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Oldest Congregation Appeals Decision In $7M Shul vs. Shul Court Fight

The congregation that worships in America’s oldest synagogue building asked a federal court for a rehearing of the case that gave control of its pricey artifacts to the building’s historic trustees.

Lawyers for Congregation Jeshuat Israel, which meets in the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, said the court’s decision last month giving control of Touro to Manhattan’s Shearith Israel ignored state law and made constitutional errors.

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston also gave the Manhattan synagogue ownership of $7.4 million silver Torah ornaments called rimonim that the Newport congregation had hoped to sell to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston to build an endowment.

“In light of the panel’s errors, which significantly alter constitutional jurisprudence, and the importance of Touro, an American icon, this case strongly merits rehearing,” lawyers for Jeshuat Israel wrote in their filing with the court on Tuesday, The Associated Press reported.

The filing said the court’s ruling conflicts with past decisions on church property disputes and ignores state law, as well as findings by the Rhode Island state attorney general that the Touro Synagogue was held in trust for the benefit of the Newport Jewish community, according to AP.

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