Touro Synagogue National Historic Site Tours and Activities
A Jewish synagogue located on Touro Street, just north of Bellevue Avenue, Touro Synagogue is the oldest existing synagogue in the United States. In 1658, more than a dozen Jewish families, mostly refugees from Spain and Portugal, founded a Sephardic community. A century later, British-Colonial architect and local resident Peter Harrison designed a two-story Palladian house of worship for this community.
Completed in 1763, and still serving Newport’s Jewish congregation today, its elegant 12-columned interior remains virtually unchanged. A mural on the east wall depicts the Ten Commandments in Jewish; below it is an ark containing the Torah. Legend has it that a small trapdoor in the platform upon which the Torah is read symbolizes the days of persecution when Jews had to worship in secret; it also was supposedly a stop on the Underground Railroad.
The John L. Loeb Visitors center has two floors of multimedia exhibits that explore the history of Newport’s Jewish community.