B'nei Anusim Center for Education

Bringing Together and Educating Descendants of Sephardic Conversos

George Washington’s Letter to the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island

Visiting the Touro Synagogue this week was an amazing experience. I knew about its history but actually walking into the building was moving.  I was not aware of the fact that George Washington had visited. He also wrote a letter to the community, which I believe, exemplifies the best of the American experience. Having dissimulated for 8 or more generations, the founders of the Newport Synagogue had truly found religious freedom. President George Washington’s letter to them is below.

Gentlemen:

While I received with much satisfaction your address replete with expressions of esteem, I rejoice in the opportunity of assuring you that I shall always retain grateful remembrance of the cordial welcome I experienced on my visit to Newport from all classes of citizens.

The reflection on the days of difficulty and danger which are past is rendered the more sweet from a consciousness that they are succeeded by days of uncommon prosperity and security.

If we have wisdom to make the best use of the advantages with which we are now favored, we cannot fail, under the just administration of a good government, to become a great and happy people.

Touro Synagogue

The citizens of the United States of America have a right to applaud themselves for having given to mankind examples of an enlarged and liberal policy—a policy worthy of imitation. All possess alike liberty of conscience and immunities of citizenship.

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

It would be inconsistent with the frankness of my character not to avow that I am pleased with your favorable opinion of my administration and fervent wishes for my felicity.

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 fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.

G. Washington


Posted by Rabbi Juan Bejarano-Gutierrez, the director of the B’nei Anusim Center for Education, and author of What is Kosher?

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One comment on “George Washington’s Letter to the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island

  1. Spotlight Gesundheit
    May 14, 2016

    Fantastic post! Made my night!

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