Visit us At 5th and Market Streets on Independence Mall


Liberty Statue


Religious Liberty  

On a cold and wintry Thanksgiving Day in 1876, Jewish and Gentile dignitaries gathered on the grounds of the 1876 Centennial Exposition to witness the unveiling of a new monument to religious liberty. Commissioned by the national Jewish fraternal organization B’nai B’rith, the neoclassical sculpture was dedicated “to the people of the United States.” Among those who spoke at the ceremony that day was the artist who had carved the statue in Italy, Moses Jacob Ezekiel.  Ezekiel was a Civil War veteran who became the first Jewish sculptor to achieve international renown. 


Religious Liberty is an allegorical work in which each figure symbolizes an abstract concept. The main figure represents liberty, and she holds her right arm protectively over a young person who represents religious faith – he reaches toward the heavens and holds a burning lamp in his hands. An eagle at the base of the statue crushes a serpent and looks to the horizon, suggesting America’s continuing struggle against intolerance.
In 1986, the monument moved from Fairmount Park to the grounds of the National Museum of American Jewish History off Independence Mall with thanks to the generous assistance of B’nai B’rith International; Edith and Ellis Benjamin; Laurie and Irvin J. Borowsky; Joyce and Claude de Botton; Marie and John Calvitti, Jr.; Dorothea and Leonard Glickman; Judith and Robert Klein; Adele and Gerald Kraft; Ethel and Leonard Landau; Roslyn and Lawrence Littman; Messinger & Obermaier, Architects; Beatrice Rockower Perlman; Rita and Samuel Rappaport and their children, Tracy and Wil Wes; Ruth and I. Budd Rockower; the six children of Ruth & Budd Rockower; the eleven grandchildren of Ruth & Budd Rockower; Miriam and Albert M. Rodstein; Bonnie and Abe S. Rosen; Arthur and Morris Sidewater; Faith and Ray Silverstein; Charlotte and Jack J. Spitzer; David and Ellis Wachs; and Ele and Albert J. Wood. In 2010, Religious Liberty moved with the Museum to its new location at 5th and Market streets through the generosity of Joanna and Daniel Rose.

History of NMAJH

Established in 1976, and situated on Philadelphia's Independence Mall, the National Museum of American Jewish History is the only Museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience. The NMAJH was originally founded by the members of historic Congregation Mikveh Israel (established in 1740 and known as the "Synagogue of the American Revolution").

The Museum has long been a vital component in the cultural life of Philadelphia. During the course of its history, the NMAJH has attracted a broad regional audience to its public programs, while exploring American Jewish identity through lectures, panel discussions, authors' talks, films, children's activities, theater, and music. The Museum has displayed more than a hundred exhibitions in its first three decades-plus of existence. As the repository of the largest collection of Jewish Americana in the world, with more than 30,000 objects, the NMAJH has developed extensive institutional experience in preservation, conservation and collections management supporting the fulfillment of its mission to preserve the material culture of American Jews.