The sudden death of Calvin Coolidge, thirtieth president of the United States, in his home in Northampton, Mass., which shocked the entire nation, recalls the friendly and sympathetic attitude he displayed toward the Jews during his tenure in the highest office in the land.
Tribute to Jewish contributions to the history of the United States was paid by Mr. Coolidge as President in a notable address which he delivered on May 3, 1925, at the laying of the corner-stone of a new Jewish center in Washington, D. C.
In his address Mr. Coolidge described the influence of Jewish lore, Jewish law, Jewish culture and the Jewish spirit, as expressed in the Bible, upon the development of the United States. He quoted the historian, Lecky, who said that “Hebraic mortar cemented the foundations of American democracy.” He cited the participation of the Jews in the Revolutionary War and said that “the Jewish faith is predominantly the faith of liberty.”
“The Jewish community of the Uni-
ted States is not only the second most numerous in the world,” he said, “but in respect of its old world origins, it is probably the most cosmopolitan. But whatever their origin as a people, they have always come to us, eager to adapt themselves to our institutions, to thrive under the influence of liberty, to take their full part as citizens in building and sustaining the nation, and to bear their part in its defense; in order to make a contribution to the national life, fully worthy of the traditions they had inherited.
“Our country has done much for the Jews who have come here to accept its citizenship and assume their share of its responsibilities in the world. But I think the greatest thing it has done for them has been to receive them and treat them precisely as it has received and treated all others who have come to it. If our experiment in free institutions has proved anything, it is that the greatest privilege that can be conferred upon people in the mass, is to free them from the demoralizing influence of privileges enjoyed by the few. This is proved by the experience here, not alone of the Jews, but of all the other racial and national elements that have entered into the making of this nation.
“To go forward on the same broadening lines that have marked the national development thus far, must be our aim. It is an easy thing to say, but not so simple to do. There is no straight and smooth and posted highway into the vast, dim reality of the tomorrows. There are bogs and morasses, blind roads and bad detours. No philosophy of history has ever succeded in charting accurately a day of the future. No science of social engineering has been able to build wide
and easy roads by which to bring up the van of human progress in sure and easy marches. The race is always pioneering. It always has been and always must be. It dare not tire of unending effort and repeated disappointments. It must not in any moment of weariness or inertia cease from pressing on. Least of all can we indulge in the satisfaction of complacency, imagining that the sum of useful progress has been attained. The community or the civilization that ceases to progress, begins that hour to recede.
“The work of spiritual unification is not completed. Factional, sectional, social and political lines of conflict yet persist. Despite all experience, society continues to engender the hatreds and jealousies whereof are born domestic strife and international conflicts. But education and enlightenment are breaking their force. Reason is emerging. Every inheritance of the Jewish people, every teaching of their secular history and religious experience, draws them powerfully to the side of charity, liberty and progress. They have always been arrayed on this side, and we may be sure they will not desert it. Made up of so many diverse elements, our country must cling to those fundamentals that have been tried and proved as buttresses of national solidarity.
ADAPTATION SPECIAL LESSON OF JEWISH HISTORY
“This capacity for adaptation in detail, without sacrifice of essentials, has been one of the special lessons which the marvelous history of the Jewish people has taught. It is a lesson which our country, and every country based on the principle of popular government must learn and apply, generation by generation, year by year, yes even day by day. You are raising here a testimonial to the capacity of the Jewish people to do this. In the advancing years, as those who come and go shall gaze upon this civic and social landmark, may it be a constant reminder of the inspiring service that has been rendered to civilization by men and women of the Jewish faith. May they recall the long array of those who have been eminent in statecraft, in science, in literature, in art, in the professions, in business, in finance, in philanthropy and in the spiritual life of the world. May they pause long enough to contemplate that the patriots who laid the foundation of this republic drew their faith from the Bible. May they give due credit to the people among whom the Holy Scriptures came into being.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.