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Quick Facts on Touro Synagogue

Short URL
gohist.co/s/319634
Names
Congregation Jeshuat Israel Touro Synagogue Touro Synagogue, Newport
Address
85 Touro Street Rhode Island02840
Location
Rhode Island  state
United States  country
North America  continent
Main date(s)
1763
Coordinates
41.489437° N, 71.311950° W
Admission
Free
Phone
(401) 847-4794

History

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.

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

Description of Touro Synagogue

The Georgian-style architecture of Touro Synagogue was based on the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam and later influenced Thomas Jefferson's design of Monticello and the University of Virginia.

It has a simple square plan, with two tiers of round-headed windows and a narrow porch. The synagogue is aligned so the congregation faces east to Jerusalem, requiring to be placed at an angle on its lot.

Inside, the furnishings of Touro Synagogue revolve around the number twelve, representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel.

Holly Hayes
October 27, 2011

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