Touro Synagogue, the home of Congregation Jeshuat Israel, has approximately 125 member families. The congregation holds religious services and conducts lifecycle events including Bar/Bat Mitzvot and weddings and sponsors educational, social and cultural programs. All services and religious activities are under the direction of Rabbi Dr. Marc Mandel.

Services are held the year around on Friday nights and Saturday mornings and on all Jewish holidays. Services are orthodox using the Nusach Sephard prayerbook. There is separate seating for men and for women during services.

Early History

Excepts from "Touro Synagogue - National Historic Site" by Rabbi Theodore Lewis, 1972

"For two hundred years the members of the Congregation, few in number and modest in means, worshipped in private homes. But by 1759 the Congregation had sufficicntly increased to undertake the building of a Synagogue, which would Also incorporate provision for the religious instruction of the young..."

"In letters to Congregation Shearith Israel, New York, dated March 21, 1759 from members of the Newport Jewish Community, there is no mention made of a name by which the Congregation is called. In a letter to Congregation Mikve Israel, Curacao, dated 7th Tishre, 5525 (1764) appealing for financial support to help pay off mortgage and interest due for synagogue building, Aaron Lopez signed as president of "The Holy Congregation Dispersed Ones of Israel" ("Kahal Kodesh Nephutsay Israel") On the tall graceful candlesticks on the ba lustrades in front of the Ark and on the Bimah the following wording is engraved in Hebrew: "The gift of the young man, Enoch, son of Joseph to the synagogue of the Holy Congregation Yeshuat Israel in the year 5525." "Enoch Lyon-1766" is engraved in English on the back..."

"It may well be that until the Congregation had a synagogue in which to worship, the Jews did not appear to be rooted in Newport. Newport, the Jewish residents may have felt, was simply another temporary stopping place in their long journey throughout the world. Hence the pessimism inherent in the name "Nephutsay Israel" - (Dispersed Ones of Israel) However, once the financial problems in erecting the Synagogue had been largely overcome and once they were established in it, an optimistic mood took hold of them They felt that they had a future in Newport and so they called themselves Yeshuat Israel - the Salvation of Israel."

Download Rabbi Lewis' History of Touro Synagogue, 1972

Congregation Renewal

Excepts from "A Genesis of Religious Freedom: The Story of the Jews of Newport, RI and Touro Synagogue" by Dr. Melvin Urofsky, 2013

The revival of a Jewish community in Newport began
around 1870, when a number of mainly immigrant Jews
from eastern Europe arrived. For the most part they
lived within walking distance of the synagogue, and
a number of them opened businesses on and around
Thames Street. While a few took up itinerant peddling,
most opened small shops and sold clothing or dry
goods. During the summer season a number of Jewish
tailors opened up temporary shops in Newport, catering
to the growing influx of summer visitors, and after
1883 to the officers at the newly established Newport
Naval Station.
By 1881 a sufficient number of permanent residents
wanted to reopen the synagogue and make it once again
a living house of God. The building itself was in satisfactory
condition, thanks to the bequest of Abraham
Touro and the loving oversight of the Gould family. In
1858, $4,455.46 had been paid out of the Touro Fund,
most of it for repair and maintenance of the building.
In 1866 the Fund paid for the repainting of the synagogue,
and in 1872 the Goulds arranged for gas lighting
to be installed. Apparently enough visitors wanted to
enter the building that the City Council employed a
permanent custodian, at the rather meager salary of $50
a year. With a building awaiting their use, the members
of a would-be congregation petitioned the Newport
City Council in 1882 for permission to become the
regular users of the synagogue, and to bury their dead
in the cemetery. The trustees of Shearith Israel, the
legal owners of the facilities, now had to decide what
steps to take.

Download Rabbi Lewis' History of Touro Synagogue, 1972