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Longfellow and the Jewish Cemetery at Newport

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Touro Synagogue

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Touro Synagogue / Maine Historical Society

<em>Closed are the portals of their Synagogue,
No Psalms of David now the silence break,
No Rabbi reads the ancient Decalogue
In the grand dialect the Prophets spake.</em>

During the years the synagogue was closed, it was preserved and protected with funds from the Touro family, beginning with a bequest from Abraham Touro at his death in 1822.

He left a sum of $10,000 for the maintenance and protection of the synagogue, to be held in trust.

In 1842 Judah Touro (brother of Abraham, son of Isaac) provided funds to fortify the fences and gates around the cemetery. Longfellow visited the cemetery after this endowment by Judah Touro.

Judah Touro was orphaned by age 12, and raised by a merchant uncle in Boston. He became an accomplished merchant himself, and a noted philanthropist (he was one of the major donors for the Bunker Hill monument, among other things).

Despite his life-long philanthropy, upon his death, he still left half a million dollars to charity, including more money for the Jewish cemetery at Newport, and also money to pay the salary for a rabbi for the congregation of the Touro Synagogue (his father's post from 1760 until the Revolution).

This bequest was made in 1854, just after Longfellow's visit, although it was several decades before the synagogue reopened.

(Photo thanks to Dr. James L. Yarnall)


Item 5 of 13