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Historic Visit To Independence Hall
Prepared for publication by Rabbi Shalom Yaakov Chazan

The following is a translation of the Rebbe Rayatz’s notes which were written after visiting Philadelphia on 13 Kislev 5690 (1930) * The Rebbe describes his visit to Independence Hall where he sat on the chair of President Washington and laid a wreath near the Liberty Bell


Monday 15 Kislev

“Wagon” – New York – Philadelphia. [Note: The Rebbe arrived in Philadelphia on 13 Kislev. Immediately after the reception described in this article, he went back to New York for a special gathering. He returned to Philadelphia on 15 Kislev, and on the “wagon,” i.e., the train from New York to Philadelphia, he wrote some of these entries in his journal.]

... We left New York at 11:00 a.m., accompanied by a committee from New York and a committee from Philadelphia. The trip took two hours; we arrived in Philadelphia at 1:00 p.m. A delegation of 30 rabbanim was waiting at the station, as well as affluent baalei battim, representatives of all the mosdos, a special delegation from the city representing the mayor, and a few thousand people. It took half an hour to get from the station to the taxi. The mayor’s representative officially invited me, in the name of the free republic and in the name of Philadelphia, to visit Independence Hall. There, from President Washington’s chair, I was to bestow my blessing to the American Republic. I agreed.

At 2:30 p.m., we went to the Hall where a large crowd waited. A few hundred other cars followed us. All the streets were closed and we traveled with a police honor guard (not like in the past, the one that brought me to Spalerna [prison in the USSR]). When we arrived it took some time until we got out of the car. The mayor’s representative walked ahead of us, followed by the director of the honor committee of Independence Hall. He was followed by the director of Agudas Chassidei Chabad in Philadelphia, Mr. [Nosson] Feigen, who is one of the distinguished wealthy men in the city, bli ayin ha’ra. Then we walked, the uncle... [my son-in-law], R.S. [Gurary], and myself, followed by the committee from New York which accompanied us. Following them, they allowed 50-60 other people to enter, Jews and Christians, and representatives of the Jewish and Anglican newspapers.

The most significant area in the building consists of two rooms, one of which contains President Washington’s chair, in which he sat 150 years ago and wrote the principles of freedom of religion and the principles of the law which gives equal rights to all men. The other room contains the historic bell upon which is engraved “Freedom for all Men.” This bell was rung in order to inform the country of the news of liberty.

It is considered a great honor to be allowed to enter the room and to inscribe one’s name in a book, as well as to lay a wreath of flowers near the bell. People who have been victorious [in their battle for liberty] are so honored. This honor was awarded a few years ago to General Fas of France when he visited America. An additional honor given to kings and heads of state is to be allowed to sit on President Washington’s chair, in which he sat 150 years ago and wrote the Declaration of Independence. The chair is placed high up and one must ascend a few steps to reach it. The entire area is cordoned off by ropes and nobody is allowed to go up to the chair.

When we entered the room where the chair is, the mayor’s representative delivered an address in English, the gist of which described how happy they are for the privilege of having such a guest who has fought and continues to fight for religion, which is one of the principles of the American Republic. In the name of the city of Philadelphia and in the name of all officials of the city, Mother of Liberty, he blessed the great guest and asked for a blessing for the American Republic. This took 15 minutes.

I responded in Yiddish, “I think it is obvious to everyone what a fine impression such a warm and humanitarian reception would have on someone who was imprisoned for his religious and moral endeavors. It is difficult to find the appropriate words of appreciation. I will just say a few words of heartfelt thanks to G-d and bless the American Republic.

“Blessed is G-d Above, Maker of heaven and earth, Who grants man wisdom.

“For the good relationship the American Republic has with all nations, for the good care the American Republic bestows upon the Jewish people, the eternal nation, I bless the American Republic with great success, with all its esteemed leaders, mayors of all its cities, led by President Hoover, the great implementer of principles of religion, spirit, and humanitarianism everywhere.”

Then they brought me to the place where the chair is and honored me by allowing me to sit in it. All the invited guests stood nearby and I said, “The great G-d who created man and endowed him with understanding to bring the true light to humanity; He, blessed is He, shall give blessing and success to all who fight for justice, truth, and faith.”

From there we went to the room where the bell is. The mayor’s representative and Mr. Feigen picked up the wreath of flowers which I was supposed to place near the bell. When we arrived there, they handed me the wreath of flowers. I took the wreath and the crowd was most somber. Before placing it I said, “Liberty based on faith is the most proper and the strongest.”

From there we went to the place where a crowd of thousands waited. The mayor’s representative gave an address in English, saying that the foundation of everything is faith, and this is what America fought and continues to fight for and will support all who fight for it. He said that the city of Philadelphia, Mother of Liberty, was fortunate to receive the honor that befell it, to merit the visit of the esteemed guest, who has entered into the golden book of history as one of the great people who inscribed magnificent pages therein with blood and sweat.

“We are happy to express our support for the hero, Rabbi Schneerson, who merited to accomplish so much. His great and holy work is not only for the Jews of Philadelphia, not only for American Jewry, but for the entire Republic, which supports religion and humanitarianism. It is doubtless a joy for all humanity to see you as a beacon of light, and in the name of the residents of Philadelphia, I bless you with much success in your great, moral work.”

Then I said a few words – how fortunate are those whom G-d gave the privilege to be residents and citizens of this country and its cities; they should all be blessed in everything they need. I turned to the mayor’s representative and thanked him for the warm reception and for his blessings for success.

Then we traveled to the apartment in a grand procession.


The Rebbe Rayatz shaking hands with the mayor of Baltimore


The mayor’s representative delivered an address in English, the gist of which described how happy they are for the privilege of having such a guest who has fought and continues to fight for religion, which is one of the principles of the American Republic.


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