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Museum Musings

11.1.18 #ToBigotryNoSanction

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Dear Museum Friends,

We at the National Museum of American Jewish History, like you, are deeply saddened and angered by the act of hatred and violence perpetrated on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on Saturday, October 27. We mourn the tragic loss of eleven people while they were engaged in one of the most basic freedoms that America has made possible for the Jewish community: observing their own religion. We must stand in solidarity with them as we condemn this horrific act.

At the Museum, we know that education is the strongest response to hate. Although our hearts are broken – and perhaps because they are broken – we respond by rededicating ourselves to our educational mission, working to inspire people of all backgrounds to understand and appreciate the values of heritage and identity through active engagement with stories of American Jewish life that we tell in our Museum every day.

I would like to evoke George Washington’s beautiful letter about religious freedom to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, RI in 1790, on view at the Museum, in which he vows that “our Government gives to bigotry no sanction to persecution, no assistance.” And, quoting the Hebrew Bible, also writes, “everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.”

These promises, made to the Jewish community more than 200 years ago, underscore the ideals of pluralism on which this nation was founded and are part of the fabric of our Museum. They have become a mantra for us over the past few days. Washington’s words remind us that we must be vigilant: the freedoms to which all Americans aspire must not be taken for granted and we must constantly work to attain and sustain the freedoms defined in these founding principles.

May we strive to make Washington’s vow a reality in our own time. We invite you to show your support on social media with #ToBigotryNoSanction.

In true Jewish fashion, we will rejoice through our tears, and celebrate together with extra vigor the accomplishments and contributions of the American Jewish community.

Wishing you strength and comfort,

Ivy L. Barsky
CEO and Gwen Goodman Director

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