NPR for North Texas
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

340 Words Of Reassurance From George Washington To An American Hebrew Congregation


We're going to take a moment now to sit with the words of an American president to some of our nation's earliest Jewish citizens. Back in the summer of 1790, George Washington visited Newport, R.I. His secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, was in tow. And among the people they met were officials from Yeshuat Israel, the first Hebrew congregation in Newport.


A few days later after leaving, Washington sat down and wrote them a letter - 340 words offering reassurance that Jews would be safe in this new nation and that American values would reflect tolerance and respect for all faiths and religions. Washington writes (reading) the government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that those who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.

KELLY: The first American president goes on to quote from the Book of Micah. (Reading) May the children of the stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the goodwill of the other inhabitants while everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree. And there shall be none to make him afraid.


SHAPIRO: Part of a letter from President George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, R.I., dated August 21, 1790.

(SOUNDBITE OF HOLLAND'S "COLD SPECKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.