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Senator Sheldon Whitehouse

 


 

NATIONAL CONTEST WINNERS TO BE HONORED
AT TOURO SYNAGOGUE
AT THE 62ND ANNUAL READING OF THE 1790 GEORGE WASHINGTON “LETTER TO THE HEBREW CONGREGATION
 IN NEWPORT, RHODE ISLAND

 U.S. SENATOR SHELDON WHITEHOUSE TO BE
KEYNOTE SPEAKER
August 16, 2009

 
 

 

Newport, RI, - This Sunday, August 16, 2009 at Touro Synagogue in Newport, RI,  United States Senator Sheldon Whitehouse will be the keynote speaker at the 62nd annual reading of the famous George Washington “Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island” of 1790.  Senator Whitehouse, a Newport resident and the first person in the door of the Loeb Visitors Center that opened on August 2, said: “This is not only an enormous contribution to Newport and Rhode Island but also to the entire country.  It tells the story of religious freedom with pictures and videos in a very user-friendly way, accessible to all ages.”

 

Additionally, four high school winners of national essay contests, which deal with the relevance of the Letter in today’s world, will be honored at the 62nd Annual Reading of the famed George Washington “Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island” of 1790. 

 

Two of the winners will be in attendance at the ceremonies: Hailey DiSpirito of Cumberland, Rhode Island, one of three recipients of The Rita and Aaron Slom Scholarship for Diversity and Freedom; and Eric Antmann, an entering senior at Cooper City High School, Cooper City, Florida, who is the First-Place Essay Winner of the 2008/2009 First Freedom Student Competition, awarded by the First Freedom Center in Richmond, Virginia. The other two winners of the Slom Scholarship for Diversity and Freedom, unable to attend this Sunday, are Ariel Ehrlich of Highland Park, IL; and Emily Thrift of Chester, Virginia.

 

The Rita and Aaron Slom Scholarship Fund for Diversity and Freedom was created in 2003 by Elliott, Peter and Michael Slom, in honor of the 50th wedding anniversary of their parents, Rita and the late Aaron Slom of Newport, Rhode Island.  The Fund has granted 13 scholarships to students from all parts of the United States who have submitted winning interpretations of the George Washington Letter’s relevance to today.

 

The First Freedom Center, Richmond, VA, was founded “to increase understanding and respect for religious freedom in diverse communities worldwide, through education about this core human value: the freedom of thought, conscience and belief.”  Each year since 1994, the First Freedom Center’s essay competition topic asks students to reflect on and research a particular aspect of religious freedom.  Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr., Chairman of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, sponsored the 2008/2009 contest, which asked students to write on the contemporary importance of George Washington’s 1790 letter. This year’s first-place essay was written by Eric Antmann, who is accompanied by his  English teacher, Suzanne Margolin.

 

The Loeb Visitors Center, opened on the campus of Touro Synagogue after 12 years and $12 million, tells the story of religious freedom in America.  This story began in Rhode Island in 1663 with the Royal Charter between Roger Williams/John Clarke and King Charles II.  The Center further interprets and celebrates the history and architecture of Touro Synagogue, the oldest functioning synagogue building in the nation, dedicated in 1763.

 

To learn more about Touro Synagogue, see www.tourosynagogue.org.  To read a copy of the George Washington letter, visit the newly-opened Loeb Visitors Center on the Touro Synagogue Campus or see
www.loeb-tourovisitorscenter.org.  For further information about the First Freedom Center, see www.firstfreedom.org.

 


 

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