When a group of Sephardic Jews from Portugal settled in Rhode Island in 1763, the Touro Synagogue became the oldest Synagogue in America, and known as the representation of religious freedom for Americans. The significance of this Synagogue spans from the late 1400's because Jews in Spain during that time were forced accept Catholicism and they fled to various areas in the America's for religious freedom. In 1658 fifteen Jewish families fled to the New World to join Roger Williams' settlement in Rhode Island seeking this religious freedom and Jeshuat Israel Congregation was founded. It also served as a place for the General Assembly and the Supreme Court of Rhode Island to meet.
Visitors will find the Touro Synagogue's magnificent architecture, which was designed by Peter Harrison, to be quite creative in the Georgian style with lovely arched windows and embellishments. The building is a classic 'colonial' style building and is built on an angle to the street allowing the congregation to face toward Israel during their prayers before the Holy Ark. It also shows great influence of the structure and architecture of the Sephardic Jews from similar Synagogues throughout Spain and Portugal.
This Touro Synagogue was designated as an Historic landmark in 1946 and was also designated as a site for Historic Preservation in 2001. Visitors can enjoy the orthodox Shabbat Services on Fridays at 6:00 p.m. and at 8:45 on Saturday mornings led by Rabbi Mordechai Eskovitz. This is a magnificent, historical Synagogue that visiting travelers should see.