May 2019 Church & State Magazine | AU Bulletin

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to intervene in a legal dispute over the ownership of a historic synagogue in Rhode Island that played a role in the development of religious liberty in America.

The high court in March said it will not grant review to a legal challenge brought by Congregation Jeshuat Israel, which meets at Touro Synagogue in Newport. The congregation asked the high court to hear an appeal of a lower court’s ruling giving control of the synagogue and some of its contents to Shearith Israel, a congregation based in New York City.

The two congregations have had a close relationship for hundreds of years, but tensions arose in 2012 when the leadership of Jeshuat Israel, asserting that they needed to put the congregation on sounder financial footing, sought to sell some artifacts valued at millions of dollars. The leadership of Shearith Israel opposed the sale and went to court to block it. Shearith Israel asserted that it is the rightful owner of Touro Synagogue and all of its possessions.

The Supreme Court’s refusal to take the case means the ruling giving Shearith Israel control of the synagogue will stand. (Congregation Jeshuat Israel v. Congregation Shear­ith Israel)