On This Day In Newport History: Touro Synagogue Dedicated in 1763
According to the Touro Synagogue’s website, the dedication ceremony was a regional celebration attended not only by the congregation, but also by clergy and other dignitaries from around the colony including Congregationalist Minister Ezra Stiles who later became the president of Yale University.
Five Fun Facts
- The Touro Synagogue is the oldest synagogue building still standing in the United States, the oldest surviving Jewish synagogue building in North America and the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era.
- It was designed by noted British-Colonial era architect and Rhode Island resident Peter Harrison and is considered his most notable work.
- The interior is flanked by a series of twelve Ionic columns supporting balconies. The columns signify the twelve tribes of ancient Israel. Each column is carved from a single tree.
- The building is oriented to face east toward Jerusalem.
- In 1790, the synagogue’s warden, Moses Seixas, wrote to George Washington, expressing his support for Washington’s administration and good wishes for him. Washington sent a letter in response. Each year, the Touro Foundation sponsors an educational lecture series and holds a public reading of the George Washington letter as a celebration and pronouncement of religious freedom.
In 1677, the Jews of Newport, Rhode Island purchased land for a burial place from my 8th g-grandfather, Nathaniel Dickens (1614-1690). Touro Synagogue is considered by some to be the most historically significant Jewish building in the United States. You can read more about my connection to this bit of history in a post that I wrote earlier this year —> HERE, and you can read more about Nathaniel Dickens and his family line — > HERE.