Seth Lipsky: A Missing Monument to Religious Freedom
Mr. Lipsky was editor of the Forward from 1990 to 2000.
The annual reading of George Washington's letter to the Jews—which took place this weekend at the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I.—will echo with extra significance this year, as a campaign is now under way to make the original letter available for public viewing.
The campaign was launched earlier this year by the Jewish Daily Forward after the newspaper discovered that Washington's letter—in which he vowed that the new American government would "give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance"—is locked away in storage by an owner who is loath to share access with the rest of his countrymen.
Neither the Forward nor anyone else is suggesting that the owner, who bought the letter in 1949, is not within his rights. The letter is, after all, private property. But it is also a national treasure, containing one of the greatest statements on religious liberty of all time. And the campaign to give it a public home—so it can be leaned over and read as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution are—comes at a time when the free exercise of religion is increasingly constrained around the world...
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