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tv   Touro Synagogue  CSPAN  January 20, 2018 3:46pm-4:01pm EST

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for sharing that with us. thank you. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2016] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] does that relate to what we are seeing in football players kneeling at the national anthem? >> we have a long history of racism -- >> you can be featured on our program, join the conversation on race book. and on twitter at c-span history. the synagogue was built in 1760 three. this makes it the oldest synagogue of the only one
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surviving through colonial times. as we learn more about this historic building. this and i got is the oldest existing synagogue building in the united states of america. it has a wonderful story. first of all, it is most important for you to understand that above all the touro synagogue is a place of worship. this happening all year round. the story starts in 1492 in spain. linking ferdinand and queen isabella ordered a degree. what they wanted at that particular time was to have a purely catholic country.
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they gave jewish people no choice. the first one was to convert to catholicism, the second was to leave. those who converted were called conversos. some chose to remain jewish in secret. if found out, they would haven't tortured and put to death. to give you a sense of how the spaniards thought of jews at the time, their nickname was swine. what about the others? 90,000-100,000 jews left spain. awayhad to give everything to the spanish government. several years after that, the king of portugal did something similar. those jewish people from spain as portugal we refer to sephardic jews.
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they fled wherever they felt they could feel safe, wherever they could worship. in places like jamaica, barbados, st. thomas, and brazil. , oral history tells us that 15 people left barbados. instead of going to new york or philadelphia, they wanted to come right here to newport, rhode island. what attracted them here? the attraction was the story of how rhode island became about. 1636 a gentleman by the name of roger williams founded rhode island. he had come to the colonies from england seeking religious freedom. ofyears after the founding rhode island, those people in barbados said this is where they wanted to come. not only did the jews come here, quakers were also here.
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been persecuted or they would be because of their religious beliefs. 1677 the jews needed a place to vary their loved ones, so they bought a plot of land it up the street. if you see that small little cemetery, you will see that it has the names on the gravestones touro. these are all portuguese and sephardic names. the cemetery was important thesee it documented jewish people. 1758, things were changing dramatically for newport. it had been transformed from a sleepy little town to one of the in colonials
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america, right up there with new york and charleston. our waterfront was filled with hundreds of sailing ships that traded all over the world. there was wealth coming in to newport. merchants also got some of the wealth because of what was happening. they had some decisions to make regarding the jewish community. the jewish people thyed and their homes -- in -- therer was homes had been a man who grew up in amsterdam, newport,ame here to
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his name was isaac touro the first religious leader for the jewish community. they also did not have a synagogue. a while to have the money to start a venture such as building a house of worship. hadhink that touro something to say about that, and jewished those wealthy merchants to buy a plot of land in the center of old colonial newport at the top of the show. the cornerstone for the building was laid in 1759. the congregants found the most prestigious architect in colonial america, peter harrison, who designed the building. it took four years to build the building. it was consecrated on the night of december 2 1763. coinciding with the jewish holiday of hanukkah.
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the congregation filed into the because it was such an important event. they invited the entire jewish community to come inside and worship with them. non-jew alike. we know what the building looked like. whatof the features are they saw today. the building had this remarkable brass chandeliers that are still original. they were donated by wealthy whose names are engraved upon them. these chandeliers and withlabras were filled candles made from the head matter of wales. there were several factories in town.
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what we also have in this beautiful building are these 12 columns. these tall columns to note the 12 tribes of israel. they not only provide architectural and structural support. they also have a biblical reference as well. bit -- of end lower our beautiful congregation is a clock. these were gaps from the synagogue in london which was of arctic. it still exists as a jewish synagogue. of the interesting things is that it has to be hand wound and still works. our most important ritual object scroll.our torah it is the first five books of the bible. genesis, exodus, leviticus, umbers, and deuteronomy.
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is also 500 years old. the amsterdamfrom sephardic community. we believe these early congregants were shipping and worship fromagogue this scroll. it is unique because it is written on deerskin, it is an condition.ect this remarkable building, the sanctuary, looks very much like it did on december 2, 1763. yes, it has had several renovations, but not a reconstructed space. we still get that same feeling those early congregants fell. for 13went well here
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years, that takes us right up to 1776. when the declaration of independence was red, the english called in their navy and the navy blockaded the harbor, thereby shutting down all of the trade. tople started fleeing newport, because without trade they could not make a living. was closed as a synagogue and used as a hospital for british soldiers. one of the few jews who stayed touro, he isaac major the building was intact and no harm can do it at this time. this building came out of the war unscathed. unfortunately, after the revolutionary war people did not come back to newport, rhode island. they had already establish their businesses and homes somewhere else.
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for the jewish people, it was a very difficult time. by the aging 20's, not one jewish person lived in newport, rhode island anymore. the building was shot, the keys were given to a quaker family, who took care of it for 60 years. 1880's eastern european jews started coming to what they werepe experiencing. they came to newport, rhode island, they saw the shuttered building and said we wanted to use it for worship. as theuld as long service remained orthodox in nature. this building has been in continuous use as an orthodox synagogue since 1894. george washington came to newport we believe three times.
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the last in 1790. he was accompanied by thomas jefferson. they were on a campaign trip to all of the 13 new states, the red states of america, urging ratification of the bill of rights. they had several important omissions. the jewish people here in the new united states, the most important omission was that there was nothing speaking about freedom of religion. was were wondering what going to happen to the jews and the still united states? other going to be like governments who had treated jewish people harshly or expelled them? the president of the organization wrote a letter in 1790e washington asking what is going to happen , when washington
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read that letter he wrote back in 1790. words, to of his own paraphrase, he said no more toleration is spoke of, with one class of people, over the natural of another's rights. happily the government of united bigotry nod speak to assistance. those words which had such now,ance to them and to us really the first words on paper in this new united states of ,merica by a federal official that spoke to freedom of religion and the freedom of the government's responsibility in guaranteeing that freedom. that is what we celebrate here every day in our touro >> are cities tour staff travel
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to newport, rhode island to another its rich history, or more about newport and the other stops on cities tour. you are watching american history tv all weekend, every weekend on c-span3. bookshelf,history tony smith talks about his book, why wilson matters, the origin of american liberal internationalism and its crisis today. he offers his thoughts on the impact of president woodrow wilson on american foreign-policy from the 1940's to today. this was recorded at the southern methodist university center for presidential history in 2017. is about 90 minutes. >> i want to tell you why we thought and i thought that tony would be an ideal person to


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