Touro Synagogue, The First Synagogue In The United States Is Dedicated
On December 2, 1763, members of the Jewish community of Newport, Rhode Island witnessed the dedication of the Touro Synagogue, the first synagogue in what became the United States.
Designed in the Georgian style by English architect Peter Harrison, the synagogue was named for Isaac Touro, its first officiating rabbi.
Organized Jewish community life in Newport dates to 1658, when fifteen families emigrated and established a congregation in the growing seaport. Newport was the second oldest Jewish congregation in the future U.S. and the first organized in a British colony. For more than one hundred years the community relied on correspondence with rabbis in Europe to sustain its religious traditions in the New World.
The Touro Synagogue is a synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, that 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. Located at 85 Touro Street, the Touro Synagogue remains an active Orthodox synagogue. The building is oriented to face east toward Jerusalem. The ark containing the Torah is on the east wall; above it is a mural representing the Ten Commandments in Hebrew. It was painted by the Newport artist Benjamin Howland.