Thomas Jefferson

April 13, 1743: Birthdate of Thomas Jefferson.  “Thomas Jefferson is deservedly a hero to American Jewry. His was one of the few voices in the early republic fervently championing equal political rights for Jews. Jefferson’s Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia is a classic American statement of religious toleration. Significantly, while Jefferson championed the rights of Jews and other religious minorities, he did not do so out of respect for Judaism but because he respected the right of every individual to hold whichever faith they wished…. Despite his reservations about the perceived “defects” in Judaism, Jefferson never wavered in his commitment to civil and religious freedom for Jews. Jefferson’s most notable achievement in establishing religious and civic toleration for American Jewry was his 1779 Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom in Virginia. Adopted in 1785, the Bill proclaimed: “No man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burdened in his body or goods, nor shall otherwise suffer, on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess. . . their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise . . . affect their civil capacities.”  Two years later, in 1787, the U. S. Constitution was adopted. Article VI contains the following, Jefferson-inspired phrase: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” Despite his attitude toward Judaism as a religion, Jefferson’s advocacy of the rights of Jews –and those of other religious minorities – has become the law and custom of the land. Toleration of all religions, the absence of an official government religion, and the right to practice and express religious thought freely are the hallmarks of Jefferson’s legacy. Despite his private views of Judaism, he was indeed a most ‘righteous Gentile.’”

There are many stamps honoring the 3rd president of the United States – issued by both the U.S. and foreign countries.  This one from the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition is my favorite:

Thomas Jefferson - US - 1904

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