The National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia will soon be putting Washington’s 1790 letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport, Rhode Island on display. The letter remains Washington’s most important statement on religious liberty. Here is a taste from CNN:
The document will be accompanied by an exhibit called “To Bigotry No Sanction: George Washington and Religious Freedom,” which will run June 29 to September 30. Barsky said the exhibit came together only after the museum was certain it could showcase Washington’s letter.
Before going into storage in 2002, the letter was on display at the Klutznick Museum at B’nai B’rith International Headquarters in Washington. It was on display there for 45 years before the organization downsized, closing its museum. The letter went into storage.
After that, many people did not realize where the letter had gone, according to Jane Eisner, editor of Forward, a Jewish newspaper. Eisner dedicated a series of editorials over the last year to lobbying for public display of the letter. She also sent a reporter, Paul Berger, to research the history of the letter.
“This is one of those rare moments as a journalist where you can see the fruits of your labor,” Eisner said. “All we had was all Washington had, which was words. We just have our words and arguments that we try to put out in the public sphere as best we could.”
I should add that by all reports the National Museum of American Jewish History’s (relatively) new building is outstanding. I hope to pay a visit soon.