Touro Synagogue

“One day, a leopard stalked into the synagogue, roaring and lashing its tail. Three weeks later, it had become part of the liturgy.”
—Franz Kafka

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Touro Synagogue is a Reform synagogue in Uptown and one of the oldest in the United States. The current synagogue was founded in 1881 from the merger of two older (originally Orthodox) congregations: the German Jewish Shangarai Chasset congregation, and Portuguese Jewish (Sephardic) Nefutzot Yehudah congregation. The current sanctuary building on St. Charles Avenue in Uptown New Orleans was constructed in 1908 and dedicated 1 January 1909.


History


The Touro Synagogue’s history begins in 1828, 25 years after the Louisiana Purchase, when the founders of what would eventually become Touro Synagogue started the first Jewish temple outside of the 13 original colonies.

According to the Code Noire (1724), Jews should have been excluded from the French territory of Louisiana. The business acumen of Jewish merchants, however, proved more attractive to the city’s ever-corrupt political leaders than upholding the rules of the French government. Southern Jews were still treated with contempt, but little by little, they settled into the lucrative port city. When President Thomas Jefferson negotiated the 1803 Louisiana Purchase with Napoleon, and Louisiana came under American jurisdiction, Jews acquired the right to freely inhabit what would become the 18th state in the Union. Few believed life would be significantly better under the American Constitution’s promised religious system, but a slim hope was better than none.

Touro Synagogue’s congregation is the result of a union between two original congregations, Congregation Gates of Mercy and Congregation Dispersed of Judah. Shangarai-Chasset (Congregation Gates of Mercy) was founded in 1828 thanks to the efforts of a proactive visitor, Jacob Solis, who fulfilled the needs of the Jewish community by creating a space of worship during the High Holy Days. Their first synagogue was located on North Rampart Street, between St. Louis and Conti Streets, west of the French Quarter. Gates of Mercy followed the Ashkenazic rituals, leading some Portuguese members, preferring the Sephardic tradition, separated and formed Nefutzoth Yehudah (Congregation Dispersed of Judah) in 1846. Congregation Dispersed of Judah moved into the renovated Christ Church building at the corner of Bourbon and Canal Streets in 1846.

On February 6, 1881, these two congregations reunited and moved into a building on Carondelet Street. The merger strengthened the Jewish community in New Orleans at a time when both congregations were struggling economically and recovering from the loss of many lives to the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1878. The new congregation eventually took the name Touro Synagogue after the benefactor of both communities, merchant-philanthropist Judah Touro.

Judah Touro had lived in New Orleans since 1801, coming originally from Rhode Island where his father was the leader of the historic Newport congregation, regarded as America’s oldest synagogue. In addition to being a benefactor of many Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant charities, Judah Touro was a hero in the War of 1812, co-builder of the Bunker Hill Monument, founder of the First Free Public Library in America, and founder of Touro Infirmary and the Touro Home for the Aged.

Touro Synagogue joined the Reform movement in 1891 and has been a leader in the Reform movement ever since.

The current sanctuary building was designed by a well‐known local architect Emile Weil, who won the congregation’s design competition at the young age of 29. The synagogue was completed in 1908 and dedicated on January 1, 1909. The sanctuary holds a magnificent Aron Kodesh, given to Congregation Dispersed of Judah in 1847 by Judah Touro.

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Clergy


Simtov2bb.jpgRachman Shemtov
Rabbi and hobbyist magician who presides over the reform Touro Synagogue despite his personal Conservative following of the faith. Teaches an underground Kabbalah class to an eclectic group of people, some not even Jewish, of which Emil Kane is a member. He claims to have seen something more in the words of the Zohar than hasn’t been uncovered in many many years. That the secrets he found were only found by his (supposed)direct ancestor, Moses de León, the publisher of the text. He wants this truth to be kept close to those he chooses and trusts. When he will elucidate this truth is up in the air, and as a result, many people who get pulled into the group tend to fall out fairly quickly. Emil hasn’t lost hope just yet.


Other Clergy
• Associate rabbis
• Cantor


Professional Staff


• Executive director
• Music director
• Coordinator of congregational life
• Communications & administrative director
• Finance director
• Custodian
• Administrative assistant


Congregants


No_Pic.jpgBartosz Blazcewicz (Ally [Health] •••)
Dr. Bartosz Blazcewicz is an aging Polish-American veterinarian who takes the podium frequently to tell his fellow congregants stories about his time serving as a combat medic in Vietnam. He always ends his speeches with the same joke about being a veteran veterinarian. By day, he runs his clinic serving the city’s pet owners a poorly aged joke alongside speedy diagnosis and treatment of their furry friends. By night, he’s a lot less discriminating about what sort of patient he treats. Humans are just walking, talking animals, after all. And even if its teeth are a little sharper or its breath worryingly shallower, blood is blood. Bone is bone. Bartosz doesn’t judge. His services are discreet and, for friends, he is willing to perform house calls. He frequents Rabbi Shemtov’s classes and keeps Emil for hours after class purportedly to study the material deeper. In reality, he has a very weak grasp of the Hebrew language and consequently, he spends most of those hours using Emil as practically a private language tutor.


FranzHarz.jpgFranz Harz (Ally [Legal] •••)
Attorney with Ware and Lebowski, Franz and his family immigrated from Germany when he was eight, settling in Pittsburgh. Attended Duke Law in 1978 and graduated with honors, but despite a talented legal mind, Franz’ noticeable accent and stutter rendered him utterly incapable as a trial lawyer. Eventually he signed on Ware and Lebowski, a large firm that services an array of corporate clients in need of outside council, drafting contracts, settlements, and the like. He spent time in San Diego, New York, and Chicago before landing in New Orleans, where he handles a great many contractual matters for Malveaux Oil, and has been on a standing retainer for the family as a whole as well for more than ten years. Franz deals primarily with contracts, including non-competes, non-disclosures, and other employment agreements, while also helping negotiate larger contracts for his clients with service providers such as insurance companies. Franz is a short, meticulous, and boring man who prefers to correspond in writing and hates meeting clients. Reform Jewish in his personal life.
Caroline Malveaux-Devillers corresponded with Franz Harz to set up an anonymous payment of Lauren Peterson’s hospital bills, caused when she fed on the drunken college student in a frenzy.


Emily.jpgEmily Mandel (Ally [Politics] •)
Emily is not a New Orleans native, but supposedly hails from Baltimore, Maryland. Or, as Milo Glass suspects: Fort Meade. A (seemingly) archetypical nice Jewish girl in her early twenties, “Emily” got her bachelor’s in Political Science at Tulane and apparently decided to stay for the “culture”(?!?!). She started seduc—dating Zeke about eighteen months ago, allegedly because of his “adorable quirkiness.” She currently interns at city hall, supposedly as part of her longtime quest to work in politics. Notably more religious than her fiancée, which his parents approve of. Milo knows it’s paranoid, even for him, to suspect his friend’s lover of being a government plant. That said, it’s only paranoia if he doesn’t end up doing life in federal prison. Milo’s not taking chances.


Zeke.jpgEzekiel “Zeke” Rosenthal (Ally [Media] •)
A halfhearted member of New Orleans Jewish Reform population, to the more than slight consternation of his religious parents. It was clear from an early age that Ezekiel had a far more devout interest in the D.C. Universe and the works of Alan Moore than in Tanakh and the writings of the Sages. His interest in all things irrelevant to real life, as well as a powerful optimism of the worst kind, probably would have made him a pariah in middle school even without his acne. Milo Glass became his friend by accident, in that they happened to be exiled to the same corner of the cafeteria, and in that Milo happened to be one of the few people who believed that a conversation was really all listening to the other person, especially when that person seems to be able to talk enough for the rest of the empty seats at their table. Zeke’s filled out, if not nicely, then decently, his acne vanishing into freckles and his baby fat becoming… less babyish. Works at the Times-Picayune as a cartoonist to pay the bills, though his real ambition is to publish the graphic novel he’s spent the last five years working on. Despite his oft-repeated childhood vows, he did end up somehow marrying a nice Jewish girl. Or at least, as Milo emphasizes, become engaged to one.


Rabbi Shemtov’s Kabbalah Class


No_Pic.jpgBartosz Blazcewicz (Ally [Health] •••)
Dr. Bartosz Blazcewicz is an aging Polish-American veterinarian who takes the podium frequently to tell his fellow congregants stories about his time serving as a combat medic in Vietnam. He always ends his speeches with the same joke about being a veteran veterinarian. By day, he runs his clinic serving the city’s pet owners a poorly aged joke alongside speedy diagnosis and treatment of their furry friends. By night, he’s a lot less discriminating about what sort of patient he treats. Humans are just walking, talking animals, after all. And even if its teeth are a little sharper or its breath worryingly shallower, blood is blood. Bone is bone. Bartosz doesn’t judge. His services are discreet and, for friends, he is willing to perform house calls. He frequents Rabbi Shemtov’s classes and keeps Emil for hours after class purportedly to study the material deeper. In reality, he has a very weak grasp of the Hebrew language and consequently, he spends most of those hours using Emil as practically a private language tutor.

Touro Synagogue

Blood and Bourbon False_Epiphany False_Epiphany