update deskJewish Diaspora

Rhode Island judge approves eviction of Touro Synagogue tenants

New York's Congregation Shearith Israel says the congregation has failed to be a good steward of the site.

Inside the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Inside the Touro Synagogue in Newport, Rhode Island. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

A New York congregation can evict the tenants of Newport, Rhode Island’s historic Touro Synagogue, a Rhode Island judge ruled Thursday, in the latest episode in a bitter dispute.

The decision, which can be appealed, approves the eviction of Congregation Jeshuat Israel, which has been meeting at the Touro synagogue for the last century.

Built in 1763, the Touro is North America’s oldest synagogue building and the only surviving synagogue building in the U.S. dating to the colonial era.

Congregation Shearith Israel in Manhattan, also known as the Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue, owns the Touro building and has complained in recent years that Congregation Jeshuat Israel has failed to be a good steward of the site.

Shearith Israel is America’s first Jewish congregation, founded in 1654 by 23 Jews of Spanish and Portuguese descent.

The two congregations have been in and out of court for over a decade.

Congregation Jeshuat Israel has been leasing the site for a symbolic $1 a year since the early 1900s.

The judge stayed the order pending a hearing on possible appeals so the High Holiday services planned at the Touro synagogue are unlikely to be affected by the ruling.

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