Historic Touro Synagogue: Rift Over Sefer Torah Crowns


touro-synagogueA disagreement over the ownership of a set of 18th century crowns for Sifrei Torah worth millions has led to dueling lawsuits between member’s of America’s oldest shul.

The dispute began after leaders of the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. agreed to sell the crowns for $7.4 million to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts so they can set up an endowment to care for the shul.

Touro’s leaders say Congregation Shearis Israel in New York City is the trustee of the nearly 250-year-old Newport shul but has no claim to the crowns. The New York congregation says it owns Touro and its religious objects, including the keser Torahs. Its leaders object to selling the keser Torahs. Both sides have sued. A federal judge in Providence is scheduled to hold a settlement conference Thursday.

{Andy Heller-Matzav.com Newscenter}


  1. some chasidus should settle there and start a daily minyan – then get on the board as members – and leave all its properties in the shul

  2. It is not (yet) well known that two beautiful silver Rimonim from this Shul were part of the Smithsonian’s large Bicentenial American History exhibit in Washington in 1976.

    They were hand made by Paul Revere.

  3. It is rather unfortunate that (even) in

    orthodox circles the Beis Din has totally

    lost its value with regard to being

    respected as a viable form for judicial


  4. The reason why its going to an American court and not Beis Din maybe because its a legal contractual dispute and not a halachic question and therefore would refer to the dinei malchusie.

  5. If indeed true that they chose to sue instead of din torah, their membership to any orthodox group should be revoked.
    I also hope they consulted a competent authority re; the sale of tashmish kedusha

  6. There is not a minyan of orthodox Jews left in Newport (the shul, by contract, only conducts services in an orthodox manner). I also believe that the shul in NY is not frum as well. So no surprise that they didn’t go to beis din.
    (As an aside, having taken the tour there this past summer, it was pretty clear from the (Newport based) tour guide that the NY shul is really in charge of the place.

  7. Schnitzel, that has nothing to do with the requirement to go to bes din. You must go there for contractual disputes, because halacha includes that. Ever hear of choshen mishpat? Dina dimalchusa Dina means that individually we must respect the law where it does not contradict halacha, and bed din must do the same.

  8. Disgusting to sell klei Kodesh to a museum, all for the money. Besides, taking such matters to a secular court rather than a Bais Din is also upsetting. Hope Touro Synagogue wins.