Happy Friday, Readers. Today’s fantasy isn’t a house but a house of Worship. It’s Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, and it is the oldest synagogue in America (building wise, anyway). I know, I am a bit late for Hanukkah, so please forgive me. I had intended to post this last week, but Ash and I had a change of plans for the holidays so this post got a bit delayed.
The Picture below is the exterior of Touro from the website Panaramio (by Dana Jensen)
Touro has a great website and you can find it here. It also has a fascinating history. In 1658, a group of 15 Jewish families came to Newport (from Spain) after they heard about the religious freedoms that Roger Williams proposed for the new colony of Rhode Island. They started a community there that grew for over 100 years, and in 1758, they colony adopted a spiritual leader named Isaac Touro, who was a Dutch Jew. The following year, they the congregation purchased land and hired well-known architect Peter Harrison to design their synagogue, which was finished in 1763. When the British occupied Newport in 1776, they commandeered Touro Synagogue for use as a hospital, which essentially saved the building from being burned or ransacked like so many others in the city.
After the British were defeated, the synagogue was used as a meeting place for the Rhode Island General Assembly and the Supreme Court. In 1790, Touro was mentioned by Washington in a letter telling the Newport Congregation that this new Nation would “give to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Touro survives to this day as an active house of worship.
The amazing interior shot of Touro below comes from Stevens.edu, The older image is from Offbeat Travel and the last image is an historic postcard view from the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Jewish postcard exhibition.
You all know how much I encourage you to visit Newport, so I won’t beat a dead horse, but when you do go MAKE SURE you go to Touro. It’s breathtaking!
Have a Safe and Happy New Year!