Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Eisenhower Participates in Dedicat on of New Washington Temple

May 9, 1955
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

President Eisenhower participated in the dedication of the new temple of the Washington Hebrew Congregation this week-end and gave a warning that whoever enjoys God-given rights must defend them for his neighbor’s sake, or lose them. The President gave his ten-minute address before an assemblage of over 2,000 in the modernistic $1,600,000 new temple.

It is not enough, he said, “to know that God gave rights to you and your neighbor. It is well to remember this also: you may not protect those rights only for yourself; you must protect them for all, or your own will be lost.

In the course of his address, the President explained why he was present. “A few moments ago, before this service began,” he said, “I was privileged to meet some of the distinguished members of this congregation in the library. Several of them voiced a word of amazement that the President of the United States should attend a service of a faith not his own and in spite of other preoccupations come both to the religious service and to the dedication of this great temple. I personally think that this is natural. There is nothing unique or particularly extraordinary about it.”

He added: “Today the President of the United States, the official head of the country, is after all the official head of a great nation that is religious in its background and which has a spiritual foundation on which to stand. Therefore, it is entirely fitting and in keeping with his office that he should come to such a great and significant event in the lives of one part of the great faiths that have made this country what it is, to pay his respects to that faith and to the event and to the people who have made it possible.”

The President’s talk was the fourth occasion that a President of the United States has played a role in the history of the congregation. President Franklin Pierce signed its charter, the only one granted by Congress to a Jewish congregation. President William McKinley laid the cornerstone for the former temple. President Harry S. Truman laid the cornerstone for the present building.

The religious service of dedication took place before the President spoke. Afterwards greetings were extended by national Jewish leaders. The dedication climaxed the congregation’s observance of the American Jewish Tercentenary.

(In New York, the American Jewish Tercentenary Committee revealed that Dr. Wayne C. Grover, Archivist of the United States had predicted that current exploration of documents in the National Archives will result in the location of a truly significant body of manuscripts reflecting the rich and ###ed contributions of American Jews to our national history.)

Recommended from JTA