On January 5, 1826, a historic bill concerning the Jewish community was passed in Maryland.
The so-called Jew Bill, with a subheading of “An Act to extend to the sect of people professing the Jewish religion, the same rights and privileges enjoyed by Christians,” was adopted to extend to Jews the right to hold public office.
The bill passed after a tense struggle in the Maryland General Assembly, where politicians stood one after the other to argue either for or against the motion. Ultimately, the Jew Bill altered the state’s Test Act, allowing Jews to take office by swearing to an adherence in “the doctrine of reward and punishment.”
Previously, Maryland politicians were made to swear to a belief in Christianity specifically.
Two Jewish advocates petitioned for years to get the bill passed—Jacob I. Cohen Jr. and Solomon Etting. Both men would go on to serve on the Baltimore City Council, becoming the first Jews to hold office in the state.