Washington's First Letter to Jews Is Lost
Savannah, Ga. — Just a little more than a year after George Washington became America’s first president, Levi Sheftall, a Jew from Savannah, wrote him a letter. Sheftall, president of Congregation Mickve Israel, congratulated Washington on behalf of his fellow Savannah Jews, who had high hopes for religious freedom in their new country.
But as if to prove that even in its infancy, American Jewry was rife with jealousy and infighting, this seemingly innocuous letter caused an uproar.
Why was Savannah first, Jews in other communities wanted to know. Congregations in New York, Philadelphia, Charleston, S.C. and Richmond, Va. soon remedied the matter, sending a joint letter of congratulation to Washington. But not before the Jews of Newport, R.I., had sent a letter of their own. The rest is history.
Washington’s famous reply to the Jews of Newport, in which he vowed that America would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance,” continues to resonate today as an American pledge of religious freedom, even though the document disappeared from public view 10 years ago. As the Forward reported earlier this year, it is owned by a private foundation and currently held in an art storage facility in suburban Maryland....
comments powered by Disqus
- King Tut had overbite, club foot because his parents were brother and sister
- Prehistoric humans were far smarter than previously assumed
- Priests race to save manuscripts from jihadists in Iraq
- Where Mud Is Archaeological Gold, Russian History Grew on Trees
- Conflict Uncovers a Ukrainian Identity Crisis Over Deep Russian Roots
- Highlights of the recent Oral History Association Meeting
- Rick Perlstein response to Sam Tanenhaus's complaint that he's an aggregator
- Thai historian faces charges for daring to challenge a story about a royal king
- It's Rick Perlstein vs. Judith Stein in a Three Round Fight
- Park Honan, a Biographer of Authors, Is Dead at 86