and got a cut of the profits from government contractors, known as “sutlers.” Even Michael Allen—who sold liquor—might have been in on the grift.

Read more at JTA

More about: Abraham Lincoln, American Civil War, American Jewish History, Jews in the military

Hizballah Is Learning Israel’s Weak Spots

On Tuesday, a Hizballah drone attack injured three people in northern Israel. The next day, another attack, targeting an IDF base, injured eighteen people, six of them seriously, in Arab al-Amshe, also in the north. This second attack involved the simultaneous use of drones carrying explosives and guided antitank missiles. In both cases, the defensive systems that performed so successfully last weekend failed to stop the drones and missiles. Ron Ben-Yishai has a straightforward explanation as to why: the Lebanon-backed terrorist group is getting better at evading Israel defenses. He explains the three basis systems used to pilot these unmanned aircraft, and their practical effects:

These systems allow drones to act similarly to fighter jets, using “dead zones”—areas not visible to radar or other optical detection—to approach targets. They fly low initially, then ascend just before crashing and detonating on the target. The terrain of southern Lebanon is particularly conducive to such attacks.

But this requires skills that the terror group has honed over months of fighting against Israel. The latest attacks involved a large drone capable of carrying over 50 kg (110 lbs.) of explosives. The terrorists have likely analyzed Israel’s alert and interception systems, recognizing that shooting down their drones requires early detection to allow sufficient time for launching interceptors.

The IDF tries to detect any incoming drones on its radar, as it had done prior to the war. Despite Hizballah’s learning curve, the IDF’s technological edge offers an advantage. However, the military must recognize that any measure it takes is quickly observed and analyzed, and even the most effective defenses can be incomplete. The terrain near the Lebanon-Israel border continues to pose a challenge, necessitating technological solutions and significant financial investment.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Hizballah, Iron Dome, Israeli Security