An annual ceremony held on Aug. 21 in Newport, R.I., commemorated George Washington’s famed letter to the Jews of Touro Synagogue.
Gov. Lincoln Chafee attended and Malcolm Rogers, director of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, recited Washington’s text, all 337 words of it, considered the defining expression of religious tolerance in the new United States.
But no one can read from the original letter.
As the Forward has detailed over several months of groundbreaking coverage, the original letter is locked away in a nondescript art-storage facility near a football stadium in suburban Maryland.
Forward Editor Jane Eisner writes in a Daily News opinion piece that keeping the letter under wraps is like keeping the Statue of Liberty closed to visitors. To experience the importance of Lady Liberty or Washington’s letter, you have to experience it firsthand, she explains.
Read about how our reporter Paul Berger untangled the mystery of the letter
Find out how he discovered that the private foundation that owns the document and the Jewish organization responsible for its well-being have refused to make it public and refused to say why.
Listen to Berger and Eisner discuss the letter on our weekly podcast.
Read how the letter is part of a bigger story of the decline of B’nai B’rith’s Klutznick Museum.
We wrote in an editorial that no one should be able to keep an iconic piece of American history hidden.
The local public radio station in Rhode Island also ran a story questioning why the letter is not open to public view.
Former Forward editor Seth Lipsky also wrote about the letter in an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal, which was widely linked by other publications and web sites.