“the first synagogue in America”
For over two centuries, the small synagogue standing on top of a hill on a quiet street in the New England seaport community of Newport, R.I., has occupied a unique place in American history -- not only as a part of the American Jewish experience but also as a symbol of religious freedom for all Americans. It is here "that the right of the individual freely and without governmental restraint to follow the dictate of his own conscience in religious worship could be exercised without danger to the state." In 1658, the small but growing colony of Newport, Rhode Island received its first Jewish residents. These fifteen families came from Barbados, where a Jewish community had existed since the 1620s. They were of Spanish and Portuguese origin; their families had migrated from Amsterdam and London to Brazil and then the islands of Suriname, Barbados, Curaçao and Jamaica. Upon their arrival they formalized a new congregation in Newport (the second oldest Jewish congregation in the United States) calling themselves 'Yeshuat Israel'. By 1677, the community realized the need to acquire land for a Jewish cemetery.Two of the original immigrants, Mordechai Campanal and Moses Israel Paehecopurchased the lot at the corner of what is now Kay and Touro Streets for this purpose.
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