Judah Touro: Early Jewish Businessman & Phianthopist of Louisiana

Judah Touro

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Judah Touro of Louisiana

Judah Touro of Louisiana

Judah Touro was born in 1775, in Newport, Rhode Island, son of Rev. Isaac Touro, the hazzan (cantor) of the local synagogue.

Isaac Touro died when Judah was only 8 years old.

When his mother died, he had just turned 12.

Judah’s maternal grandfather raised him in Boston. Judah moved to New Orleans in 1802, at the age of 27.


New Orleans

Using the experience he learned from his grandfather’s business, Judah Touro soon became a successful merchant and exporter.

Exports at the New Orlean's Docks, Vintage Postcard

Exports at the New Orlean’s Docks, vintage postcard

In 1815, when the British marched against the Americans in New Orleans, Touro was a volunteer, carrying ammunition to the American guns.

He was hit bay an incoming cannonball and was severely wounded.

Hearing of his plight, General Andrew Jackson helped Judah off the battlefield and had him taken to a friend’s house, where he was nursed back to life.

Once well, Judah Touro started investing in real estate but never speculated with his properties.

Touro Buildings in Early New Orleans

Touro Buildings in Early New Orleans

Judah was said to always avoid unnecessary risks in growing his businesses.

A Touro Ice Announcement.

An 1837 Touro Ice Announcement.


Judah Touro donated the final $10,000 needed to complete the long-delayed Bunker Hill Monument in Boston.

He was a strong financial backer of the Public Libraries in both Newport, R.I. and New Orleans.

Touro also contributed to Protestant churches and the building of the New Orleans Catholic Cathedral.



Judah Touro developed a friendship with Gershom Kursheedt of New Orleans and Rabbi Isaac Leeser of Philadelphia.

With these two men, Touro learned of the importance of being Jewish and the concept of tzedakah (righteous giving).

As a result, Touro helped found Sephardic Congregation Nefuzoth Yehuda in New Orleans.

He was a major donor for the building of its synagogue, religious school, and cemetery.

He also founded and supported the New Orlean’s Jewish hospital, the Touro Infirmary.

Touro Infirmary Marker

Touro Infirmary Marker

Judah Touro died in New Orleans in 1854.

His remains were buried in Newport, Rhode Island, next to his father.

On his tombstone:

“To the Memory of Judah Touro

He inscribed it in the Book of Philanthropy

To be remembered forever.”

Judah Touro donated most of his fortune to Jewish life, including:

$100,000 to Jewish congregations and Jewish benevolent organizations in New Orleans

$150,000 to congregations and charitable institutions in 18 other American cities

$60,000 to relieve poverty and for freedom of worship to Jews in Palestine

Money also went to restoring and reopening the long-abandoned Newport, Rhode Island synagogue, which now bears the family name: Touro Synagogue.

The Touro Synagogue in Rhode Island


  • History of the Jews of Louisiana, Jewish Historical Publishing Co. of Louisiana, Old Catalog, circa 1923.