Shuls at war over Torah bells

By Sebastien Malo, February 14, 2013

The sale of a pair of antique Torah bells, valued at several million pounds, has sparked a legal battle between two longstanding East Coast congregations that could lead to the expulsion of one of them from its synagogue.

The Shearith Israel and Jeshuat Israel congregations both claim that they own the bells, along with the historic synagogue that houses them.

Only months away from celebrating its 250th anniversary, Newport’s Touro Synagogue, in Rhode Island, is venerated for being North America’s oldest.

But its occupants, the Jeshuat Israel Congregation, drew the ire of their trustee, New York-based Shearith Israel, when they decided to sell its precious silver bells to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts for £4.7 million.

Court documents indicate that Shearith Israel has not only asked to establish its ownership of the synagogue and personal property, but also to “order the eviction” of Jeshuat Israel.

Last updated: 10:45pm, February 14 2013