Rhode Island Picture Post Cards
Interior View of Touro Synagogue in Newport - Circa 1909

Touro Synagogue is the oldest Jewish temple in the United States. The Rabbi Isaac Touro, a renowned scholar and theologian organized a congregation of Sephardic Jews in Newport, Rhode Island in 1758. Construction of the temple began in 1759 and was completed in 1763.

Newport, RI had the second largest Jewish community in the colonies next to New York City. Most of them were Sephardic Jews of Portuguese and Spanish origin. They had begun emigrating to the American colonies during the early 1650s.

The noted Newport architect, Peter Harrison was awarded the contract to build Touro Synagogue. Harrison decided to construct the structure using a style more reminiscent of Southern Plantations than the standard northern architecture of the period. The original temple was a two story brick building with rounded windows and columns at the entrance porch.

The architect took special pains to insure that the rites and traditions of the Jewish religion and culture were incorporated in his plans for the building. The synagogue was situated so that the Ark of the Covenant, which houses the sacred Torah, would be facing east toward the holy city of Jerusalem. The main gallery was supported by twelve columns, symbolizing the Twelve Tribes of Israel, and there was a separate gallery for the women, in accordance with Orthodox Judaism.

The synagogue survived the American Revolution undamaged. Worshippers still attend services in the temple today, using many of the original 17th century furnishings. 

George Washington visited Touro Synagogue in August of 1790 and in a letter to the congregation he stated these now famous words, "It is now no more that toleration is spoken of, as if it was by the indulgence of one class of people, that another enjoyed the exercise of their inherent national gifts. For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support."

Touro Synagogue became a National Historical Site in 1946.

RI Historical Society
The Post Offices
Home Page
RI Tercentenary Issue History
RI Philatelic Society
Recently Added Pages
Philatelic Primer
Rhode Island Around the World
Rhode Island Town Postmarks
Other Websites of Interest

Return to Picture Postcard
Thumbnail Page Part 7