Brown President Christina Paxson will participate in the annual reading of President George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport on Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, at 1 p.m. in Touro Synagogue.
PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown President Christina Paxson will visit Touro Synagogue in Newport Sunday, Aug. 17, 2014, to deliver a brief address and participate in the annual reading of President George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregations of Newport.
That letter of thanks, written after Washington’s 1790 visit to Rhode Island, describes the new nation’s dedication to religious liberty and the pursuit of a democratic ideal that involves all citizens equally.
Touro Synagogue is the nation’s oldest surviving synagogue, opened in 1763, making it roughly contemporaneous with Brown. (The first meeting of the Brown Corporation took place in Newport in early September 1764.)
In her remarks, Paxson will touch on themes that Brown, Washington, and the Touro Synagogue held in common including, as the Brown Charter of 1764 put it, the “full, free, absolute, and uninterrupted liberty of conscience” and access “to the equal advantages, emoluments, and honors of the ... University ... [and] a like, fair, generous, and equal treatment.”
Washington’s brief letter — 340 words — assured the members of Touro that the future would not be built on mere religious toleration, but on religious liberty:
May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants — while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.
Note to Editors:
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