Touro Synagogue Newport County, Rhode Island

Touro Synagogue
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Founded in 1763, this is the oldest synagogue in America. Its history represents the religious tolerance that has always characterized Rhode Island.

Go Historic ID
249883
Best Known As
Touro Synagogue
Full Name
Touro Synagogue
Also Known As
Congregation Jeshuat Israel
Coordinates
41.489437° N, 71.311950° W  (map)
Address
85 Touro Street
Newport County, Rhode Island
02840
Tags
Georgian 1714-1830
Newport County Rhode Island, Rhode Island
North America continent
USA North America
Rhode Island United States
Website
Phone
(401) 847-4794

Description

Newport's Jewish congregation was formed in the spring of 1658, when a party of 15 Jewish families arrived from the Caribbean, possibly Barbados or Curacao. They were fleeing religious persecution, just as their ancestors had done from Spain and Portugal.

They received a warm welcome in religiously tolerant Newport. A few years later (1663), the royal charter of Rhode Island formalized the established local practice that everyone has "full liberty in religious concernments." Newport's Jews thrived in the trade business and for over a century held services and ceremonies in each other's homes.

Finally, in 1759, the growing community built a synagogue. They named it after Isaac Touro, a prominent member of the congregation. The building was designed by Peter Harrison (1716-75), who is regarded by many as the finest architect in 18th-century America - he also designed King's Chapel in Boston and Christ Church in Cambridge, Mass. Harrison was an Anglican and had never seen a synagogue in his life, so the congregation showed him sketches of the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam. The new synagogue was dedicated on the first night of Hanukkah in December 1763.