It’s been referred to as likely “the most important document in American Jewish history” but it hasn’t been on public display for nearly a decade.
It’s George Washington’s 1790 letter to “the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island” and it would most likely fetch millions of dollars at auction, but it’s tucked away in storage in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
The Jewish Daily Forward has printed a fascinating article about the historic document and its adventures over the years.
In the letter, Washington underscores the importance of religious freedom for all, saying the newly-formed United States has a government “which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Historians would like to see the letter on display — perhaps at the new national Jewish history museum in Philadelphia or at the Library of Congress.
Here’s a couple of other ideas. The letter would be a worthy addition to the National Archives building where the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution are on display. Or, it could become the crown jewel at the Newseum — a shrine to the First Amendment (which covers freedom of speech, the press and religion…)