Posted by: faithtravelfocus | September 6, 2010

Philadelphia Opens New History Window

Liberty Bell in Philadelphia

Religious liberty – the freedom to worship as we choose – was not always part of American culture. You can learn some of that story in a new museum near Philadelphia’s Independence Mall. 

The Smithsonian’s newest affiliate museum –  National Museum of American Jewish History – will open mid-November with stories of the Jewish experience in America from 1654 until now. The new five-story 100,000 square-foot building offers interactive exhibits which explore the challenges faced by Jews since they arrived on this continent. 

It also celebrates accomplishments and contributions of Jewish Americans throughout the nation’s history. A multimedia exhibition – Only in America Gallery/Hall of Fame showcases the achievements by people as diverse as Albert Einstein and Jonas Salk to Barbra Streisand and Estee Lauder. 

Why Philadelphia? 

Religious tolerance was a cornerstone in the City of Brotherly Love’s development. And it inspired America’s destiny. Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, was a pioneer in this realm. He established his colony as an “example to the nations,” and his 1701 Charter of Privileges guaranteed religious freedom to all who joined him. Many fled religious oppression in Europe to participate in Penn’s 18th century experiment. 

Pennsylvania welcomed Quakers, Lutherans, Anglicans, and Mennonites along with Catholics and Jews. This tolerance helped make Philadelphia (by 1775) the largest city in the colonies. No wonder it became bedrock for the “American experiment” in democracy. 

The new Jewish heritage museum isn’t the only reason to visit Philly this fall for some backward glances. 

The President’s House Commemorative Site in Independence National Historical Park will be open around the clock so visitors can see exposed underground remains of the home where Presidents Washington and Adams lived during their terms. Interpretive panels, videos and a spot for silent reflection combine to recognized nine enslaved people who served the first president as he led young American in its pursuit of freedom and equality.

For more on Philly’s latest cultural icon, visit

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