The “Religious Liberty” statue, a fixture in Philadelphia since it was dedicated in 1876 as a gift to the American people by B’nai B’rith International, has moved from its previous location at the National Museum of American Jewish History at 55 North 5th Street to the museum’s new site a block away. Both locations are on Independence Mall.B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick of Huntingdon Valley, Pa., visited the new museum to meet with President and CEO Michael Rosenzweig, and receive a tour of the museum’s new 100,000-square-foot building.
Commissioned by B’nai B’rith and dedicated to “the people of the United States,” “Religious Liberty,” created by Civil War veteran and famous American Jewish sculptor Sir Moses Jacob Ezekiel, was unveiled on Thanksgiving Day 1876, at Fairmount Park in Philadelphia as part of the year-long national festivities commemorating the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
“The inspiring National Museum of American Jewish History is the ideal spot for the ‘Religious Liberty’ statue,” Glick said. “The statue, like the museum, represents the highest ideals of this nation of immigrants.”
The 25-foot marble statue features a woman wearing a 13-star crown (representing the 13 original colonies), clutching the U.S. Constitution rolled in her left hand, and with her right, sheltering a young boy who holds a lantern that symbolizes religion. The eagle clutching a serpent below her feet represents democracy vanquishing tyranny. Rededicated numerous times through the years, “Religious Liberty” was moved to the grounds of the National Museum of American Jewish History in 1986.
At the new location, “Religious Liberty” will be paired with a newly commissioned LED sculpture, “Beacon.” Both sculptures symbolize freedom, the central theme of the museum, which stands directly across from the Liberty Bell, a block south of the National Constitution Center and one block north of the birthplace of American liberty, Independence Hall. The sculptures will serve as a testament to what all free people can accomplish, for themselves and society at large.
"It's so consistent with the story that we tell at the museum.” Rosenzweig said. “The story we tell, at its core, is a story of freedom, a story of the freedoms Jews sought coming to this country, and of what American Jews have been able to achieve, for themselves, the nation, and the world, given those freedoms.”
The new museum’s grand opening weekend is Nov. 12-14. It opens to the public on Nov. 26.