Two of the oldest Jewish congregations in the United States are battling over a pair of silver Torah ornaments, according to a published report.
U.S. District Judge William Smith in Providence, R.I., is to hold a settlement conference on Thursday to determine whether the Touro Synagogue in Newport, a National Historic Site that is the oldest synagogue building in the country, can sell a set of 240-year-old rimonim it claims to own. Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, the nation’s oldest Jewish congregation, disputes the sale, the Associated Press reported. Shearith Israel is also known as the Spanish-Portuguese Synagogue.
Shearith Israel, from whom the leaders of the Newport congregation have leased the Touro Synagogue since 1903, claim ownership of the rimonim -- valued at $7.4 million because of their Colonial provenance -- which are placed over the staves of a Torah scroll.
Touro Synagogue has offered to sell the artifacts to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, which would include a Newport room in a new Art of the Americas wing.
“Our goal is really to take the money, put it into a trust, and endowment fund, and secure the future while having the opportunity to display the … bells,” David Bazarsky, former president of Touro Synagogue, told AP. “We think it’s part of history, it’s part of the culture of America, and it’s overwhelmingly positive.”
A museum spokeswoman told AP the institution has withdrawn its offer to buy the ornaments until the legal dispute over their ownership is resolved.
More Stories Like This
The Jewish Week feels comments create a valuable conversation and wants to feature your thoughts on our website. To make everyone feel welcome, we won't publish comments that are profane, irrelevant, promotional or make personal attacks.