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Touro Synagogue, Newport

#7 of 20 in Historic Sites in Newport
Religious Site · Hidden Gem · Historic Site
The Touro Synagogue or Congregation Jeshuat Israel (Hebrew: קהל קדוש ישועת ישראל‎) is a synagogue built in 1763 in Newport, Rhode Island. It is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era, and the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America. In 1946, it was declared a National Historic Site.
The first congregation was made up of Sephardic Jews, who are believed to have come via the West Indies, where they participated in the triangular trade along with Dutch and English settlements. They practiced a Spanish and Portuguese Jewish liturgy and ritual. Later some early Ashkenazim joined the congregation. In the late eighteenth century, when warfare threatened, the congregation transferred the deed and Torah scrolls to Congregation Shearith Israel in New York for safekeeping. In the late 19th century, the congregation was primarily Ashkenazim, but they continued to practice the Sephardic liturgy at the synagogue.

In 2012 the two congregations went to court to try to resolve which owned the synagogue and its contents, as the Newport congregation wanted to sell some items to raise money for restoration of the building. In 2017 the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit ruled that the New York congregation owned it; as the US Supreme Court declined to hear the case, this ruling stands.

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Touro Synagogue reviews

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476 reviews
  • I learned history from this experience that I never knew before. Fascinating! A must see if you have an interest in American history.  more »
  • You do not have to be Jewish to appreciate the history associated with this colonial building. The tour guide can answer any of your questions but tells you of the history that propelled the...  more »
  • Must stop in Newport for any history buff. This is the oldest synagogue in the United States. An interaction here in the 1700s between the congregation and President George Washington helped establish freedom of religion in the United States. There is a small admission fee. It gets you into the synagogue, the grounds, andva very well-done museum. Note: there is NO on-site parking.
  • Amazing visit. We did the informal tour but the guide inside (Deborah, I believe) was informative and knowledgeable. She gave a great overview of the history and allowed us to ask as many questions as we wanted. Such a fascinating place with great history. Definitely worth the visit -- make sure to also check out the exhibits in the building where you buy tickets and grab a copy of the Washington Letter (so cool!).

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