The first Jewish immigrants in the small but growing colony of Newport, Rhode Island, arrived from Barbados in the mid to late 17th century, possibly as early as 1658. They were primarily of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then to islands in the Caribbean. They were not given full rights as citizens – they could not vote or hold office – but Rhode Island’s religious toleration meant they were safe and free from persecution.
In Newport, they formed Congregation Nephuse Israel (Scattered of Israel), the second oldest Jewish congregation in the United States. By 1677, the community realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish burial ground. Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Pacheco, purchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose.
In the 1680s, Mordechai Campanal, Moses Pacheco, and fellow Jewish “resident aliens,” Abraham Burgos and Simon and Rachel Mendes tested British Navigation laws that prohibited aliens from engaging in mercantile trades. In 1684 the General Assembly of Rhode Island agreed that the group should be allowed to conduct business and that they were entitled to the full protection of the law as “resident strangers.”
Touro Synagogue was designed by Peter Harrison, a noted British architect and Rhode Island resident. It is considered his most notable work. The interior is flanked by a series of twelve Ionic columns supporting balconies, which signify the twelve tribes of ancient Israel, and each column is carved from a single tree. The building is oriented to face east toward Jerusalem. The ark containing the Torah is on the east wall; above it is a mural representing the Ten Commandments in Hebrew, which was painted by Newport artist Benjamin Howland. The Touro Synagogue was built from 1759 to 1763 for the Jeshuat Israel congregation in Newport under the leadership of Cantor (Chazzan) Isaac Touro.
According to tourosynagogue.org; en.wikipedia.org. Source of photos: internet