Washington’s treatment of the Jewish people was something that had a much larger affect than just on his country.
The presidents of the USA, by far, have always taken a pro-Israel stance.
From Unitarian president John Adams expressing his desire to see the Jews return to their land and establish a state, to Baptist president Harry S. Truman, who was the leader of the free world when he recognized the State of Israel in 1948, and all the way until Presbyterian President Donald J. Trump. Even through President Trump has disappointed on the embassy issue, he has nonetheless proven to be a true friend of the Jewish state, US-Israel relations have almost always been on the amicable side.
While each leader may have had his own personal beliefs, the courage to implement them came from the “Father of His Country.” George Washington set a standard for his successors, and it was clearly made known in a letter he wrote to the Hebrew Congregation of Newport, Rhode Island, following a visit there on August 17, 1790.
“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 under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid,” he said. “May the father of all mercies scatter light and not darkness in our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in his own due time and way everlastingly happy.”
Washington’s response was meant to further strengthen the ideology of separation of church and state and to strengthen the right of each individual to practice his or her religion.
However, Washington’s treatment of the Jewish people was something that had a much larger affect than just on his country.
Washington, baptized as a child into the Church of England, was a practicing Christian his whole life, but what exactly he practiced is still debated by scholars.
He did live in a society influenced by the Puritans, who believed themselves to be like the Israelites fleeing Egypt, wandering into the vast and unknown wilderness and reaching the promised land of the New World. They used the Bible as their guide, adopted biblical customs, established biblical codes, such as observance of the Sabbath, and gave their children Hebrew names.
As Washington wished for the freedom of the Jews in Newport and in the United States in general, he made it clear that this was his wish for all the Jewish people, and all nations.
“Since Washington asserted the principle of ‘asylum’ [in general orders from April 18 1783] and wished that the Jewish people would find in America their ‘vine and fig tree’ [in his letter to the Newport congregation] it is safe to assert that he would have favored the existence of a justly established homeland for Jews in Israel,” wrote Peter Lillback, president of Westminster Theological Seminary, in his book George Washington & Israel.
Constantly seeing the “finger of Providence” in the Thirteen Colonies’ quest to become nation, Washington would have had no doubt in seeing God’s hand pave the way for the creation of the State of Israel. And according to Lillback, this set the precedent for future presidents, save for a select few who chose to deny the two countries’ friendship. Thus making it inherently American to support the Jewish people and their State of Israel.
“Washington’s views about Israel helped set the direction that American presidents have taken toward Israel until now,” he wrote during the tenure of president Barack Obama.