HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW
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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

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Exterior of the Touro Synagogue

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Exterior of the Touro Synagogue / Maine Historical Society

But ah! what once has been shall be no more!
The groaning earth in travail and in pain
Brings forth its races, but does not restore,
And the dead nations never rise again.


When Longfellow visited the Jewish cemetery in Newport, there were about 50,000 Jews living in the United States, out of a total population of about 23 million people. Within ten years, the number of Jews had at least doubled, and by 1870 there were about 200,000 Jewish people in the country. The Touro Synagogue itself experienced a revival and regular services were again begun (and continue to this day). Even more surprising to Longfellow would have been the rise of the nation of Israel in 1948, a "dead nation" which is now home to almost 7 million people, over 5 million of whom are Jewish! The Touro synagogue (Orthodox Congregation Jesuet Israel) has been open continuously since 1883, 31 years after Longfellow's visit to the historic site.

 

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