Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Breaking News

Historic Shuls Battle Over $7.4M Torah Bells

The leaders of two historic synagogues will hold a settlement conference over a set of ritual Torah decorations.

A federal judge in Rhode Island will meet with the leaders of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, R.I., and Congregation Shearith Israel of New York on Thursday to discuss a set of 18th century Torah bells, The Associated Press reported.

Shearith Israel is the first U.S. Jewish congregation and Touro is the country’s oldest synagogue building.

Touro had agreed to sell the ritual objects for $7.4 million to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, with the proceeds used to set up an endowment to care for the Touro building, according to AP. But Shearith Israel, which has served for nearly 200 years as the trustee for the Newport synagogue, objects to the sale.

Following the War of 1812, Touro was used only for holidays and funerals. Several years later, the synagogue was shut down and legal oversight of the building was transferred to Shearith Israel. Several member families of Touro had originated from Shearith Israel, from where the Newport Jews had obtained several ritual objects.

In 1883, Touro reopened on a full-time basis, and in 1946 it was designated a national historic site. The synagogue remains an active house of worship and thousands of vistors tour its premises each year.

A lease amount of $1 annually is still paid by the Newport congregation to Shearith Israel for use of the building and grounds, which are still owned by the New York group.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.