Judah Touro program to explore the architecture of Amsterdam’s 1675 synagogue


NEWPORT – The Touro Synagogue Foundation’s second program of its Winter 2022 Judah Touro Program Series will explore the architecture and interior of the Esnoga, a 1675 Portuguese synagogue in Amsterdam that had a direct influence on the architecture of the 1763 Touro Synagogue.

Dutch Prof. Pieter Vlaardingerbroek will present the illustrated talk, live from Amsterdam, at noon on Jan. 12 via Zoom. There is no fee to participate, but reservations are required to receive the Zoom login.

Most of the Jewish immigrants arriving in Amsterdam at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th century were conversos, or crypto-Jews, who, under the duress of the inquisitions in Spain and Portugal, had given up the practice of Judaism or practiced it secretly. They were attracted to Amsterdam for the Dutch policy of religious toleration, first articulated there in 1579.

For many whose lives in their homelands had been shattered by intolerance and persecution, Amsterdam offered a safe place to resurrect their religious identities. As a result, the city became an epicenter for a new version of Western Sephardic (Spanish/Portuguese) culture, architecture and religious practice, which strongly influenced Newport’s first Jewish settlers.

Pieter Vlaardingerbroek, Ph.D., an assistant professor of architectural history and conservation at the University of Utrecht, is a leading expert on Dutch architecture and material culture. He is an architectural historian for Amsterdam, having served in a similar position for the Cultural Heritage Agency of the Netherlands. Prof. Vlaardingerbroek is the author of many articles and books, and was the editor of the definitive volume on the Portuguese Sephardic synagogue, “The Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam,” published by the city of Amsterdam in 2013.

Two more presentations in the virtual series have been scheduled.  On Feb. 9 at 6  p.m., Samantha Baskind, a distinguished professor of art and history at Cleveland State University, will give an illustrated talk, “Picturing Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Amsterdam (1675).”

The series closes with a special collaborative presentation on March 30 at noon, hosted by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum. “Local Collections in Conversations” will feature Touro Synagogue’s ner tamid (eternal light) and its Great Chandelier, and comparable objects from the collection of the RISD Museum. Presenters will include Howard Newman, a nationally respected Newport artist and conservator, who restored both these objects.

To make a reservation for the presentation at noon on Jan. 12, go to the “Program & Events” page, under “Religious Freedom,” at tourosynagogue.org, or use this link: tinyurl.com/24td288k.

For more information or assistance with registration, contact Meryle Cawley at (401) 847-4794, ext. 207, or meryle@tourosynagogue.org.

Submitted by the Touro Synagogue Foundation

Touro Foundation,