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Opening prayer for the Ceremonies at the Site of the Statue of Religious Liberty by the Independent Order of B’nai Brith, by Rabbi Sabato Morais (5 July 1875)


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Almighty God!
Thy spirit pervades the universe,
but Thou vouchsafest notably
to manifest it amidst multitudes assembled
to do that which is pleasing in Thy sight.
Lo! “the Sons of the covenant” have gathered
round the spot they chose
as a witness of their gratitude
for Thy loving kindness to Israel of America.
May thy Divinity hover above them
and give stability to the one in which
they are fraternally engaged.
Grant that a united action,
betokening sentiments which ennoble human nature,
may draw down Thy blessing
and this may be seen in the extinction
of religious prejudices
and in a brotherly blending of men
of various races and creeds.
Let Thy gracious looks, O Lord,
rest on Thy servant, the skilful artificer,
who, at our bidding, labors to fashion
a monument designed to prove our patriotism.
Oh, may the statue his hands shall have engraven
speak to us and to generations yet unborn,
of the wisdom wherewith Thou didst endow
the father of this country,
and by which, under Thy Providence,
our wrongs were avenged
and our rights fully recognized.
Let Thy protection of the seed of Abraham
be further shown, O Eternal,
through the representative body here convened.
Let it be felt in a closer union
among all the Hebrews of this dear land of our birth or adoption;
in a union founded upon historic memories;
even upon long-cherished and undying hopes.
May the unswerving fidelity of the free
unto Thy revealed truths
enhance in the estimation of their less favored co-religionists
the franchises they enjoy
and add beauty to liberty.
And now, with all the fervency of prayer,
with every pulsation of our hearts,
we ask of Thee, O, Omnipotent being,
to bestow the richest treasures of Thy goodness
upon our regenerated republic,
steadily leading the van of human progress
because unencumbered[1] An archaism that meant, “boundless and free”  by the trammels of barbaric ages.
Grant that not one of the bright stars in her political horizon
may be dimmed.
Deign to make her still more luminous,
until all the inhabitants of the earth
shall behold and acknowledge that Thou,
who settest enthroned among the liberal-minded and generous,
sheddest rays of glory upon the asylum of the oppressed,
that Thou hast appointed Peace as her watchful guardian
and Prosperity as the tutelary angel thereof.
So may it be. Amen.

This was the opening prayer offered by Rabbi Sabato Morais at the “Ceremonies at the Site of the Statue of Religious Liberty by the Independent Order of B’nai Berith” for the Celebration of the Ninety-Ninth Anniversary of American Independence in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, July 5th, 1875 and published in a booklet containing the same. The site of the ceremonies was “the Walnut Street Railway, near the Centennial grounds.” The statue, “Religious Liberty,” was commissioned by B’nai B’rith and dedicated “to the people of the United States” as an expression of support for the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom. It was created by Moses Jacob Ezekiel, a B’nai B’rith member and the first American Jewish sculptor to gain international prominence.





1An archaism that meant, “boundless and free”



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