Howard Mortman: Why Does Congress Pray Every Day?
The United States may be a secular nation but Congress has begun every session since before there was a Bill of Rights with a prayer. In When Rabbis Bless Congress, Howard Mortman explores that weird tradition while paying special attention to Jewish religious leaders whose first appearance came in early 1860, when the pro-slavery, Swedish-born Morris Jacob Raphall addressed Congress weeks before Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as president. Raphall’s exotic garb and anodyne invocations of divine blessings were received warmly by both Southern members and The New York Times.
“This is a book for lovers of congressional history, for junkies of congressional history,” says Mortman, who tells Nick Gillespie that the content of the prayers adds up to an interesting, off-kilter history of the nation. From slavery and the Civil War to the Depression and World War II to Vietnam and women’s rights, the addresses made by religious leaders are “mirroring what we as a country are experiencing.”
For the past
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