Jewish Women on the Map - Touro Synagogue
This synagogue was dedicated in Newport, Rhode Island on December 2, 1763. It introduced an important innovation in synagogue design: a women’s gallery that featured a low balustrade offering women an open view of the rest of the sanctuary.
Women’s galleries in other synagogues of the era generally were constructed with high or opaque barriers meant to keep women out of the sight of men within the sanctuary. The change in Newport represented less a reform of traditional practice than a reflection of colonial American expectations for female religious expression.
In 1824, Rebecca Touro petitioned the Rhode Island state legislature to preserve the synagogue. At the time of her petition, no Jews were living in Newport. Now known as Touro Synagogue, the Newport building is the only synagogue building in the United States to survive from the Colonial era. Touro Synagogue is a functioning Orthodox synagogue today.
Learn more about Touro Synagogue in This Week in History.