In 1876, when B'nai B'rith was only 33 years old, it commemorated America's centennial celebration by commissioning a statue, Religious Liberty, in Philadelphia that represented tolerance and religious freedom.
Nearly 140 years later, some things never change, as the statue remains a landmark in Philadelphia and B'nai B'rith International continues to promote education, religious freedom and tolerance for all groups.
With Pope Francis scheduled to visit Philadelphia this weekend, and address religious freedom in the vicinity of the statue, Religious Liberty was the subject of an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Read excerpts from the paper, below:
A statue representing religious freedom and immigration stands at the site where Pope Francis will deliver a speech on those themes.
It stood in Fairmount Park for more than 100 years before being moved to the grounds of the Jewish history museum in 1986. In 2010, the statue was moved again, down the block to the museum's current location on Fifth Street and Market.
The statue was crafted by prominent Jewish sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a Confederate soldier during the Civil War. He was the first Jewish cadet to attend the the Virginia Military Institute.
Ezekiel carved the sculpture from Carrara marble - Michelangelo used the same marble for his Pieta.
"The place to go to study was Italy, even [for] Moses, who was the first big American Jewish sculptor," said Cheryl Kempler, B'nai B'rith's archivist.
Immigration is an important topic for both the Pope and B'nai B'rith, according to Daniel Mariaschin, B'nai B'rith international executive vice president.
Mariaschin said B'nai B'rith sent a delegation to the Vatican in June to discuss with the pope religious liberty and the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.
"Our organization grew in this country as a result of immigration," Mariaschin said. "The pope's visit, with all this coming together, it is important."
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