The historic Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, quietly stands as a symbol of religious freedom in America. Built in 1763, it has witnessed centuries of American history and continues to welcome visitors from all walks of life. While its unassuming exterior blends in with the surrounding buildings, its significance and impact on those who seek solace during challenging times cannot be overlooked.
Amidst the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Touro Synagogue has seen an increase in visitation compared to previous years. People, both Jewish and non-Jewish, are flocking to the oldest standing synagogue in the country, yearning for a sense of connection and reflection. “People come here because they’re feeling fragile right now, and this is a place to reflect,” says Meryle Cawley, director of the Touro Synagogue Foundation.
Rhode Island, known for its history of religious acceptance and tolerance, became a welcoming haven for Sephardic Jews seeking economic and religious opportunities. The establishment of Congregation Nephuse Israel in 1658 laid the foundation for the presence of Jews in Newport. The synagogue itself, designed by renowned architect Peter Harrison, is a testament to colonial style architecture and has withstood the test of time and numerous challenges.
Visitors to Touro Synagogue are greeted by a serene interior adorned with twelve ionic columns and a gallery where women once sat, adhering to Jewish Orthodox traditions. Its meticulously preserved design evokes a sense of understated elegance. The synagogue’s preservation can be attributed not only to its architectural integrity but also to the financial support of individuals like Isaac Touro and his sons, who dedicated themselves to the well-being of the synagogue and the surrounding community.
Faith and history intersect at Touro Synagogue. Its significance reaches far beyond the Jewish community, as it embodies the essence of American history. President George Washington’s historic letter to the Jewish congregation solidified its place in the nation’s narrative and highlighted the importance of religious liberty.
As visitors explore the Touro Synagogue today, they witness a living testament to the enduring power of religious freedom and the pursuit of connection and reflection. It serves as a reminder that even in the face of adversity, the human spirit seeks solace and understanding.
1. Is Touro Synagogue open to the public?
Yes, Touro Synagogue is open to the public for tours several days a week. Visitors can explore the historic grounds and learn about its significance in American history.
2. Are non-Jewish visitors welcome at Touro Synagogue?
Absolutely! Touro Synagogue welcomes visitors of all faiths. Its role as a symbol of religious freedom in America extends beyond any specific religious affiliation.
3. How old is Touro Synagogue?
Touro Synagogue was built in 1763, making it the oldest standing synagogue in the United States.
4. Who is responsible for the preservation of Touro Synagogue?
The preservation of Touro Synagogue is a result of both its architectural integrity and the financial support it has received over the years. Notably, Isaac Touro and his sons played a significant role in its preservation and philanthropic endeavors.
5. What is the significance of George Washington’s letter to the Jewish congregation in Newport?
George Washington’s letter, sent to the Jewish congregation in Newport, emphasized the commitment to religious liberty and paved the way for the inclusion of religious freedom in the fabric of American society. It highlighted the values that Touro Synagogue represents and the importance of acceptance and tolerance.