Touro Synagogue (New Orleans, La.) | Tulane University Special Collections
Touro Synagogue is the oldest Jewish house of worship in America beyond the original thirteen colonies. While its roots stretch back to the 1820s, Touro Synagogue in its modern form was founded in 1873 with the merger of two congregations, Gates of Mercy (Shanarai Chasset, var. Shangarai-Chassed) and Dispersed of Judah (Nefusoth Yehudah). It adopted the name Touro Synagogue in 1881.
Congregation Gates of Mercy was founded in the late 1820s by Askenazic German Jewish settlers. It was the first Jewish congregation outside the original thirteen colonies and was located on North Rampart Street between St. Louis and Conti Streets, west of the French Quarter.
Congregation Dispersed of Judah was founded in the 1830s to serve the city's growing Sephardic community. It was largely comprised of new arrivals from South America and the Caribbean whose roots were in the Spanish and Portuguese Jewish traditions. It was named after its benefactor, Judah Touro, of Newport, Rhode Island, who had earlier supported Gates of Mercy. Touro purchased and renovated a building for the congregation at the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets. He visited New Orleans for the building's dedication.
In 1873 the two congregations merged and adopted the name Gates of Mercy Dispersed of Judah (Shanarai-Chasset Nefutzot Yehuda). The congregation hired a new Rabbi, Issac Leucht, as their spiritual leader (see Manuscripts Collection 853, Rabbi Isaac L. Leucht papers). Leucht had been the Torah reader at Gates of Mercy. He became a noted civic leader and devoted more forty-two years of service to the New Orleans Jewish Corrununity. At his recommendation, the congregation changed its name to Touro Synagogue in 1881 to honor the benefactor of both preceding congregations.
Touro became a reform synagogue in 1890. It moved to its current location on St. Charles Avenue in 1909.