New Orleans History -- Lake Pontchartrain
Wednesday, July 24, 2024
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1867 New Orleans dedicated its first synagogue

New Orleans dedicated its first synagogue built expressly for that purpose on this date. The Shaarei Tefiloh, mean Gates of Prayer congregation built the temple on the corner of Jackson Avenue and Chippewa Streets. Previously the Jewish congregations rented private houses to uses as synagogues. In 1824 the Shaarei Chesed, The Gates of Mercy, congregation had such a location on North Rampart Street. Most of New Orleans Jews were German Alseians arriving in the 1840s. An earlier group however were the Portuguese Nefutsoth Jehudah, meaning Dispersed of Judah. They congregated in an old Protestant church on the corner of Canal and Bourbon Streets. This building was purchased by the famous Canal Street merchant, Judah Touro, on August 21, 1846 and donated to the congregation. In 1882 the Shaarei Chesed and the Nefutsoth Jehudah merged to form the Touro Synagogue on Carondelet Street.

Located a few blocks from New Orleans's famous Garden District and fronting historic St. Charles Avenue, Touro Synagogue is the oldest Jewish house of worship in America beyond the original thirteen colonies.

Founded in 1828, the present-day Touro is an amalgam of two earlier congregations, one founded by German Jewish settlers, the other a Spanish-Portuguese synagogue whose families were largely of Sephardic background and who arrived from South America and the Caribbean.

The name 'Touro' was adopted in 1881, when the two congregations merged and honored the memory of the New Orleans philanthropist and community leader, Judah Touro. It was Judah's father, Isaac Touro, for whom Touro Synagogue of Newport, Rhode Island, the oldest synagogue in America, was named. A few years later, in 1890, Touro became a reform synagogue.

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