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Annual reading of Washington’s Letter to the Touro Synagogue

Annual reading of Washington’s Letter to the Touro Synagogue

I’ve written previously about George Washington’s 1790 letter to the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, in my post Passover Is No Time To Wish For The End Of Christian America

Washington’s letter should be required reading, but I doubt many people have read it.

But today in Newport the letter was read out loud as it is annually, as reported by The Providence Journal:

Dignitaries, Jewish leaders and ordinary citizens will crowd into Touro Synagogue on Sunday for the annual reading of George Washington’s historic letter to the “Hebrew congregation in Newport.”

But as tribute is paid to the first president’s famous words assuring religious freedom — “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” — the original 1790 letter is mysteriously kept hidden away….

Here is part of the text of the letter:

May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree, and there shall be none to make him afraid. May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.

An image of the rarely seen original is here.  [Note 2-27-2012 – link broken since ProJo went behind a paywall and killed all prior public links]


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What I see of significance in Washington’s words is “there shall be none to make him afraid”.

The Founding President and Father of our nation did not say “let us make afraid he who owns private jets”.

He did not say “let us make some pay for others to live without working”.

Instead he wrote “every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and figtree”. His own. Not his neighbors. Not his taxed vine and figtree robbed to give to those without figs”.

He would be very, very disappointed by how far from the original vision we have fallen.

Makes me feel even more proud to call him the father of our country. We were blessed.

Oh, well said, on both sides! Thank you for posting them. This was a new bit of our history for me.

DINORightMarie | August 21, 2011 at 10:16 pm

I only wish there was a LIKE button. Thank you for the inspiration. May we be blessed again with such a great leader. 🙂

When I think of President Washington and compare him to many of the ones who followed him, I am ashamed. Our Country has slid backwards. It is time to correct this course.

Washington’s words were not just comfort to the American Jews of his time, but proof of his commitment to freedom of religion in this country. That is, he was walking the talk.

An interesting part, to me, was this: “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue TO MERIT and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants…”. IOW, those who seek religious freedom here must EARN the goodwill of their fellow Americans by obeying America’s laws, by not insisting on special treatment, by not betraying and killing other Americans, and by not trying to force their religious laws on our country.

The Jews have acquitted themselves most admirably. However, the large gaping hole in Manhattan is a stark reminder that Muslims have NOT earned Americans’ goodwill. They will not earn this American’s goodwill until they learn to love life and God more than death and conquest.

PresPalin2012 | August 22, 2011 at 4:44 am

The Patriotic American people, appreciate the many blessings, that President and General George Washington, gave to this Nation.. and there are so many, that there are an infinite number of them, the first of which is his absolute insightful enlightened humanitarian wisdom and knowledge and compassion and mercy, which is itself, imbedded in the US Constitution, as well as the Declaration of Independence.. which is that all people, desire and wish to be, and love Free from Tyranny and Oppression, and to have a place to worship, and to call home, and to have peace and security for their family and loved ones, in a nation that protects all of that..

Only those who chose to be ignorant of them, or opposed to them, are the ones who will not defend them, are deposed to let enemies of Freedom and Liberty, prevail over all that President and General George Washington, and has bestowed upon America, and the future American generations that have followed, and that will follow.. and such people like Obama, and all the liberal progressives, just do not see, and understand, because they are not of the same belief system.

Unfortunately, there is no rationalizing or reasoning with the enemies of America, and the US Constitution.. because they could care less, and is why they must be defeated, period.

President Ronald Reagan once said:
“Democracy and Freedom, must be defended with each generation, for if it is not, it will surely Perish”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

I plead ignorance as to why the letter is rarely seen. Is it in the care of the synogogue or is it in a government archive?

    William A. Jacobson in reply to caplight. | August 22, 2011 at 4:28 pm

    Per ProJo article, it is owned by a private individual who will not lend it out for display, but did agree to have it photographed.

Thank you, Professor. I can’t imagine what it must be like to own a national treasure like that.