National Museum of American Jewish History
55 North 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19106
Jewish immigrants found religious liberty as a welcoming gift in the New World. George Washington’s favorite Bible verse was Micah 4:4, “But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it” (KJV). He applied this text not just to his home at Mt. Vernon, but also to the whole American experience and particularly to the Jewish people. Washington hoped they would find asylum from their long experience of persecution in our new nation.
One of the early Jewish Sons of Liberty and financial supporters of the American cause from Philadelphia was Haym Salomon. This museum reminds us of the important role that the Jewish-Americans have played in establishing religious liberty and helping to define pivotal aspects of American culture.
The Old Testament story of the Exodus is remembered in the Passover celebration of the Jewish people. A proposal for the Great Seal of the United States was offered to the Continental Congress by an illustrious committee of three: Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin. Their proposal was from Exodus 12 where Moses leads the Israelites through the Red Sea which is collapsing on Pharaoh and his army. To this they added Jefferson’s personal motto, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” While their proposal was not ultimately accepted by congress, it illustrates the vital role that the Jewish Scriptures’ teaching played in the minds of the American founders.
The new National Museum of American Jewish History will open in November of 2010 down the street from its current location.