Touro Synagogue, Newport County

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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
319634
Short URL
gohist.co/319634
Names
Touro Synagogue
Categories
Materials
Affiliations
Heritage Lists
Address
85 Touro Street
Newport County, Rhode Island
02840
Postcode
02840
Coordinates
41.489437° N, 71.311950° W
Phone
(401) 847-4794
Date Published
October 8, 2013
Last Updated
April 12, 2015

Description of Touro Synagogue

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.

Timeline

  • Congregation Jeshuat Israel is founded in Newport, Rhode Island, by 15 Jewish families fleeing religious persecution in the Caribbean.

  • Construction begins on Touro Synagogue

    Construction begins on a synagogue for the Congregation Jeshuat Israel in Newport, Rhode Island. It is designed by prominent architect Peter Harrison, who also designed King's Chapel in Boston and Christ Church in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It will be known as Touro Synagogue.

  • Dedication of Touro Synagogue

    Touro Synagogue, named for its first rabbi, Isaac Touro, is dedicated on the first night of Hanukkah. It is the oldest synagogue in North America.

  • Washington Promises Religious Freedom for Jews

    In a letter to the Jewish congregation of Touro Synagogue, President George Washington pledges that the new American nation will "give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance."

  • Construction of Touro Synagogue

    Construction of Touro Synagogue

Resources

  1. Official Website of Touro Synagogue Official website.