Rebecca Touro Lopez successfully petitioned the Rhode Island State Legislature to preserve the Touro Synagogue of Newport, one of the first cases of the government preserving an unoccupied historic building. Lopez’s father served as cantor of the Newport Synagogue (the oldest synagogue in North America), but after the Revolutionary War, there were no Jews left in Newport, and the building fell into disrepair. The Touro family wandered throughout Lopez’s childhood, but maintained ties to Newport. Lopez’s brother made a $10,000 bequest to preserve the synagogue, but the money languished in the bank, unused, and if the attached cemetery continued to deteriorate, the synagogue grounds would revert to their original owner and could be demolished. But in 1824, Lopez persuaded the court to give the funds to a local agent who could repair and maintain the synagogue. The beautiful Touro Synagogue was restored, became a National Historic Site, and later sparked a lively argument in verse between Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Emma Lazarus about the Jewish experience in America. Lopez, who married Joshua Lopez when she was in her fifties, requested a Newport burial and was interred in the cemetery of the synagogue she had fought to preserve.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Rebecca Touro Lopez." (Viewed on January 25, 2021) <https://jwa.org/people/lopez-rebecca>.