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Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray

B’nai Sholom to Screen “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray,” Documentary About Role of Jewish Soldiers in the Civil War

B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany will host a screening of “Jewish Soldiers in Blue and Gray,” a 2011 documentary about the little-known history of the Civil War Jews who fought on both sides of the battlefield, and a discussion led by congregant Sam Spitzberg.

The film will be shown Saturday, November 17, at 7:30 p.m. at B’nai Sholom, 420 Whitehall Road, Albany. Admission: $3 contribution.

Brother against brother, Jew against Jew, 10,000 Jewish soldiers fought in the nation’s deadliest war – 7,000 for the Union, 3,000 for the Confederacy, numbers proportionally higher than other American groups. Allegiances during the war split the Jewish community as deeply as it did the nation at large: some prominent Jews, including Jewish slave owners, cited the Torah to justify slavery, while others were leaders in the abolitionist movement or established their synagogues as stops on the Underground Railroad. This 2011 documentary features compelling stories of Jews’ roles in the Civil War, including Ulysses S. Grant’s infamous “General Order No. 11” expelling Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi; the rise of Sephardic Jew Judah P. Benjamin to secretary of state of the Confederacy; and the unlikely story of Abraham Lincoln’s Jewish doctor, who moved through the South as a Union spy.

Directed, produced and written by Jonathan Gruber, this dramatic and visually rich film, which debuted at the 2011 New York Jewish Film Festival, is narrated by Oscar®-nominated screenwriter John Milius (“Apocalypse Now”) with Sam Waterson (“Law & Order”) voicing Abraham Lincoln.

The film promises to spark an interesting discussion to be led by Spitzberg, who will provide introductory remarks before the screening. Spitzberg completed his Army basic training four days before 9/11 and served as a military lawyer from 2001 to 2005. He returned to active duty in 2006 to represent the only officer charged in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. Spitzberg is still a major in the Army Reserve and has served as commander of the Jewish War Veterans post in Albany.

For more information, contact the B’nai Sholom office at 518-482-5283 or e-mail

Founded in 1971, B’nai Sholom Reform Congregation in Albany is a home for contemporary Reform Judaism in the Capital Region. Nearly 160 diverse households from six counties seek religious, educational and social fulfillment at B’nai Sholom.

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