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Washington's Rebuke to Bigotry: Reflections on Our First President's Famous 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation In Newport, Rhode Island

Washington's Rebuke to Bigotry: Reflections on Our First President's Famous 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation In Newport, Rhode Island




George Washington’s 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, a foundational document in the history of religious freedom in the United States, embodies a vision of religious harmony that remains deeply pertinent in our increasingly diverse society. In Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry, scholars from across the disciplines use the letter as a springboard to engage with important and timely questions regarding religious freedom, religious diversity, and civic identity. 

Washington’s Rebuke to Bigotry introduces readers to the complexities of the historical moment in which Washington wrote the letter, when America’s founding leaders were negotiating how the new democracy would approach religious difference. Many essays in this collection also bring the spirit of Washington’s letter into the present, reflecting on contemporary issues such as gay rights in the United States, restrictions on religious practice in the public sphere in European countries, and the place of religion in education.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781940457116
Publisher: Facing History and Ourselves
Publication date: 07/28/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide, students make connections between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives.

Table of Contents

Transcripts of the Letters


The Origins of American Religious Liberty by Gordon S. Wood

“The World Turned Upside Down”: Roger Williams’s Revolutionary Vision of Religious Freedom by John M. Barry

John Clarke, the Rhode Island Charter (1663), and Religious Liberty in America by James Wermuth

America’s White Slaves by Eve LaPlante


George Washington’s Correspondence with the Jews of Newport by Jonathan D. Sarna

George Washington and Religion by Dan Eshet and Michael Feldberg

Creating an American Metaphor for American Liberty: Washington’s Vine and Fig Tree by Daniel L. Dreisbach

The Evolution of Meaning by Kwame Anthony Appiah


Compelle Intrare (Force Them to Conform) by Olivier Roy

Of Vines, Fig Trees, and the Ashes of Bigotry by Zvi Ben-Dor Benite

Making Room for All the All-Americans by Lee A. Daniels

From Toleration to Equality: George Washington’s Letter in Comparative Context by David N. Myers

Arthur Szyk: Artist for Freedom by Irvin Ungar


Welcome to America: Get Used to Disagreements! by Martha L. Minow

Between Toleration and Rights: Echoes of the George Washington Letter

in Contemporary Legal Debates by Robert A. Burt

Reflections on George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Madison’s Influence on George Washington’s View of Toleration by Martha C. Nussbaum


The Most American Thing You Can Do by Eboo Patel

When the Buddha Went Down to Memphis by David Waters

The Impact of Leadership on Prejudice by Jason Marsh and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton

Religious Liberty after September 11 by Eli N. Evans


Breaking Down Barriers: Education in a Globalized World by Adam Strom

“All Possess Alike Liberty of Conscience”: The Vision of Roger Williams by Charles C. Haynes

“If I Am Not for Myself”: Speaking Out Against Bigotry by Phyllis Goldstein

Making Democracy Work: A Civic Lesson for the Twenty-First Century by Fernando Reimers

Liberty of Conscience and Universal Toleration in France by Jean-Louis Auduc

Understanding a Core Ideal: The Meaning of Religious Freedom forTwenty-First-Century American Students by James W. Fraser


A Rebuke to Bigotry by John Sexton

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