In February 1861, on the way to his inauguration as America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln stopped in Trenton, New Jersey, where he described himself as a “humble instrument in the hands of the Almighty, and of this, his almost chosen people, for perpetuating the object of that great struggle.” In describing Americans as an “almost chosen people,” Lincoln points to the Hebrew Bible and the miraculous story of the Jewish People as the American model of a particular nation with a distinctive purpose and universal significance. Americans no longer share a common understanding of the meaning of America’s “great struggle.” What is this nation for? What did Abraham Lincoln mean when he called the American people “almost chosen”? Freedom is essential to the American constitutional order, but Lincoln thought the soul of the nation was destined for “something even more than National Independence; that something that held out a great promise to all the people of the world to all time to come.” Rabbi Dr. Meir Soloveichik of Congregation Shearith Israel and Yeshiva University will shed light on the debate gripping America about the meaning of nationalism, our civic identity, the role of religion in the public square, and how both biblical and philosophical ideas inspired the American founding and American public life to this day.

Rabbi Meir Y. Soloveichik

Meir Y. Soloveichik is Director of the Zahava and Moshael Straus Center for Torah and Western Thought at Yeshiva University and the Rabbi of Congregation Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. Prior to this, Rabbi Soloveichik served as Associate Rabbi at Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan. Rabbi Soloveichik has lectured throughout the United States, in Europe, and in Israel to both Jewish and non-Jewish audiences on topics relating to Jewish theology, bioethics, wartime ethics, and Jewish-Christian relations. His essays on these subjects have appeared in Mosaic, the Wall Street JournalCommentaryFirst Things, Azure, Tradition, and the Torah U-Madda Journal. In August 2012, he gave the invocation at the opening session of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. He is the son of Rabbi Eliyahu Soloveichik, grandson of the late Rabbi Ahron Soloveichik, and the great nephew of the late Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik.