Touro Synagogue

From Academic Kids

The Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island is the oldest Jewish house of worship in North America. It was built in 1759 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation in Newport. The spiritual leader at the time was the Reverend Isaac de Touro from Amsterdam.

The Jeshuat Israel congregation itself dates back to 1658, when Jewish families arrived from Spain, Portugal, and the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam (New York City).

The synagogue, designed by architect Peter Harrison, is a National Historic Site and considered to be one of the most architecturally distinguished buildings of 18th Century America. There is a trap door under the bimah which is believed to have been used while the synagogue was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

George Washington wrote to the Jewish community of the Touro Synagogue that, "...the Government of the United States...gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance..." This letter is widely considered an important early step in the establishment of religious freedom in the U.S.

New Orleans

Touro Synagogue is also the name of a Reform synagogue in New Orleans, named after Judah Touro, Isaac's son. The New Orleans Touro Synagogue is the second oldest synagogue in the United States.

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