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"Give Bigotry No Sanction": George Washington Letter Project Symposium Co-Hosted by NYU, Facing History & Ourselves--Jan. 31

January 14, 2011

New York University will partner with the international education nonprofit organization Facing History and Ourselves to host a symposium on religious freedom and democracy featuring NYU President John Sexton, Harvard Law School Dean and Facing History Board of Scholars Chair Martha Minow, Special Representative to Muslim Communities for the U.S. Department of State Farah Pandith, and Facing History and Ourselves Director of Content, Research and Development Adam Strom, on Mon., Jan. 31, 7-9 p.m. at NYU’s Kimmel Center for University Life, 60 Washington Square South (at LaGuardia Place), Eisner & Lubin Auditorium (4th Floor).

The symposium is free and open to the public. All registered guests are invited to attend a free reception immediately before the symposium from 6:00-6:45 p.m. An RSVP is required: call 212.992.7392, visit, or email Subways: A, B, C, D, E, F (West 4th Street). Seating based on availability.

This symposium and reception serve as the official launch of Facing History’s three-year project, Give Bigotry No Sanction: The George Washington Letter Project - Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy, centered around President George Washington’s letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1790. The event will use Washington’s classic message about democracy and freedom of religion to inspire a conversation about how we live those values today. It will bring together leading thinkers who understand the power of education and the importance of studying history to model the kind of civil discussions about freedom of belief that are critical to an open society. For over three decades, Facing History has drawn on the world’s most pressing social issues to engage students, educators, and community members in conversations that explore the relationship between history and their lives today.

George Washington’s letter gives readers a glimpse of a foundational moment in United States history when the country was negotiating how a democracy accommodates religious differences among its people. The ways a democratic society responds to difference is at the heart of Facing History’s work.

NYU President John Sexton said, “The most powerful antidote to intolerance is a commitment to diversity, civil discourse and the free exchange of ideas, and the most effective counterweight to extremism is deep reason.  These values are fundamental to universities, and so institutions of higher education have a uniquely important role to play in addressing the great challenges to our society.  Hosting this important event is emblematic of that role, and I am pleased to participate in this dialogue.”

“We’ve all felt the urgency of speaking up in recent debates about citizenship and faith, and have also felt the difficulty of negotiating these conversations in our schools, workplaces, and with our families. Facing History’s commitment to this project is especially timely, given the need to teach our students to confront issues of religious intolerance around the world,” said Margot Stern Strom, executive director of Facing History and Ourselves.

The symposium aims to create a high level of awareness of the letter as an educational resource, and encourage teachers and students worldwide to reflect on its significance in history and its meaning today. Strom added that the Facing History and Ourselves New York Advisory Board, under the leadership of Julie Leff, will welcome teachers to a workshop before they join the reception and symposium with the community.

Ambassador John Loeb, founder of The George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom said, “We live in a diverse world and it is more important than ever to teach people and remind them again and again about the importance of respect, and how treating people equally is a value that began with George Washington himself.” The Institute is sponsoring Facing History’s multi-year initiative and co-sponsoring the January 31 symposium.

Reporters interested in attending must RSVP to Tim Farrell, NYU’s Office of Public Affairs, at 212.998.6797 or

Facing History and Ourselves is an international educational and professional development organization whose mission is to engage students of diverse backgrounds in an examination of racism, prejudice, and antisemitism in order to promote the development of a more humane and informed citizenry. By studying the historical development of the Holocaust and other examples of genocide and mass violence, students make the essential connection between history and the moral choices they confront in their own lives. Over the years Facing History has provided in-depth seminars for more than 29,000 educators. Its active teacher network reaches nearly two million students each year. Last year its website received more than 740,000 visits from people in 211 countries and territories, with more than 2.5 million page views. To learn more about Give Bigotry No Sanction: The George Washington Letter Project – Exploring Religious Freedom and Democracy, visit the website and new online discussion blog at

New York University, located in the heart of Greenwich Village, was established in 1831 and is one of America’s leading research universities.  It is one of the largest private universities, it has one of the largest contingents of international students, and it sends more students to study abroad than any other college or university in the U.S.  Through its 18 schools and colleges, NYU conducts research and provides education in the arts and sciences, law, medicine, business, dentistry, education, nursing, the cinematic and dramatic arts, music, public administration, social work, and continuing and professional studies, among other areas.

This Press Release is in the following Topics:
Around the Square, event, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Type: Press Release

"Give Bigotry No Sanction"--Jan. 31 Symposium at NYU

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