Address by MAX M. KAMPELMAN, Ambassador, Counselor of the Department of State (1985-1989) Delivered to the Annual Meeting of the Jewish Community Center, Washington, D.C., May 14, 2002
In 1654, the first Jewish settlers, led by Asser Levy, arrived on these shores from South America. There were 23 of them, and they landed in New Amsterdam. They were not welcome. Governor Peter Stuyvesant opposed giving them their religious freedom, saying: "If we grant liberties to the Jews, we will have to grant them also to the Lutherans and the Papists." In time, they gained those liberties, and after appealing to the governing authorities in the Netherlands, they also later gained the right to join the Militia.
Michael Novak, the distinguished Catholic theologian and historian, has recently published a book, On Two Wings, a profound analysis of the ideals and values of our founding fathers which highlights the contribution of Judaism and the Old Testament to the birth of our Nation. He writes:
"American Christians selected their recent arguments about political life from ... the Jewish Testament ... Early American Protestants loved the stories of the Jewish Testament, and from them took many names for their children. The idiom of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the religious langua Franca for the founding generations The language of Judaism came to language of the American metaphysics."
The guiding principle which has characterized the Jewish presence in America has been the letter of George Washington to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island: "... Happily, the government of the United States ... gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance ... may ... everyone ... sit in safety under his own vine ... and there shall be none to make him afraid."
Our second President, John Adams, in a letter to our third President, Thomas Jefferson, wrote: "I will insist that the Hebrews have done more to civilize Man than any other nation... Fate has ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilization." Four years before his death, in a codicil to his will, Adams bequeathed funds for the establishment of a school in which Hebrew was to be taught along with the classical languages.
As a design for the seal of the United States, Jefferson suggested: "A representation of the children of Israel in the wilderness". In his Second Inaugural Address he referred to God's American Israel.
This pattern of respect has been a steady one. In July …