Why did we choose the name Fig Tree Books for our company? We have to go back more than two centuries, to August 21, 1790. While up until that time, the history of Jews as a group in America had been markedly different from and superior to the lives that they and their forebears had been living in Europe, it wasn’t until that day that Jews in America could begin to internalize the effects of the Enlightenment in practical terms. On August 17, 1790, Moses Seixas, warden of Congregation Yeshuat Israel, had written a letter to the President that included, in part, the following: “…we now with a deep sense of gratitude to the Almighty disposer of all events behold a Government, erected by the Majesty of the People — a Government, which to bigotry gives no sanction, to persecution no assistance — but generously affording to all Liberty of conscience, and immunities of Citizenship: — deeming every one, of whatever Nation, tongue, or language equal parts of the great governmental Machine.” In his response on August 21, 1790, “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island,” President Washington said, among other things, “May the children of the Stock of Abraham, who dwell in this land, continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other Inhabitants; while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree, and there shall be none to make him afraid,” the second part of which has been attributed to the prophets Isaiah and Michah.
Simply stated, we could think of no better metaphor for the beneficence of the Jewish Experience in America than George Washington’s reference of the vine and fig tree and we would like to celebrate this event in American history that captures the spirit of our democracy in which Jews and other previously religiously-persecuted groups have flourished…in no small part due to the wisdom of our first President. He set the stage for the milieu of tolerance and acceptance, enabling Jews to thrive.