George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom

Initiatives

The Institute is deeply committed to fostering a dynamic environment for students, teachers, and the public in which this exploration can take place. Through the lens of George Washington’s Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI of 1790, the Institute empowers educators, students and citizens of all ages around the world to address issues of religious freedom and liberty of conscience.

Teach the Letter

In his 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, RI, our first President committed the fledgling United States to the ideals of freedom of conscience. The website you are now visiting is designed as a resource for educators who wish to bring the history of religious freedom to their classroom. Through free access to historical documents, digital materials, multi-lingual translations, scholarly expertise and curricular support, the Institute is devoted to assisting teachers to engage their students in an energetic investigation of their rights; challenge young people to actively exercise their civil liberties; and assist citizens of any age or society to conduct civil discussions about the meaning of religious freedom.

Essay Contests and Teacher Training

The Institute sponsors essay competitions, funds teacher training programs, and offers its own programs and publications (including this website).

Click to learn more about these and other ways you can bring the Letter alive in your school.

The Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. Initiative on Religious Freedom and Its Implications

This initiative is a joint undertaking of the Harvard University Center for American Political Studies and the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom. The program explores the causes, processes and effects of religious freedom in cultures and countries by supporting Harvard student and faculty research on this topic, as well as academic conferences and workshops.

Click to learn more about the Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. Initiative on Religious Freedom and Its Implications and watch the videos of the panel discussion that took place at the Inaugural Symposium that was held at Harvard University’s Tsai Auditorium on May 1, 2014.

Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center

The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center is on the campus of Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, which was dedicated in 1763 and is the oldest synagogue building in the United States. The Visitors Center, Exhibit Hall, and website are a celebration of America’s first amendment rights and help us learn how religious freedom and the clear separation of church and state came to be part of American law and culture. Visitors may also find inspiration in the personal histories of colonial American Jews and their influence at the nation’s beginning.

Click to learn more about the Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center.

All these efforts have brought a renewed awareness of the Letter to the current generation of students, teachers, readers and visitors.