The document that marks our Independence Day is, of course, the Declaration of Independence. But there’s another document worth looking at today, written by another founding father, that tells a story not just of liberty, but of religious tolerance.
The letter was penned by George Washington to a Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island. In it, our first president vowed that America would give “to bigotry, no sanction, to persecution, no assistance.” The letter is widely regarded to be Washington’s most eloquent statement on religious liberty, and for the last decade it had been lost and hidden from view in a warehouse in Maryland.
It’s since been recovered with the help of the Jewish Forward — the largest Jewish newspaper in the country. And it is now on display at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.
Jane Eisner is The Forward’s editor-in-chief. She pushed to get the letter displayed to the public.