In Wake of Pittsburgh, “To Bigotry Give No Sanction” - Guest MINDSETTER™ Renehan

Monday, October 29, 2018

 

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Newport’s Touro Synagogue

Less than 12 miles from where I live here in Rhode Island stands America’s oldest synagogue, Newport’s Touro Synagogue, built in 1763. Touro serves as home to Jeshuat Israel, the second oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. Given its historic role in the genesis of organized Jewish worship in America, Touro has long stood as an important national symbol of tolerance and religious freedom — a symbol which seems all the more important following Saturday’s massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Accompanied by Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, New York Governor George Clinton, Supreme Court Justice John Blair, and South Carolina Congressmen William Loughton Smith, President George Washington visited Newport and Touro in August of 1790.

All of Newport’s leading clergy, politicians, and civic leaders turned out to greet the party, many of them reading letters of greeting. Among these stood Moses Seixas, Rabbi of Jeshuat Israel, who declared:

Deprived as we heretofore have been of the invaluable rights of free Citizens, we now (with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events) behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to All liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language, equal parts of the great governmental Machine …

Washington picked up on Seixas’ key phrase a few days after leaving Newport when he wrote a letter of thanks to the Jewish congregation in which he stated:

It is now no more that toleration is spoken of as if it were the indulgence of one class of people that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent natural rights, for, happily, the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens in giving it on all occasions their effectual support. …

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 everyone shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

Washington was at this time busy lobbying various state legislatures for ratification of the what would become the Bill of Rights, this incorporating the vital First Amendment guarantees of freedom of religion, the press, and speech. The fact that Roger Williams founded Rhode Island based on the principle of religious freedom was lost on no-one. Washington knew his letter would be given wide circulation.

To bigotry give no sanction is a noble phrase. Of course, our country has time and again fallen short of this goal. Indeed, at the time of Washington’s visit, Newport was a town with no shortage of black slaves. (The same could be said, of course, for the plantations owned by Washington and Jefferson.)

Today we continue to fall short. In fact, we find ourselves in an era of revived and invigorated intolerance, this characterized in general by a marked decline in cultural empathy and generosity – and in particular by outbursts of violence such as we saw in Pittsburgh this past weekend. That bigotry which has for so long been shamed into the shadows now feels confident to come out into the light of day, both on the streets and on social media. The rhetorical climate has shifted. Utterances we would formally have found astonishing seem no longer even surprising.

We have mobs marching through the streets of Charlottesville chanting: “Jews shall not replace us.” We have a Holocaust denier and self-identified Nazi running as the Republican congressional candidate in the Third House District of Illinois. We have an Idaho-based neo-Nazi organization financing racist robocalls against Florida’s Democratic gubernatorial nominee Andrew Gillum, a black man. And we have the Anti-Defamation League telling us that the year 2017 saw a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic occurrences throughout the United States: bomb threats, vandalism to houses of worship, assaults, and distribution of anti-Semitic posters and literature.

But we also have the more than 3000 Pittsburgh residents of all faiths and races who turned out for a vigil the day after the attack. And because of them, we have hope.

 

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Edward Renehan is a widely published author and founder of the Wickford-based digital-native publishing initiative New Street.

 

Related Slideshow: Incidents of Hate: Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Politics—See All the Numbers, Oct 2018

Map produced by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

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Prev Next

Reported Harassment Cases in RI

Source: ADL

2015: 1

2016: 2

2017: 7

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Prev Next

Reported Cases Vandalism Cases in RI

Source: ADL

2015: 0

2016: 5

2017: 6

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Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in RI — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL

2015: 1

2016: 7

2017: 13

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Prev Next

Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies Three Hate Groups Operating in RI

Vanguard America

Rhode Island (statewide) NEO-NAZI

Traditionalist Worker Party

Rhode Island (statewide) NEO-NAZITRADITIONALIST WORKER PARTY

Gallows Tree Wotansvolk Alliance

Rhode Island (statewide) NEO-VOLKISCH

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Prev Next

Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies Ten Hate Groups Operating in MA

Concerned Citizens and Friends of Illegal Immigration Law Enforcement

Framingham, Massachusetts GENERAL HATE

The Daily Stormer

Massachusetts (statewide) NEO-NAZI

Vanguard America

Massachusetts (statewide)NEO-NAZI
HEADQUARTERS

Mass Resistance

Waltham, Massachusetts ANTI-LGBT

Nation of Islam

Dorchester, Massachusetts BLACK NATIONALIST NATION OF ISLAM
HEADQUARTERS

ACT for America

Boston, Massachusetts ANTI-MUSLIMACT FOR AMERICA

Israel United In Christ

Boston, Massachusetts BLACK NATIONALIST

Israelite School of Universal Practical Knowledge

Lynn, Massachusetts BLACK NATIONALIST

Nation of Islam

Springfield, MassachusettsBLACK NATIONALIST NATION OF ISLAM
HEADQUARTERS

Abiding Truth Ministries

Springfield, Massachusetts ANTI-LGBT

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Prev Next

Southern Poverty Law Center Identifies six Hate Groups Operating in CT

American Guard

Connecticut (statewide) GENERAL HATE

The Daily Stormer

Connecticut (statewide) NEO-NAZI

ACT for America

Cheshire, ConnecticutANTI-MUSLIM ACT FOR AMERICA

United Nuwaubian Nation of Moors/All Eyes on Egipt

Hartford, Connecticut BLACK NATIONALIST NUWAUBIAN NATION OF MOORS

Vanguard America

Hartford, Connecticut NEO-NAZI

Israelite Church of God in Jesus Christ

Bridgeport, Connecticut BLACK NATIONALIST 

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Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in MA — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL

2015:50

2016: 125

2017: 177

View Larger +
Prev Next

Total Hate Crimes in CT — Harassment, Vandalism and Assaults

Source: ADL

2015: 26

2016: 38

2017: 49

 
 

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