Ambassador Loeb Hails Display of Washington Letter to Hebrew Congregation

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Former US Ambassador to Denmark John L. Loeb, Jr., founder of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, expressed his pleasure that the Morris Morgenstern Foundation will permit the National Museum of American Jewish History to display the handwritten original of letter written by the nation's first president to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI in 1790.

"... The most significant statement on religious freedom ever penned by an American president"

Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. cheered the news today that the Morgenstern Foundation, sole owner of the George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation written in 1790, has agreed to a three-month display of the original document at the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia beginning June 29.

The ambassador, founder of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, applauds both parties and says, “For the first time in a decade the public can see with their own eyes the most significant statement on religious freedom ever penned by an American president.”

He adds, “I am absolutely delighted that the Morgenstern Foundation and the National Museum of American Jewish History have made this display possible. It is my deepest hope that following the break-through exhibit in Philadelphia, this unique document of national importance will continue to be available to other appropriate institutions, giving it the ongoing exposure it deserves.”

The Letter was on public display at the Bnai Brith Klutznick Museum in Washington, DC until its doors closed in 2002. Since then, the document, with its historic presidential message that religious belief is both a matter of personal conscience and inherent natural right, has been in secure archival storage. A series of newspaper stories in recent months has called for it to be on public display.

In 2009, the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom opened the Ambassador John L. Loeb Visitors Center at the Touro Synagogue National Historic Site in Newport. The Center focuses on the context and content of Washington’s Letter and provides exhibits that tell the story of the Jewish experience in colonial Newport, especially the construction and significance of the Touro Synagogue

“As founder of The George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom,” the ambassador says, “I have been so inspired by the text of Washington’s message to the Jewish community of Newport that our Institute has funded several national teacher training organizations to create programs and curricula based on Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation. We want to encourage student exploration of religious freedom and separation of church and state.”

For further information about the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom and the Loeb Visitors Center on the campus of Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI, please call 212-509-1500, x. 15 or visit http://www.GWIRF.org or http://www.Tourosynagogue.org.

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