Touro Synagogue, dedicated in 1763, is the oldest synagogue building in the United States. A structure of exquisite beauty and design, steeped in history and ideals, the synagogue is considered one of the ten most architecturally distinguished buildings of 18th century America and the most historically significant Jewish building in the United States. The congregation was founded in 1658 by the descendants of Jewish families who fled the Inquisitions in Spain and Portugal and who themselves left the Caribbean seeking the greater religious tolerance that Rhode Island offered. In his famous letter to the "Hebrew congregation at Newport," written in 1790, President George Washington pledged that our new nation would give "to bigotry no sanction and to persecution no assistance." Touro Synagogue stands as a symbol of religious freedom for all Americans. It was designated a National Historic Site in 1946. The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center opened in 2009 with exhibits to further explore the history of Newport's early Jewish community and the origins of First Amendment rights. Each year, over 30,000 visitors cross the synagogue threshold to pray, to see its magnificent interior and to hear its remarkable story.
For a more in-depth look at the history of the Synagogue, please visit the Touro Synagogue website: http://www.tourosynagogue.org