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Touro Synagogue - National Fund For Sacred Places
2020 Cohort

Touro Synagogue

(Reform Jewish)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Touro Synagogue in New Orleans is the oldest synagogue outside of the original 13 colonies, and the sixth oldest synagogue in the United States.

Touro Synagogue by Kerry Tapia

Touro Synagogue by Kerry Tapia

2020 Cohort

Touro Synagogue

(Reform Jewish)

New Orleans, Louisiana

Touro Synagogue in New Orleans is the oldest synagogue outside of the original 13 colonies, and the sixth oldest synagogue in the United States.

Under 18th-century French law, Jews could not live or worship in Louisiana. Upon the negotiation of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, they were granted religious freedom. In 1828, local merchants formed two Jewish congregations, ultimately merging into Touro Synagogue in 1881. The congregation is named for Judah Touro, a benefactor of the synagogue and son of the namesake of Rhode Island’s Touro Synagogue, a National Trust Historic Site. In 1908, the New Orleans congregation commissioned architect Emile Weil to build a new synagogue on prominent St. Charles Avenue. The Moorish and Byzantine elements of the synagogue pay tribute to the congregation’s Sephardic heritage and differentiate its architecture from nearby Christian churches.

Today, Touro Synagogue consists of a multi-generational congregation of Reform Jews who have faced the challenges of Hurricane Katrina, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and antisemitism together. The congregation identifies as “an anchor for the New Orleans secular community as well, both historically and presently.” Touro Synagogue helped incubate and house four charter schools in eight years, and it runs a hydroponic garden to supply produce to the local food pantry and partners with other local organizations to campaign for voter rights, immigration reform, and other key social and environmental justice issues.

With a grant from the National Fund, Touro Synagogue will complete comprehensive repairs and upgrades, potentially including replacing the roof, installing an elevator in its education building, repurposing single-sex restrooms into gender-neutral family restrooms, and reconfiguring underused spaces. This project will allow Touro Synagogue to become safer and more accessible to its congregants and the local community.

Touro Synagogue by Scott Salzman
Touro Synagogue by Scott Salzman

Stories and Media Coverage

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