Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Are there any other synagogues in Newport?
A. Yes. Touro is the only Orthodox synagogue on the island, but there is a conservative synagogue in Middletown and a Reform Havurah that meets in the homes of its members.
Q. Are there seats in the balcony or do women have to stand?
A. There are seats.
Q. Has the building always been used as a synagogue?
A. No. Touro Synagogue was founded as a Sephardic Orthodox Synagogue in 1763. From the time of the Revolutionary War until 1880, the Synagogue was used for worship services on an intermittent basis due to the small number of members of the Jewish community residing there on a permanent basis. Following the Revolutionary War the synagogue was used as a court house, state house and town hall. Since 1880 the building has been in continuous use as a synagogue.
Q. How did Touro Synagogue get its name?
A. Abraham Touro who was the son of Issac Touro (the first religious leader of the Jewish congregation in Newport) left $ 10,000 in his will for the State of Rhode Island to use for the care of the synagogue and $ 5,000 for the care of the street (now known as Touro Street). It is in the legislative act accepting these funds that the building is first referred to as "Touro Synagogue".
Q. How do I schedule a group tour of Touro Synagogue?
A. If you wish to arrange a tour for a group of ten or more visitors please call 401-847-4794 x14.
Q. How do women get to the upstairs gallery?
A. There is a staircase.
Q. How long is a typical service?
A. A Friday evening service is just under an hour in length. A Saturday morning service lasts for about two and a half hours.
Q. How many Jews live in Newport?
A. There are about 600 members of the Jewish community who live in Newport County.
Q. Is there a Kosher restaurant or market in Newport?
A. No, but there are Kosher packaged foods available at the markets.
Q. What is the name of the congregation that worships in Touro Synagogue?
A. Congregation Jeshuat Israel.
Q. What is the Touro Synagogue Foundation?
A. The Touro Synagogue Foundation, formerly known as The Society of Friends of Touro Synagogue, is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit corporation whose focus is the preservation of the historic Touro Synagogue and the teaching of religious diversity, colonial Jewish history, and the history of Touro Synagogue.
Q. Where is the oldest Jewish cemetery?
A. New York City.
Q. Who designed Touro Synagogue?
A. Peter Harrison, noted colonial architect, designed the Touro Synagogue and the Redwood Library and the Brick Marketplace here in Newport. Due to fortunate financial circumstances, Harrison did not need to charge for his designs and created his buildings for the joy of it.
Q. Who is the Rabbi? How long has he been here?
A. Rabbi Mordechai Eskovitz has been the Rabbi for Congregation Jeshuat Israel since 1996.