Guide to Researching Rhode Island Synagogues in Our Collections

A November 10, 1948 issue of Providence's Temple Beth-El Bulletin. From the Temple Beth-El (Providence, R.I.) Records. 

Rhode Island's Jewish community dates back to 1658, when a group of Sephardic Jewish immigrants began to settle in Newport. By the time of the American Revoluton, the community had grown to over 30 families. Some of these individuals from the state's early Jewish community include well-known figures in American Jewish history such as Aaron Lopez, Moses Seixas, Moses Michael Hayes, and Judah Touro. The state of Rhode Island boasts the oldest exising synagogue in North America--Newport's Touro Synagogue, which was completed and dedicated in 1763. As more Jews began to settle and spread throughout the state, congregations in Providence, Cranston, Warwick, and other surrounding areas were founded to serve the community's religious needs. Today, there are approximately 23 congregations serving Rhode Island's nearly 19,000 Jewish residents.

Our Collections

Temple Beth-El (Providence, R.I.) Records, I-460
Temple Beth-El, located on the East Side of Providence, dates back to 1849, with the creation of the group Sons of Israel. This collection contains programs, sermons and newsletters. Although the congregation was originally Orthodox, it affiliated with the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (Union for Reform Judaism) in 1877. This collection contains programs and sermons for temple activities, but primarily consists of copies of the temple's bulletin, which span the years 1945 to 1969.
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Touro Synagogue (Newport, R.I.) Records, I-461
Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, is the nation’s oldest synagogue. The Jewish community of Newport was founded in 1658 by a small group of Sephardic Jews seeking religious freedom. In 1758, Isaac Touro, a Dutch Jew, became the community’s spiritual leader. Shortly after, the congregation purchased land and hired Peter Harrison to design the Synagogue. The building was dedicated in 1763, and has continued to serve Newport’s Jewish community. This collection consists of addresses, annual reports, correspondence, board meeting minutes, articles and newspaper clippings concerning the synagogue, as well as publications, a calendar, dedication pamphlets, postcards, slides, negatives, a scrapbook and invitations to miscellaneous events.
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Other Resources

Rhode Island Jewish Historical Society

Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island

The Jews of Rhode Island