Touro Synagogue Congregation was founded in 1658 by Jews fleeing the inquisition and has since become a symbol of religious freedom for all Americans. The current synagogue was designed by Peter Harrison, a well know Newport architect at the time. Dedicated in 1763, it is considered one of the most architecturally distinguished buildings of 18th century America. George Washington addressed religious freedom in his 1790 letter to the congregation by declaring, “To the Hebrew Congregation in Newport” that the new nation “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” The Synagogue was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1946.
The Ambassador John L. Loeb Jr. Visitors Center has been open several years now and is housed in a brand-new, period style stone building. Ambassador John L Loeb, Jr. welcomes you in his personal message:
I am John L. Loeb Jr. and I’d like to welcome you to the Loeb Visitors Center at the Touro Synagogue. The Touro Synagogue is an American treasure, the oldest active synagogue in the United States. I am a descendent of the Touro family, so it holds great personal significance for me.
This Synagogue and its early congregation are considered icons of American religious freedom because of the important letter that George Washington sent to the Hebrew Congregation at Newport in 1790. That letter directly affirmed the principle of religious liberty based on the separation of church and state that is guaranteed to every one of us through the Bill of Rights. The building stands as a physical manifestation and reminder of the event and of the concepts embodied in the letter.
Both this website and the exhibits planned for the Visitors Center tell the story of this historical landmark, its architectural beauty and its symbolic role in the development of American Democracy.
While our new Visitors Center space is being constructed, I invite you to spend some time exploring these web pages and then come visit us in Newport, Rhode Island.
Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr.
The Visitors Center has been open several years now, Ambassador Loeb’s message welcomes you to visit. Having toured the Center and the Synagogue many times, Susan and I can assure you you won’t be disappointed. Only a minutes walk from The Spring Seasons Inn. You can see their web site at Touro Synagogue. Close their page to come back to the Spring Seasons Inn.