US Supreme Court Declines To Hear Touro Synagogue Case


The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday said it will not rehear a case that gave control of America’s oldest synagogue building and its expensive artifacts to the building’s historic trustees.

The case involves a years-long dispute over who owns the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island, and its $7.4 million silver Torah ornaments, or Rimonim.

In August 2017, the Boston Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Manhattan’s Shearith Israel, the oldest Jewish congregation in the country, giving it control of the 250-year-old Touro Synagogue, the religious home of Congregation Jeshuat Israel.

That decision also gave the Manhattan synagogue ownership of the Rimonim that Jeshuat Israel had hoped to sell to build an endowment.

Touro was founded in the 18th century by a Sephardic Jewish community whose numbers declined over the years. Shearith Israel, a Sephardic congregation that was established in 1654 and has worshipped at various sites in Manhattan, has served as trustee of the Touro Synagogue since the early 19th century. Jeshuat Israel, founded in 1881 as Ashkenazi immigrants began flooding America from Eastern Europe, has worshipped at Touro for more than a century.

The current dispute began in 2012 when Jeshuat, which still holds regular services at Touro, attempted to sell one set of the silver ornaments to establish an endowment to maintain a rabbi and care for the building, which was designated a national historic site in 1946. Shearith Israel sued to stop the sale and threatened to replace Jeshuat with another tenant.


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