Philadelphia Jewish Museum Displays George Washington Letter

Philadelphia Jewish Museum Displays George Washington Letter

George Washington Letter, National Museum of American Jewish HistoryYesterday saw one of the most significant documents in the history of New World Jews go on display at the National Museum of American Jewish History.

Part of its very first special exhibition, ‘To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom’ the Jewish Museum is showcasing items which although old, still carry as much relevance as they ever did.According to the museum’s chief curator, Josh Perelman, “What was at the forefront of 18th-century debate, is still relevant today, a time when religion is a topic of wide civic discussion, a time when there is a Mormon presidential candidate.”

Out of public view for a decade, the special document is a letter written by President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I. in August 1790. In response to a letter from Moses Seixas, warden of the congregation, after the first presidential visit to the state,Washington writes powerfully and eloquently. As Perelman has said, “The letter Washington writes back is, to my mind, one of the most powerful and, I would say, important statements made by an American president about religious freedom.”

Washington writes, ” …The Citizens of the United States of America… All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship. It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens…”

The letter in no doubt still resonates with not onlyAmericabut the whole world, serving to highlight the importance of religious acceptance and the lack there of.

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