The Annual Reading of Washington’s Letter to the Touro Synagogue

When I lecture on Was America Founded as a Christian Nation, I am often asked about what the founding fathers thought about religious liberty for Jews.  While there were not many Jews in revolutionary America (probably between 1300 and 3000 Jews in a population of close to 3 million), nearly all of the founders defended the right of Jews to worship freely.  In most states, Jews were not permitted to hold political office, but they could practice their faith without persecution.

When asked about Jews I often refer to George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island.  (You can read it here).  In this letter, Washington affirmed the right of the Touro Jews to worship according to their consciences.

I learned recently that Washington’s is read annually in the Touro Synagogue.  Read all about it at The Providence Journal.

BTW, for a solid treatment of Jews in early America, I recommend Bill Pencak’s Jews and Gentiles in Early America, 1654-1800 (University of Michigan Press, 2005).

One thought on “The Annual Reading of Washington’s Letter to the Touro Synagogue

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