This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr. Visitors Center at the Touro Synagogue National Historic Site in Newport.

The Loeb Visitors Center tells the story of religious freedom and tolerance in Rhode Island. At the core of the Center’s exhibits is President George Washington’s 1790 Letter to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, which worshipped at Touro Synagogue, the nation’s oldest, dedicated in 1763. 

In his letter, Washington promised that the government of the United States would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”  President Washington’s words were meant for everyone – in 1790 and today.  

Visitors to the Center learn how religious liberty and the separation between church and state in colonial America, unique in the world at that time, originated in Rhode Island, setting the stage for the ratification and adoption in 1791 of the Bill of Rights, including the First Amendment right guaranteeing religious freedom and the separation of church and state.  The Loeb Visitors Center also serves as the gateway to guided tours of Touro Synagogue, welcoming approximately fifteen-thousand guests each year, most of whom hail from out-of-state and overseas.

To mark the Center’s tenth anniversary, between now and December 31, 2019, all residents of Rhode Island are invited to tour the Center and Touro Synagogue free of charge. Visit  for dates and times of tours. Those unable to visit the Center in person are encouraged to take a “virtual tour” by visiting

In celebration of the anniversary, Ambassador John Loeb, founder of the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom that built the Visitors Center, has made a limited number of Melvin I. Urofsky’s prize-winning book, A Genesis of Religious Freedom: The Story of the Jews of Newport, RI and Touro Synagogue, available free, including shipping. To receive a copy, please send an email with “Book Request” in the subject line to and include your name, address and phone number.  To request by U.S. Mail, please write to The George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, PO Box 670, Purchase NY 10577.

To learn more about the George Washington Institute for Religious Freedom, a 501c3 non-profit organization, founded in 2009, please visit

Ryan Belmore is the Owner and Publisher of What'sUpNewp.  Belmore has been involved with What’sUpNewp since shortly after its launch in 2012, proudly leading it to be named Best Local News Blog in...