Visit us At 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall

Religious Liberty

On a cold and wintry Thanksgiving Day in 1876, Jewish and Gentile dignitaries gathered on the grounds of the 1876 Centennial Exposition to witness the unveiling of a new monument to religious liberty. Commissioned by the national Jewish fraternal organization B’nai B’rith, the neoclassical sculpture was dedicated “to the people of the United States.” Among those who spoke at the ceremony that day was the artist who had carved the statue in Italy, Moses Jacob Ezekiel. Ezekiel was a Civil War veteran who fought for the Confederacy before becoming the first Jewish sculptor to achieve international renown.

Religious Liberty is an allegorical work in which each figure symbolizes an abstract concept. The main figure represents liberty, and she holds her right arm protectively over a young person who represents religious faith – he reaches toward the heavens and holds a burning lamp in his hands. An eagle at the base of the statue crushes a serpent and looks to the horizon, suggesting America’s continuing struggle against intolerance.

In 1986, the monument moved from Fairmount Park to the grounds of the National Museum of American Jewish History off Independence Mall with thanks to the generous assistance of:
Facade with Religious Liberty(1)B’nai B’rith International
Edith and Ellis Benjamin
Laurie and Irvin J. Borowsky
Joyce and Claude de Botton
Marie and John Calvitti, Jr.
Dorothea and Leonard Glickman
Judith and Robert Klein
Adele and Gerald Kraft
Ethel and Leonard Landau
Roslyn and Lawrence Littman
Messinger & Obermaier, Architects
Beatrice Rockower Perlman
Rita and Samuel Rappaport and their children, Tracy and Wil Wes
Ruth and I. Budd Rockower
The six children of Ruth & Budd Rockower
The eleven grandchildren of Ruth & Budd Rockower
Miriam and Albert M. Rodstein
Bonnie and Abe S. Rosen
Arthur and Morris Sidewater
Faith and Ray Silverstein
Charlotte and Jack J. Spitzer
David and Ellis Wachs
Ele and Albert J. Wood

In 2010, Religious Liberty moved with the Museum to its new location at 5th and Market streets through the generosity of Joanna and Daniel Rose.