In the American experience, anti-Semitic decrees have been virtually unthinkable. Religious liberty is enshrined in the Constitution, and early in his presidency, George Washington went out of his way to assure the young nation’s Jews that “the Government of the United States . . . gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” During the long centuries of Jewish exile, powerful officials had often promulgated sweeping edicts depriving Jews of their rights or driving them from their homes. In America, that could never happen.
But 150 years ago this month, it did.