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In his wonderful book Land of Lincoln, Andrew Ferguson recalls meeting an immigrant family from Thailand who ran a restaurant in Chicago just a few blocks from the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where I grew up. This couple, Oscar Esche and his wife, had developed a passionate devotion to Abraham Lincoln, and they explain to Ferguson how it began. Esche says, “My wife sees the license plate on all the cars after we move here to Chicago. ‘Land of Lincoln,’ they say. She wonders, ‘Who is this Lincoln?’ So she gets a book from a friend to read about Lincoln. . . . My wife reads the book, and we realize, we must go pay respects to this man. He is a very great man. He helps the poor. He tells everyone that they are equal. . . . This is very important.”

Esche points to a small statue in his restaurant, a reproduction of the Lincoln memorial. “We bought a statue,” he says, “to show our respect . . . and ever since that time we have statue, our business never go down. Always the business goes up. . . . Lincoln does this.” Esche explains that in gratitude to ­Lincoln, every morning he sets out a sacrifice before the statue: “It’s full meal—everything, entrée, dessert, appetizer. . . . We change the meal every day. . . . We serve him everything.” At this point Mrs. Esche interrupts, correcting him in Thai. “Yes,” Mr. ­Esche says. “Everything but no pork. . . . We do not want to be disrespectful.” To a puzzled Ferguson, ­Esche clarifies his meaning: “He is Abraham Lincoln, yes? . . . Jewish people, they don’t eat pork.”

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