Providence Today: Mikveh Israel

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
This is Providence Today. We’re so glad you’re taking time to learn more about how faith shaped the story of America’s founding, and the story of liberty and how it works together with the Judeo-Christian heritage.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Here in Philadelphia, we’re in front of the Congregation Mikveh Israel, as you see the oldest continuing Jewish synagogue in North America. This is a place where the Jewish people settled in William Penn’s Philadelphia, and they worshipped together because they realized here they could be part of a religious tradition that was not part of an establishment. They could have civil liberties and function freely, and it also then began to shape the very American story.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
As you look behind me here, you see the story of Commodore Uriah Phillips Levy. This gentleman was a member of this congregation, and he was very important in helping to shape the role of the Jewish people in military service, but his story goes on beyond that. He became very supportive of the leadership of a man named Thomas Jefferson, and at the end of Thomas Jefferson’s life, his magnificent estate that he had built was falling apart. He was almost bankrupt. Imagine that, a former president, a founder, not able to survive. It was this man who bought Monticello and the man who preserved it for us to this day. He so loved the American story of freedom that he rescued that great building.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Also, we have other stories of members of this church that were critical. There’s a man named Haym Salomon. Haym Salomon was someone who had been persecuted in Europe, and the process of fleeing from country to country he developed a great deal of international business knowledge and multiple foreign languages. He came to Philadelphia just at the time that the new country was being formed, and guess what America needed? A man who could speak various foreign languages and understood international currency exchange. This man was very significant then in shaping early America government, and so he also became someone who, by some of his loans, helped some of our founders from going bankrupt. Quite an amazing story. The Judeo-Christian connection in America’s very rich.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
I’m pleased to tell you about the George Washington & Israel book that we produced at the Providence Forum. It talks about Washington’s understanding of Israel and the relationship with a Jewish people that are part of the American story. I’d love for you to get this from providenceforum.org. You can find it online. If you’re excited about some of the things you’re learning about faith and freedom in Philadelphia, please get our downloadable app. It tells us about the faith and freedom intersection here in Philadelphia. The downloadable faith and freedom app is free of charge, and you can take trips all throughout the city and learn these stories.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
As we wrap up at this wonderfully historic place, we’re reminded that the Bible is a story of God’s work with the Jewish people that eventually reached the whole world, and so we want to see the unity of the Bible, Old and New Testament, as the source of our freedoms, as the source of our moral character, as the shaping of civilization.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
In this book I mention John Adams who says, “The Jewish people have done more to shape civilization than any other people in the history of the world,” and we can trace that right back to the Ten Commandments that teach us about the civil liberties.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
Now as I finish my story, it’s interesting that the Jewish people who came here for this liberty, they were not able to vote, even in William Penn’s great experiment called Pennsylvania. When he set it up with his government, he said only Christians could lead in government. It’s an amazing thing. It took the American Revolution to change that to allow Jewish people to have the full rights of voting in Pennsylvania. We’re grateful then for the Jewish legacy that helps to shape our freedoms in our country. Without that legacy, there would not be an America.

Dr. Peter A. Lillback:
We’re grateful that you’re interested in faith and freedom. Make sure you get our downloadable app. Go online to providenceforum.org, and this is Providence Today.

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